by Peter Thorn
What follows is an edited transcript of a tour of St Mary’s conducted by Peter Thorn. Please take the time to read it and learn more about St Mary’s. It serves as an excellent companion to our all new online virtual tour…
Princess Marie-Louise had quite a bit to do with the church. When she came to the consecration she saw over the door the crowned M & L with a princess’s coronet and she thought Father Johnson was paying her a marvellous compliment. In fact, of course, M & L refers to St Mary and St Leonard but the Princess thought it was in honour of her so she was very pleased and gave the Vicar a handsome cheque.
Over the door there is the large statue of the Virgin and Child. It was carved by Herbert Palliser. More of his work can be found inside the church. He was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy and he was the tutor of Jacob Epstein. There was supposed to have been a dedicatory inscription underneath the statue but that never got built.
The architect of this church was Harold Gibbons and he was the last architect working in church art who built in the mediaeval style. Most other churches built around here in the twenties and thirties; St Alban’s, North Harrow, All Saints, Queensbury, St Michael’s Harrow Weald and other neighbouring parishes are all very modern buildings, contemporary to the 1920’s and 30’s, but in Kenton, they made a deliberate attempt to give an air of antiquity to the parish because there were no old buildings in Kenton. This church is unique in giving this more old-world appearance to church life locally and that shows the continuity of the church of the past, as well as the present and the future.
Inside the Church
Just past the west door engraved in the stone, is the symbol of Christ which the Bishop traced when the church was consecrated.
The cost of building the structure was £17,790 (you could not buy a garage in Kenton for that now). The fittings inside came to the princely sum of £2,950 and the church accommodated 600 including choir.
The building is of brick with stone dressing and rendering. It is all rendered inside. It has a timber roof and the roof is one of the glories of the church. It is covered with handmade tiles. There was a low pressure hot water system but that has long gone. The inside of the church is very much as it was in 1936.