Letter from Sir John Betjeman to Sir Edward Maufe in 1974

Statue at St Pancras Station

Statue at St Pancras Station

17 April 1974 29 Radnor Walk London SW3

Dear Edward and Prudence,

Don't bother to answer this letter for it is in the nature of a Collins to thank you for your church of St Thomas, Hanwell. I went there for the first [time] yesterday having just visited the old village parish church (started Gothic by Scott in his youth 1841) and charming cottages. I was with my friend Revd Harry Williams CR who was once Dean of Trinity Cambridge and tutor to Prince Charles. We travelled in brilliant evening sunlight down the road to Brentford and there, on the right, was your noble brick tower of St Thomas. We pulled up, and magnetised by the proportion and nobility of the exterior, braved the traffic, found the church locked but the vicar, a charming man called Sharp, was having tea in your neat vicarage and took us in. He did it most cunningly and dramatically, for we came in at the s. e. corner and he switched on the lights so that we suddenly saw the whole mysterious length of the vaulted south aisle. Then he made us walk to the w[est] and see the whole church. It is terrific: all done with scale: the decoration is beautifully subordinated and subtle, as is the skin of brick-work on the outside with its bands of red with purple. The chancel is so grand that it has accommodated that huge reredos from St Thomas's. I see a lot of Guildford in the church. I loved the font, the [Moira] Forsyth glass and the statue of Our Lady given by Prudence and safe in its niche in the Lady Chapel.

As we stood on the vicarage lawn and in the fading sunset light saw the great bulk of the church and n[orth] chapel and tall campanile, we realised we were in the presence of a masterpiece. I shall always remember it. I was proud to be able to tell the vicar that I had had a delicious luncheon with you both last autumn.

It is good to know that while we are all here, that glorious, simple noble and original church is still rising over its red suburb and lifting up the hearts of thousands.

Thank you, thank you.

Yours ever,

John Betjeman


From John Betjeman ed. Jonathan Glancey On Churches London: Methuen 2007 p. 183f