The Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine, Westminster Cathedral, London SW1

From the website of Westminster Cathedral:

“Westminster Cathedral is not a conventional late-Victorian building but is modelled on a Byzantine basilica – built of brick with the interior decorated with marble and mosaics. The Cathedral authorities were unusually fortunate in having, just across the river, a marble merchant not only well-versed in Byzantine architecture but who knew where Byzantine materials could be obtained. His name was William Brindley.

William Brindley was born in Derbyshire in 1832 and, appropriately enough in a county renowned for its stone, became a stone carver. By the 1850s he was working for William Farmer, another stone carver from Derbyshire nine years his senior, on the decoration of churches and other buildings and in 1868 the two formed a partnership at 67 (later 63) Westminster Bridge Road…

George Gilbert Scott died in 1878 and William Farmer died the following year, leaving Brindley in sole charge of the firm. By this time the marble decoration of prestige buildings such as the Albert Chapel at Windsor, the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore and the Opéra Garnier in Paris had convinced Brindley that coloured marble was becoming increasingly fashionable. So he embarked on a mission to seek out the old Roman quarries in Europe, Africa and Asia. As he put it 20 years later “As my delight is in old quarry hunting and as I knew the high price fragments dug up in Rome fetched, I determined to try to find the lost quarries and see if they were worked out or not”. After previously listing themselves in the Trades Directories simply as sculptors, in 1881 the Farmer & Brindley firm began to advertise as marble merchants…

…As a result of his research Brindley was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1888.

Meanwhile demand for decorative coloured marble was increasing as Brindley had foreseen. There was a building boom in England and marble was in demand. A major customer was John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral, who required 29 structural columns for the nave, aisles and transepts and large amounts of marble cladding for the chapels…”

From: Ships of Heaven (2019), by Christopher Somerville:

“The marbles and mosaics in the Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine were installed in 1916 and paid for by a Roman Catholic convert and judge, Lord Brampton, with £8,500 (about £300,000 today)…

…It was the firm of Clayton & Bell of Regent Street that designed the chapel decorations; John Clayton was briefed by the cathedral’s architect J.F. Bentley to avoid the Gothic style to accord with the cathedral’s Byzantine mode. But Clayton knew what he was good at, and did it in Gothic anyway. (Wikipedia: “Although the work was to be assembled by Salviati’s workshop on Murano, the tiles were English, having been made by a technique developed by the stained-glass firm of James Powell and Sons and manufactured by that firm.”) The mosaic designs were sent out to the Murano Glass Company in Venice, who made coloured glass tesserae and attached them to the drawings, face down, to form each design. These open sandwiches of drawing-and-tesserae were then returned to London. From December 1902 till May 1904, craftsman George Bridge and twenty-six assistant mosaicists, all of them young women, gently hammered each section of the design into the place prepared for it on the wall with mallets and flat baulks of boxwood, before stripping off the drawings to reveal the tesserae face-up below. This technique bore fruit in the glowing colours of these late-Victorian Gothic designs.”

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