CHURCH OF ST MARTINS
A Skelding Summary
The Church of St Martin-in-the Fields is one of the most famous and attractive landmarks in the local area. It was commissioned in 1720 and completed in 1726 by the Scottish architect James Gibbs who had studied in Italy was influenced by Italian Baroque.
Gibbs was later to design the Senate House in Cambridge and the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. His design for St Martin-in-the-Fields soon became an archetype of churches throughout Britain and indeed New England so it is therefore something of a surprise that the church was initially condemned for its ugliness. Many purists still find the cross between Ancient Greek Temple and parochial English Church uncomfortable on the eye and aesthetic sensibility. Some have found the interior of the church (as with St Paul's Cathedral) too spare and spartan - yet the atmosphere remains intimate and peaceful.
Distinctive features of the church include an ornate wooden pulpit, regimental colours and rolls of honour and a brick crypt which after the Great War was used as accommodation for homeless veterans . Indeed in 1940 it was used as an air raid shelter. This is deeply ironic as one of the most famous of St Martin's clergy was the Revd Dick Sheppard who in the 1930s founded the Peace Pledge Union and advocated pacifism even in the face of Hitler.
Today the crypt houses a very popular cafe, gallery and brass rubbing centre - and the church is renowned for its regular concerts and its own orchestra the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields.
The remains of Nell Gwyn, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth are buried in the churchyard.
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