Friday, 24 May 2013

Luther Hooper at Hindhead

Hindhead, Surrey is only a few miles away from Haslemere.  In 1911 Luther Hooper wrote a short series in The Art Journal on 'Art in the Church'.  The first article in February 1911 had a split focus on St Christopher's Church Haslemere, where Hooper's work was evident in the altar hangings and the vestry curtain, and the Country Church, Kings Road, Haslemere, the site of Hooper's old weaving workshop.  The second article in March 1911 is devoted solely to St Alban's Church, Hindhead, a church so new at the time that Hooper calls it the "New Church of St Alban's, Hindhead".

Detail of Luther Hooper altar cloth,
St Alban's Church, Hindhead
Art Journal, March 1911

"The church of St. Alban's itself, in so far as it is finished - for the nave has yet to be built - is a good specimen of the best art of to-day.  Its simplicity and purity of design, its perfect proportions, which suggest spaciousness, and its admirable lighting, all tend to raise it far above the ordinary level of modern buildings."  Whilst devoting a large part of the article to the stained glass windows by Karl Parson and Christopher Whall, Hooper then goes on to describe:

"The holy table, St. Alban's with its carved tracing, is a good specimen of solid oak joinery, restrained design and careful carving.  It compares favourably with the usual rough solid table commonly used, which requires a frontal to be always affixed to it to hide its deformity from the public eye.  The small altar and reredos, carved in oak by Messrs. Martyn of Cheltenham, is in the chapel of the Good Shepherd, built in memory Mr. Frederick Townsend....   This, although much more elaborate in design, is far less distinctive."

Altar Table, St Alban's, Hindhead
Art Journal, March 1911, p.84

"Although with such a holy table...a frontal or altar cloth is not always required, it is an advantage to have a set of special appropriately rich covers or palls, as they used to be called, in order to distinguish certain seasons and festivals.

Festival Altar Cloth, St Alban's Church, Hindhead
designed by Luther Hooper, embroidered by Miss Charlotte Brock
(Illustration 5)
from Art Journal, March 1911, p.85

detail of Festival Altar Cloth, St Alban's Church, Hindhead
designed by Luther Hooper, embroidered by Miss Charlotte Brock
(Illustration 6)
from Art Journal, March 1911, p.85
"Illustration 5 shows the cloth with which the altar is covered at festivals.  It is made of white silk damask, having a design of vine leaves, grapes and wheat.  This pattern on the silk is shown more clearly in the Illustrations 6 and 7.  The broad parts of the applied design with which the front of the cloth is decorated are cut out of cloth of gold and silver and outlined with white silk.  The fine lines are composed of a few thicknesses of gold thread couched with yellow silk.  This work was done by Miss Charlotte Brock.  The size of this and the other cloths, Illustrations 7 and 8, when extended, is fifteen feet by nine feet.

Green and Gold Altar Cloth, St Alban's, Hindhead,
with Ornament and Inscription woven in,
Designed by Luther Hooper, woven by Messrs Warner and Sons
(Illustration 7)
Art Journal, March 1911, p.86

"The green and gold cloth, Illustration 7, is for the most part plain green satin of a rich and vivid colour.  The five panels at the front and back, and the single panels at the ends, have a green gold damask design of vine leaves and grapes woven in the satin fabric.  In the border, with its inscription, the effect of colour is reversed, the letters standing out green on a gold ground.  The chequer edging which divides the panels and border is of dark green and white silk.

Lenten Altar Cloth, St Alban's, with Ornament and Inscription woven in,
Designed by Luther Hooper, Woven by Messrs Warner and Sons
(Illustration 8)
Art Journal, March 1911, p.86
"The Lenten altar cloth of the same set, Illustration 8, is made of a damask of the same design as that of the festival cloth, but in this case the warp is dark blue and the weft, which chiefly shows in the design, is composed of a curious mixture of coloured silk threads.  This weft mixing with the dark blue of the warp, results in a beautiful quality of violet.  The continuous inscription, "Miserere Domini," which runs all round the edge of the cloth, is also woven in the damask manner.  The double edging of lace, which takes the place of a fringe, is hand-made of silver thread and dark blue silk."

From talking to a gentleman who has been a member of the congregation at St Alban's since the 1950s, I understand that the altar cloths were in regular use up until they were sadly destroyed in a fire in 1999 which was started by the altar, totally destroying all of the altar cloths so that not even a fragment was left.  He fondly remembered looking at these cloths over the decades.

It is sad that whilst at St Christopher's Church, Haslemere there is no living memory of the Luther Hooper works, and no trace of them; and at nearby St Alban's, Hindhead, Luther Hooper's works had been very well used, but are now destroyed.


  1. Another great post
    Such a shame that the Hindhead 'gems' are lost-thanks for your research and another great post on your blog-well done

  2. Thanks Dunc. It was disappointing to get so close to the Hooper works and then find out that they'd been destroyed!


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