Fairseat Chapel (Church of the Holy Innocents)

The ecclesiastical parish covers Stansted, Fairseat and Vigo, and places of worship in these three villages.  For current information on services, events, and other church services please visit the church website using the ‘St Mary’s Stansted’ link.

Chapel of the Holy Innocents, by Penny Mayes

The Church of the Holy Innocents at Fairseat, known as Fairseat Chapel, was built in 1930 by Sir Phillip Hickson Waterlow.  The architect was Michael Waterhouse MC, A.R.I.B.A.

The photograph to the left is of the Holy Innocents Church and lychgate, Fairseat, as seen from the northeast. A plaque on the side of the building reads ‘Erected for the children of the convalescent home by Sir Phillip Hickson Waterlow, Baronet.  To the memory of his wife, his father & his mother and other relatives who lived at Fairseat.  Consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester – August 1930’.

Holy Innocents is a small cruciform church, the altar standing in a recess that forms the eastern arm, but the chancel and nave are of uniform width. The south transept contains the pulpit and a single manual organ by Osmonds of Taunton. The north transept comprises a porch and a newly converted kitchen and toilet (formerly the vestry).  Beyond the transept is a two-bay nave.

The church is built using two-inch soft red stock bricks.  The roofs are tiled in deep red machine-made nib tiles with swept valleys and purpose-made hip and half round ridge tiles.

Fairseat Chapel - Oak Offertory Plate
Oak Offertory Plate presented by the architect, Michael Waterhouse, in 1930

The Architect Michael Waterhouse MC, b. 1888, was educated at Eton, Balliol College Oxford, and the Architectural Association, he was the third generation of the Liverpool Waterhouse dynasty of architects responsible for countless Gothic Revival buildings including Manchester Town Hall and London’s Natural History Museum. Like his father and grandfather before him, he was President of RIBA from 1948 to 1950 and died in 1968. Educated at Eton, Balliol College Oxford, and the Architectural Association, he was the third generation of the Liverpool Waterhouse dynasty of architects responsible for countless Gothic Revival buildings including Manchester Town Hall and London’s Natural History Museum. The oak offertory plate illustrated was presented by him on the completion of the Chapel.

Fairseat Chapel - Stained Glass Window
East wall stained-glass window

Internally the church is plastered below the common rafter exposing two pine hammer beam trusses with iron straining bars.  There is a circular stained glass window in the east elevation and a small square window on the south side of the chancel also contains stained glass of a more traditional design.  The artist of the stained-glass window in the east wall is unknown but it is titled ‘A Hundred Spirits Whisper Peace’, the last line of poem LXXXVIII in Tennyson’s epic ‘In Memoriam’ 1850.

Other windows are glazed with hammered glass squares in metal frames.  There are no burials so the churchyard is laid to grass studded with decorative trees.  The robust brick-built lychgate with its tiled roof is similar in design to the church.  A bell hangs over the oak entrance gate.  The church is bounded by a brick and flint boundary wall on the east and north sides and trees and shrubs on the other two sides.

The Church is the second Church of the Holy Innocents at Fairseat, the first being established in one of the farm buildings adjacent to the children’s convalescent home at the Manor House which was managed by the staff of Sir Philip and Lady Waterlow.  The first church had many gifts from the Waterlow family members, including an American organ donated by Sir Phillip, the altar crucifix by Sir Edgar, and a stained glass window now on the south side of the present church, given by Lady Waterlow in memory of her sister.

The current Church of the Holy Innocents at Fairseat, known as Fairseat Chapel, was built in 1930 by Sir Phillip Hickson Waterlow, to the memory of his wife, his father and his mother who lived at Fairseat.  Sir Phillip Hickson Waterlow , was the Chairman of Waterlow and Sons – engravers of banknotes, postage stamps, and share certificates.  In 1921 Lady Waterlow had established a children’s convalescent home at the adjacent Old Manor House.  The home gave free convalescence to children from the London hospitals, in particular from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and it was, therefore, fitting that the church was dedicated to her memory.

Note: Further information concerning Sir Phillip Waterlow and his father Sir Sydney Waterlow is available in the ‘Luminaries’ section.

The church was consecrated by Dr. Harmer the Bishop of Rochester on Tuesday 26th August 1930 when the church was crowded with worshippers including twelve members of the Waterlow family and children from the convalescent home.

Consecration Service – 26 August 1930

The clergy in attendance included Rev. F. W. Fisher, M.A., Rector, Rev. Crole-Rees, Diocesan Chaplain to the Bishop; Rev. F. W. Warland, Rural Dean of Kingsdown; Rev. A. P. Pascoe, Rector of Wrotham and Rev. F. Key. Mr. H N. Grimwade was the Registrar, in the absence of Mr. R. A. Arnold, Diocesan Registrar. The organist was Mr. W. Jones and Churchwardens Miss B. Stap and Mr. T. W. Webb.

The Bishop, with the procession; arrived at the closed door of the church, and after the reading of a Collect, Dr. Harmer knocked with his staff on the door, saying “Lift up your heads O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.” Following responses from within, the door was opened and on his crossing the threshold, the ‘Petition for Consecration’ was presented to the Bishop.

Addressing the assembly, the Bishop commented that the church reflected the skill of the architect Mr. Waterhouse. Speaking of Lady Waterlow, the Bishop said she had one of those kind and generous hearts which would always help and succour those she recognised as being in want or difficulty.  It was natural with such a kind disposition that nine years ago she had established a home for little children.

Courtesy of the Kent Messenger

The architect, Michael Waterhouse, told the Kent Messenger that Sir Philip wanted the chapel to harmonise with the Manor House and farm buildings, and while retaining its ecclesiastical dignity, to keep some of the domestic character of a chapel of ease, and of the children’s convalescent home, which explained the appearance of the doors, windows, and other architectural features. It could not be any regular ecclesiastical style, but in its proportion and general form, it took something from the Georgian character of the Manor House.

Mr. Waterhouse paid tribute to the builders, Messrs A. Tye Ltd. of Sevenoaks, saying that Sir Phillip and he were extremely pleased with the way in which the work had been carried out and that it was an example of first-class craftsmanship.

At the time of the consecration, many gifts were made to the church by the Waterlow family members including a lectern, font, altar candlesticks, vases, a collection plate, and altar cloth.  The Prayer and Hymnbooks were gifted by the staff of Sir Phillip Waterlow’s home at Trosley Towers.  Sadly Sir Phillip died in 1931 and the stained glass rose window was gifted in his memory by his children.

Over the years the church has received many generous gifts including during the 1930s an engraving in gilt frame from Mr. Phillip Waterlow, the oak prayer desk and chair by Miss E Rogers, and the oak notice board by Mrs. F F Lance.  In the 1960s the pipe organ was purchased and installed as a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Pasteur who also gifted the sanctuary rug in 1979.  In 1988 the wall and hanging lights were restored by Nevil Acheson-Grey.  The church at Fairseat continues to be well maintained and regularly used for services and weekly prayer groups.

Note: The Society gratefully acknowledges the contribution to this article by Polly Falconer, and Colin Evans, Churchwarden