The Sanctuary and Lady Chapel at St Francis of Assisi Church, Notting Hill, London

This Roman Catholic church was richly decorated with High Victorian Gothic designs by the eminent 19th century architect John Bentley (1839-1902). Over the years, through changes in fashion and campaigns of repair and redecoration, much of the original decoration became lost under coats of drab paint and dark brown varnishes. Most of the past restorations have been invasive, altering or badly damaging the original painted surfaces.

The Lady Chapel, including an altar to St John the Evangelist, and the High Altar were constructed in the 1860s and the vaults were decorated in 1872-3. Bentley engaged the artist Nathaniel Westlake (1833-1921) to produce his designs for the stained glass windows and paintings for the altars, including an extant set of Stations of the Cross displayed along the Nave.

In 2019, the intention was set to reinstate Bentley’s scheme in the prime areas of the church, the Sanctuary and the Lady Chapel. The colours and designs were investigated through reference to historic black & white photographs, the original drawings for the stencil designs, and paint uncovering tests to reveal execution and the colour palette. This was to ensure that the restoration programme remained faithful to Bentley’s vision and to harmonise against the decorative stonework and paintings. A degree of judgement and interpretation was employed to account for historic colour change in the paints, cross-referencing to other surviving examples of Bentley’s church work.

We are grateful to Fr. Gerard Skinner for commissioning the work and consultant architect Anthony Delarue.