The St. Agatha’s blog has published some photos of the various altars which the church houses, with some info on the artist Martin Travers, who designed them.
This is the altar of St. Agatha:
Born in Margate, Martin Travers (1886-1948) was one of the most distinguished church furnishers and stained glass painters of the Twentieth Century.
He was much in tune with contemporary Anglo-Catholicism and was able to design what was demanded of him by the fashion for “Back to Baroque” furnishings, which were strongly promoted by the Society of SS. Peter & Paul (founded 1910).
In the early 1920s, Travers was kept busy designing elaborate pastiches of Baroque altars for the followers of the SSPP, and much of his best known work dates from this period, particularly his redesign of the interior of St. Mary, Bourne Street, and, later the enormous reredos erected in the Butterfield church of St. Augustine, Queen’s Gate, South Kensington.
After the Second World War Martin Travers found himself well known and respected both as a practitioner and as a teacher. At that point he began to be given more “establishment” commissions, from which he had largely been excluded before then by his perceived connections with more extreme Anglo-Catholicism. He designed altar furniture for St. Helier Church, Jersey, on the gift of the then Queen, an altar cross for the Temple Church, and an uncompleted refurbishment for Gibraltar Cathedral. Sadly, a design for the work which could have been his greatest monument, a magnificent east window for the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral, was rejected in 1946 on the grounds of cost.
Martin Travers died suddenly of a heart attack in the night of 25th July 1948 at the early age of 62.
The Requiem Altar at St. Agatha’s, shown above, was designed, in his Baroque style, by Martin Travers in the 1930’s as a requiem altar for All Saints Church, South Kirkby, West Yorkshire. The hangings replace a similar set, said to have been made by Watts of Westminster, which in turn had replaced the original canopy and dossal.
St Agatha’s Altar Putti – The putti, or cherubs, holding candles aloft are also by Martin Travers. They stand upon columns taken from an 18th Century door case from a house in Gosport, Hampshire. This particular rescue took place in the 1950’s when much of Gosport’s historic past was wiped away by the local council.
The Lily Crucifix on the St Agatha Altar is another piece by Martin Travers and was originally designed for St Matthew’s Church, New Kent Road, London. The five buds above the crossbar represent the five wounds of Christ. The lily flowers represent new life growing from an urn which represents death.
The St Agatha Altar Reredos – The Hispanic style reredos is by Martin Travers (1886-1948) and was designed for St Matthew’s Church, New Kent Road, London, sometime between 1924-27. It is made of wood, carved and painted. In its original form the wooden structure was ‘gilded’ with the central panel coloured red. Unfortunately this colouring had deteriorated over the years and by the time of its rescue the original finish was beyond restoration. The reredos has now been consolidated and coloured with a temporary finish. What is now white awaits gilding with gold leaf. The carved upper section which fits beneath the central arch is currently in store.
The High Altar was designed by Martin Travers c. 1936 and was formerly in the Church of St Matthew, New Kent Road, London. The Tabernacle dates from the early years of the 20th Century and may be seen in early photographs of St Agatha’s. The candlesticks are French, Second Empire. The angels, carved in wood and coloured and gilded are early 20th Century English. The carved and gilded wooden Reliquaries are late 17th Century Neapolitan.
Another altar is also shown on the blog – on the Feast of the Engliah Martyrs: