The Architecture of St Faith’s and its Architect David Nye by Ian McInnes

The church forms the northern wing of a three sided, open ended courtyard. The opposite wing consists of a very handsome Edwardian Arts and Crafts style church hall, which was designed by architects Messrs Greenaway & Newberry and built in 1907. The two wings are linked by various administrative rooms and vestries. ??The structural frame and the roof are in reinforced concrete and it is clad externally in brickwork - the solid external walls are built from multi-coloured stock bricks are laid in flemish bond. The window jambs and sills and the door surrounds are decorated in red chamfered brickwork and the window frames are steel. 

Internally the Church consists of a wide nave covered by a slightly pitched roof supported off large concrete beams that span across the nave from wall to wall. Surrounding the nave are two narrow side aisles on the north and south, which in turn lead to slightly larger transepts and ultimately to the chapel at the east end via ambulatories around the sanctuary. Leading off the north transept is the choir vestry and sacristry.

The nave is lit by tripartite pointed gothic arches with rubbed brick tracery. The side aisles are lit by small rectilinear tripartite windows. Eight simple lancet windows illuminate the chapel at the east end. The south transept and porch is lit by an extremely intricate quinpartite window of brick tracery, similar, though more elaborate, than the nave windows. The exterior of the west end is decorated with a sculpture by Ivor Livi of Christ on the Cross attended by St John the Evangelist and St Mary Magdalene. The Architect - David Evelyn Nye OBE (1906-86)

Born in 1906, David Nye was articled to T F W Grant and, in 1930, was awarded the first SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) scholarship - this enabled him to travel throughout the country learning about ancient building crafts and the careful restoration of old buildings, an interest he retained throughout his life. The Society’s report on his performance noted “The appointment of the scholar was a new venture for the society. It is one which has turned out well. Mr Nye made the best use of his time, visited work in a number of buildings where it was being conducted in association with this Society, and proved himself a man who could be fully trusted to carry out repair operations. The Society was fortunate in having an opportunity to aid in the training of a man so sympathetic towards its principles and so ready top learn from its experience.”

David Nye’s connection with Dulwich is as the architect of St Faiths Church on Red Post Hill, which he designed in the mid 1950s. Pre-WWII, however, and despite his interest in old buildings, he was best known as a cinema architect. He had set up in practice in 1931, when work was very hard to come by, and, after securing an appointment as honorary architect to the Essex Rural Community Council based in Maldon in Essex, he managed to obtained his first cinema project in the town for the relatively little known Shipman & King cinema circuit.

Over the next 8-9 years he built at least 40 other cinemas and, when queried about his success in the 1980s, said that his unique selling point was an ability to build cinemas more cheaply than his contemporaries. His most notable cinema was probably the Rex, Berkhamsted, which is generally regarded as one of the finest examples of a typical suburban 1930s art deco cinema in the country - its interior featured superb decorations of sea waves and shells. It opened in 1938, showing ‘Heidi’ starring Shirley Temple and, although turned into a bingo hall in 1988, it reopened as a cinema in 2004 after an extensive refurbishment.

Nye spent the war years in the Navy and, although he restarted his practice rebuilding several bomb damaged cinemas, he then managed to specialise in the church work and historic building conservation and repairs that he loved.

He was a committed Christian, abstainer and vegetarian. He was appointed Architect to the Southwark Diocese, Surveyor to the Diocesan Parsonage Board and Architect and Surveyor to Guildford Cathedral. Dulwich lies within the Southwark Diocese and his other ‘local’ churches included St Mark’s, Bromley (1953-54), St Swithin’s, Purley (1954-55), and Christ the King, Salfords, Surrey (1958-67). His practice also worked for the National Trust and was responsible for the reconstruction of All Hallows, London Wall after WWII and the new Pewterer’s Hall in Oat Lane in the City in 1960. He also chaired the SPAB’s Technical panel for many years.

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The Dulwich Society - Registered under the Charities Act 1960, Number 234192

The Society’s aims and objectives are to foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich, both in the interests of its residents and the wider local community of which it is a part, and to increase awareness of the varied character that makes the area so special.

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