Monday, July 29, 2013

St. Jude's Church, Whitechapel

Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett and his wife Henrietta specifically asked London's Bishop to take over the empty and neglected St. Jude's Church (build in 1848) in the city's run-down and crime-ridden Whitechapel neighborhood in 1873. Whitechapel became infamous in 1888 when it served as the location of Jack the Ripper's murderous rampage.

The Barnetts were instrumental in their efforts of cleaning up Whitechapel and in 1885, three years after they began their annual art exhibits, they received from their friends a mosaic copy of G.F. Watts' 1866 "Time, Death, and Judgment". The cartoon for the mosaic was by Cecil Schott and it was executed by Salviati.

Schott's 1884 cartoon

Finished mosaic

Watts himself was critical of the potential result because he could not supervise the work's execution. However, it received praises from the International Correspondence Schools, which wrote that "the mosaic has very faithfully reproduced the picture itself . . .." Matthew Arnold revealed the gift to the Barnetts in Toynbee Hall and the mosaic was later placed on the western exterior wall of the church above a fountain.

In 1923, St. Jude's parish was merged with St. Mary's Matfelon. Like many other buildings in the area, both were destroyed in the blitz of World War II.  The adjacent Toynbee Hall (1884) and the nearby Whitechapel Gallery (1901), both also founded by the Barnetts, still exist.

Although he wasn't considered a suspect at the time, Reverend Barnett's name has come up in more recent speculation regarding the identity of Jack the Ripper. However, given the church's location, the infamous murderer - whoever he may have been - more than likely strolled by the mosaic and perhaps even stopped to ponder the meaning of "Time, Death, and Judgment."

Update: The mosaic can now be found in St. Giles-in-the Fields church in London's west end, where it hangs in the staircase of the south lobby.

Arnold, Matthew. Essays, Letters and Reviews. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.  255.
Barnett, Henrietta. Canon Barnett, warden of the first university settlement, Toynbee Hall. 74.
Barnett, Henrietta. Canon Barnett: his life, work and friends. 170.
National Gallery of Canada. For the collection of European and American art. 2010. 3.
The Critic. London: Good Literature Publishing Co. 4. 1885. 310.
International Library of Technology. Tile and parquetry designing. Scranton: International Textbook Company, 1916. 21.
St. Giles Online
Andrew Liu for St. Giles Online


  1. Hello,

    I recently gave a paper at the IHR in London entitled 'Sanctifying the street: urban space, material religion and the G.F. Watts mosaic 'Time, Death and Judgement' in London, c.1880-1970'. You can hear a podcast of the paper here:

    The mosaic can be found in St. Giles-on-the-Field.


    1. Thank you so much for this information, Lucie! I will certainly update the posting and I'm so glad to hear that this mosaic still exits. Rita

  2. There is a photo in the National Archive of the church being demolished in 1925

    1. What a wonderful picture! Thank you for the additional information.