St Clement’s Cambridge

Frederick Leach painted the interior of St Clement’s church in 1872. As an art workman, Frederick Leach was a designer as well as a decorative artist so it possible that he may have designed the mural and indeed the decorative scheme for the whole church interior at St Clement’s.  The building is listed on a surviving tradecard as a place where examples of the firm’s own work may be seen.

In place of the usual window on the East wall, there is a wall painting of Christ surrounded by all the Fathers and saints of the Church, each with their traditional emblems – St Peter with the keys to heaven, Mary Magdalene with a box of ointment, etc. St Clement, the patron saint of the church, is pictured with his emblem, the anchor. The words ‘Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum‘ (The Peace of the Lord be always with you) painted above the altar also appear in the fresco of St Clement in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, from which his likeness is said to have been taken.

It is thought that Frederick Leach may have painted himself into the mural, most likely as fifteenth-century fresco painter, Fra Angelico, recognisable by his palette and brush and by his nimbus which is painted as individual rays of light rather than a full halo (he was not beatified until 1982).

The iconography of the mural is commensurate with High Church Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic ritual and beliefs.

Canon Edmund Gough de Salis Wood (1842-1932) was curate to the Revd Arthur Ward from 1865–85 and then became vicar from 1885-1930. He was a Tractarian and devout Anglo-Catholic as well as an expert on canon law. He was buried in the graveyard at St Clement’s and the chapel in the south aisle is a memorial to him. In 1873,  Canon Wood co-founded (with his brother) the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith whose object was  ‘to promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England’. He was also an active member of the Society of the Holy Cross (Societas Sanctae Crucis (SSC).

The entry in the Venns’ Alumni Cantabrigienses for Arthur Robert Ward records him as a keen cricketer and President of the University Cricket Club until his death as well as ‘a very stout man of very High Church persuasion, he was known as “The Real Presence”; his curate, a thin man, was known as “The Wafer”!


See also

F R Leach Mural East Wall St Clement

Robert Halliday, ‘F. R.Leach and the Leach family, Cambridge artist craftsmen’ in Ecclesiology Today 2016 53:3–34.


Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates, workshops and stories about the house.
Sign Up Now