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St. Augustine’s Church & Wessex Studios – Highbury, London

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Highbury church and rock history”

by David Franchi – 10th April 2011

The Highbury church that made the history of rock.

After few days of working from home and with sunshine weather, I decided to take a walk in New Highbury Park, Islington, where buildings and part of the surrounding area are from the mid- nineteenth century.

Strolling around I arrive to St. Augustine church, part of the Anglican, Evangelical tradition of the Church of England. The members of the parish represent the very mixed population of Highbury, counting at least 22 different nationalities. Redevelopment has started, and the church is closed while the builders are in. Notably activities include the children school, the Islington Choir, groups for exploring Christianity, praying, fare trading, campaigning against poverty or climate change.

This particular building was built in 1869, in replacement of a temporary church first established in 1864. A parish was assigned to the church in 1871, taken from the ones of Christ Church and Saint Paul’s. The structure was restored in 1982. The church seats around 1,150 people. The building is made of brick with stone dressings, designed by Habershon and Brock in the Decorated style, typical of the Gothic Revival (or Victorian Gothic) architecture, practised in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

But the major part of the building is the peculiar church hall. Built in 1881, later on it will become a piece of the history of
the music, hosting the very famous “Wessex Sound Studios” a recording venue for rock’ n’ roll legends. Now, astonishingly, it’s been transformed into homes.

In the 1960s, the Thompson family converted the church hall into a recording studio. They named it ‘Wessex’ because their previous recording studio was located in Bournemouth, in the Ancient English county of Wessex. George Martin, the legendary producer of The Beatles, bought the building in 1965 and make of it one of the hottest rock place of the history. Wessex lasted for 40 years and in Britain it was second only to Abbey Road for equipment and frequentation. In 1975, Chrysalis bought the studios and George Martin became a director of the company.

The list of music personalities who worked at the Wessex Studios is amazing. Here the Sex Pistols recorded many of their albums, including the revolutionary ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ in 1977. The Clash recorded their celebrated – but never enough – ‘London Calling’ two years later. The Queen used the venue for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We will rock you’. Additionally, worked here Rolling Stones, The Pretenders, King Crimson, Marianne Faithfull, XTC, King, Slade, Peter Townshend, Jesus and Mary Chain, John Cougar Mellencamp, Theatre of Hate, Kylie, Talk Talk, Nick Cave, REM, Motorhead, The Moody Blues, Dido, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Bob Geldof, The Damned, The Stone Roses, The Specials, Enya, Nik Kershaw, Erasure, Judas Priest, Tina Turner, and David Bowie. The list could probably be longer if one just had enough time to make research.

But time passes by and in 2003 the building was sold to Neptune Group which later converted it into a residential development. Today the place is known as “The Recording Studio” and it contains eight apartments and a townhouse. The internet site of the agent declares that The Recording Studio “might not make you a rock star – “but at least you can live like one”. Ironically, for a property here in a rock’ n’ roll location you need to have a lot of cash meet the expenses. Wessex Studios were famous for having the most new technologies. However, the mythical mixing desk ’40 channel SSL 4048E console’ now is still alive and used in a recording studio, located in Llangennech, Carmarthenshire, in South Wales. Well, it is strange to go for a relaxing walk and find out the history of music. Though it is now past, it’s always worth to amble and then go back home searching for the amazing history of this place on the internet.

Published for: www.remotegoat.co.uk

Direct link: http://www.remotegoat.co.uk/review_view.php?uid=6843

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Written by davidfranchi

May 18, 2011 at 8:27 pm

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