St Martin's Church
Diocese of Delhi, Church of North India
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Diocese of Delhi
History


The building of St. Martin's Church

 

Arthur Gordon Shoosmith  (1888-1974), an architect of repute,and Sir Edward Lutyen’s representative in India from 1920 to 1931,received the commission of design of St Martin’s Church, essentially for armed forced personnel as it was located in the military cantonment. He designed the building in 1928 and construction started in 1929. Fittingly, the foundation stone was laid by commander-in-chief, H E. Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood Bart, GCB, GCMB, KCSI, DSO, LLD, on the 23rd March, 1929.

 

Mr Shoosmith designed an unique building, sensitive to his own western tradition and also to the architecture, building materials and climatic conditions in and around Delhi. Three and a half million bricks went into the construction of this building, which externally looks like a fort, with its buttresses, parapets, straight lines and few windows. The inside resembles a basilica with its high circular dome and curved arches reaching to the vaulted roof.

The total length of the building is 160 feet; the width 75 feet; height to the vault 56 feet ; and to the top of the square Gothic tower 128 feet. The plinth is of stone, so to the font, pulpit, altar rails and the paving of the marthex and sanctuary . The nave is a wooden block floor. The west end has a gallery for a band instead of an organ. The cost of construction in 1931 was Euro (UK)  17,000/-.

 

The Congregation

 

From when the first baptism took place on the 17th February, 1931, the daughter of Mr. Shoosmith, the font has been used for children and adults representing a wide spectrum of society. The fathers of Children baptized have included, besides army personnel , a baronet, labourers, decorators, Khansamas  (cooks), shoemakers, doctors etc. An interesting baptism was when Edwin Joseph, a vehicle mechanic and his wife Dorothea had three of their children baptized on the same day, the 22nd November, 1953. The oldest baptism was that of Kenneth Nathaniel Maddens a havildar ; he was 43 years old and baptized on the 7th September, 1943.

The congregation is bilingual using both English and Hindi. Till 1976 there were separate services for the two languages groups; but subsequently combined services became the order of the day.

The church has received outstanding visitors; perhaps the most memorable being  the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten on Easter Sunday in 1947. The golden jubilee service, in 1981.  Besides confirming confirmation, Bishops of Delhi have regularly officiated and preached in this parish church. The Remembrance Sunday  Services attract armed forces personnel, irrespective of religion.