Recently I was in west Surrey for a few days, and took the chance to revisit a few places (I’m originally from the area), and visit some new ones. One new place was the Watts’ Mortuary Chapel in Compton. Made between 1896 and 1898 it’s a bizarre Arts and Crafts building with every internal surface covered in decoration.
"Watts' Chapel ceiling" by Derek Gale
Inside the chapel was another photographer shooting HDR images with a Nikon D3 and tilt/shift lens, on a tripod. I was travelling light so only had my Lumix GF1, 20mm lens and no tripod. Luckily there was a lectern in the centre of the chapel and I was able to rest my camera on it pointing upwards. I stopped the lens down to f5.6 to get enough sharpness, and this gave an exposure of 5 seconds. I used the self-timer, set on a 2 second delay, so the camera stability wasn’t affected by pressing the shutter button. What’s interesting is the flare coming from the chapel roof’s 4 windows. They were very, very, bright compared to the interior, and it’s resulted in 4 blue areas. The 20mm lens has no hood so it was hard to reduce the flare. It adds a bit of mysterious glow to an image showing all the little faces looking at you – quite unsettling…
"Watts' tile" by Derek Gale
The outside is decorated with tiles made nearby and fired from a local clay. They have very complex designs in what has been called, “Angels and Arthurian Legend meets Edward Burne-Jones”. They were made by local villagers under the control of G F Watts’ widow Mary Fraser-Tylter.
A fascinating place, and great to photograph.