History of the Trust

St Saviours is a unique, Grade-1 listed, neo-gothic, former Anglican church, considered one of the best examples of the work of eccentric architect William White (1825-1900). Built in 1865-66, the church and its grounds were fully restored by English Heritage in 1988. The building is an imposing, redbrick edifice that exemplifies the decorative style of the Arts and Crafts movement. The interior is decorated with mosaicked brickwork, painted columns and ceiling, and spectacular stain glass windows. The church also has a small, well-preserved private courtyard.

The church has strong connections with poet John Betjeman, who worshipped here and wrote a poem specifically about the building.

For more information about hiring the church for an event, please see the relevant section on our Supporting the Trust page. If you have an interest in the building itself, the Trust’s Studio Manager will happily show you around, but please contact us in advance of your visit.

The Florence Trust was founded as an educational charity in 1988 by painter Patrick Hamilton (1923-2008) with the help of Ashley Barker of English Heritage and Peter Burman of The Council for the Care of Churches and it began its work in 1990. Hamilton’s vision, drive, and undoubted charisma made a great impression on successive generations of artists. His continued support for the current direction was greatly appreciated and all that knew him will miss him.

Origins

In the 1970’s and 1980’s Patrick Hamilton worked in a large studio in Piazza S. Croce in Florence, Italy. During this time he worked as a draughtsman, painter, and teacher. The vast scale of this studio meant that during his time there, other artists were able to visit and work alongside him. These visiting artists found inspiration in the beauty of the studio and benefited from the exchange that took place between those also working there.

Upon returning to England in the mid-1980’s, Patrick wanted to replicate what he had in Florence. Something that he saw as an essential, but often lacking, resource for artists: a place for them to temporarily take a break from their often solitary practice; where exchange with other artists was productively encouraged; where the surroundings themselves added beauty and inspiration; and where they could draw upon resources that would aid their artistic growth. These principles remain at the heart of the Trust’s work today.

Growth

The Trust’s programme and services have grown and matured over the last twenty years. Key milestones in this development were the appointment in 1992 of Studio Manager Nigel Ellis and the appointing of our first Director in 1998, Rod Mackintosh. During their tenure the charity developed the use of studio space into a programme of annual residencies, with a much greater emphasis on providing not just studio facilities, but also access to people, skills, and resources, which can aid both the artistic and the professional development of each artist.

Since implementing this format the Trust has established itself as one of the leading and most innovative artist support and development programmes in London.

Over 300 artists have benefited from working or exhibiting at the Trust during its first twenty-five years. Major artists, such as Anthony Caro, Derek Boshier, and Paul Rego, have joined as guest exhibitors. Artists from Russia, Holland, Germany, Italy, Canada, America, China, and many other countries have come to work at the Trust, and it is keen to expand this international dimension.