Early to mid-Georgian church buildings by the likes of James Gibbs and Nicholas Hawksmoor have lengthy been admired, and over current a long time Victorian ones have additionally come into their very own. In distinction the late Georgian buildings lined by this necessary e-book haven’t had an excellent press since they have been dismissed by the Ecclesiologists—the Cambridge Camden Society was based in 1839 and its journal The Ecclesiologist printed from 1841—as mere “preaching containers”, designed by architects with an insufficient understanding of the right association and magnificence required for a “actual” church.
In 1818 the Church Constructing Fee was arrange, and the numerous church buildings erected with assistance from its grants have been handled in a advantageous e-book by M. H. Port (Six Hundred New Church buildings, 2006). Nonetheless Christopher Webster, a analysis affiliate on the College of York, reveals that each earlier than and after this date a exceptional variety of new church buildings have been constructed, normally with out grant support. Webster goals to reclaim these church buildings by cautious and educated evaluation of their origins and that means. He makes use of an immense amount of knowledge, and a remarkably beneficiant variety of illustrations, together with a substantial number of pictures by the late Geoff Brandwood.
His lack of sympathy for the Ecclesiologists, and for Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, who’re typically considered the apostles of “appropriate” Gothic, suggests an Evangelical standpoint, which is hostile to Roman Catholicism and which places auditory worship above sacramental worship. This can be a completely respectable perspective, although one which is hardly modern. Webster is, nevertheless, stuffed with reward for Robert Chantrell’s Leeds Parish Church (1837-41), which has a chancel equal in size to the nave, with a well-raised altar and choir stalls in entrance of it. He rightly describes it as a “precursor of Ecclesiology”.
Webster reveals that church constructing in his interval was in response to the continuously emphasised lack of church area relative to the large inhabitants will increase in England, primarily in fact in cities. The issue was exacerbated by the shortage of free seating in church buildings—pew rents have been thought-about a significant supply of earnings.
The selection of fashion was a vital problem. Some argued that Gothic was cheaper than classical, although others disagreed. Definitely a few of the classical church buildings have been astonishingly costly—for instance, the privately funded St Pancras Church (William and Henry William Inwood, 1819-22) and St Marylebone Church (Thomas Hardwick, 1813-17) in London every value round £80,000. The Gothic examples have been too usually clumsy and ignorant, although Webster makes a strenuous defence of the higher ones, resembling St Luke, Chelsea (James Savage, 1820-24) and St Thomas, Dudley (William Brooks, 1814-18), and reveals a charitable sympathy in direction of the much less good, such because the Lincolnshire Fen church buildings of Jeptha Pacey.
He devotes a beneficiant proportion of his protection to the north of England. For instance, one case examine offers with south-east Lancashire, the place an lively group of clergy labored to cope with the conspicuous lack of church room, usually with commendable architectural outcomes, resembling St Peter, Ashton-under-Lyne (Francis Goodwin, 1821-24) and Holy Trinity, Bolton (Philip Hardwick, 1823-26). All through, Webster pays specific consideration to the planning of church buildings, with a stunning variety of sudden and even eccentric plans illustrated. These embody the oval St Martin Outwich, London (Samuel Pepys Cockerell, 1796-98) and the octagonal St James, Teignmouth (W. E. Rolfe, 1817-21).
Anybody with an curiosity in church structure will discover a lot that’s unfamiliar and engaging right here, introduced in readable prose and proven in glorious illustrations. It’s to be hoped that the e-book will result in a deeper appreciation of those buildings at a time when so many are underneath menace from insensitive reordering, and even closure, conversion or demolition.
Christopher Webster, Late Georgian Church buildings: Anglican structure, patronage and churchgoing in England, 1790-1840, John Hudson Publishing, 320pp, 370 col & b/w illustrations, £80 (hb), printed 26 July
• Peter Howell was chairman of the Victorian Society from 1987 to 1993. His newest e-book is The Triumphal Arch (Unicorn Publishing, 2021)