Ecclesiological architects

One of the favourite architects of the Ecclesi-ologists was Anthony Salvin (1799-1881), a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Oxford Architectural and Historical Society. He had a large country house practice, and worked on the cathedrals of Norwich, Durham and Wells, as well as on numerous parish churches. He remodelled castles, including the Tower of London, Windsor, Alnwick and Caernarvon. Many were private residences and were remodelled according to the wishes of owners. For his work at the Tower of London, he was given an RIBA medal in 1863, although the same Institute had severely criticized his work at Alnwick six years earlier. In 1845 he was involved in the restoration of the round Norman church in Cambridge, the Holy Sepulchre. The Camdenians offered to take a main share in the work to demonstrate their principles. The church consisted of a circular embattled tower over a two-storied colonnade, surrounded by a circular aisle. All later additions were removed, and the building was covered with a conical roof following an earlier hypothesis by James Essex. The interior was rearranged according to new liturgical requirements, including a stone altar. This caused intense controversy and brought the subject to the highest church court, who decided in favour of a table, as the altar was to serve for commemoration and not for further sacrifice. The example became a routine type of destruction in many churches, leaving scarcely 'a single point of interest' in them, as Scott wrote in his Recollections. During the 1840s and 1850s, Salvin was involved at Durham, and carried out some of the most drastic changes

Figure 6.19 The Round Church of Cambridge was restored by A. Salvin around 1845, reflecting the guidelines of the Ecclesiological Society. The conical roof replaced an earlier embattled tower

with George Pickering on the site. The wooden divisions were now removed, and the Choir rearranged; new stalls and seats were designed, the great west entrance was reopened, and the monuments rearranged. The organ and screen were removed to open the 'grand vista' through the Cathedral, and the windows from different periods were remade in the Norman style. In the 1850s, attention was given to the rest of the complex, thus concluding another active phase in the restoration of the Cathedral in the full blooming of stylistic restoration in England.

John Loughborough Pearson (1817-96) was trained by Ignatius Bonomi and Salvin, who introduced him to the Ecclesiological principles. He co-ordinated a vast practice of church building and restoration, dealing with more than a hundred parish churches and several cathedrals. In 1870 he was nominated surveyor of Lincoln Cathedral, and in 1879

successor to Scott at Westminster Abbey, much criticized by William Morris. He followed the Ecclesiologist recommendations; galleries and fittings were removed, aisles were widened, windows, roofs and floors were renewed, towers and spires repaired, and new furniture put in. His method of work consisted of taking down the damaged parts and rebuilding them stone by stone, using original material as much as possible. However, improvements dictated by necessity or by aesthetic preference were introduced, such as building a higher pitch to the roof, as he did at Exton in Rutland, where the church had been struck by lightning in 1843, and was rebuilt on the old foundations. He used to number the stones in order to guarantee accuracy; in St Pancras at Exeter, the chancel was pulled down by him and 'restored' so cleverly that even experts could mistake it for original (Quiney, 1979).

Another favourite of the Camdenians was William Butterfield (1814-1900); he introduced an individual, idiosyncratic interpretation of Gothic architecture and favoured strong polychromy. In restoration he insisted on a good standard both in the structure and in the arrangements, aiming systematically at a 'sound and efficient' building. He used underpinning, damp-proof courses, floor ventilation and introduced proper gutters, drains and heating. He removed the galleries, and designed a new altar with steps leading to it, new altar rails and choir screens, and a font - if this did not exist already. He did not necessarily favour restoration to one single period; in many cases he saved seventeenth-century furniture (Thompson, 1971). Also Butterfield became a target for the later anti-restoration movement, and in 1900, the RIBA Journal wrote about him (VII:242): 'We are wrapt in wonder that he could appreciate so much and spare so little. He despised the insipid and empty renovations of Scott, he was altogether blind to the tender and delicate abstention of Pearson . . . We can regret for our own sake and for his reputation's that he was ever called in to deal with a single ancient fabric.'

During the 1840s a new debate began in England on the principles of the conservation and restoration of historic buildings, and especially of mediaeval churches. The debate divided people into two opposing groups, restorers and anti-restorationists, and gradually led to the clarification of principles in architectural conservation. Looking at the debate from a general point of view, both sides seemed to have much in common; the basic difference was in the definition of the object. The restorers were mainly concerned about the faithful 'restoration' and, if necessary, reconstruction of an earlier architectural form, at the same time emphasizing the practical and functional aspects. The anti-restorationists, instead, were conscious of 'historic time' insisting that each object or construction belonged to its specific historic and cultural context, and that it was not possible to recreate this with the same significance in another period; the only task that remained possible was the protection and conservation of the genuine material of the original object of which the cultural heritage finally consisted.

The results of this debate were gradually felt in the public awareness and in restoration practice, which was guided towards a more conservative approach. Edward Augustus Freeman (1823-93), author of the History of the Norman Conquest, published a book on the Principles of Church Restoration (1846), in which he distinguished between three different approaches to restoration: 'destructive', 'conservative' and 'eclectic', though in each case the building remained subject to substantial renewal and construction work.

1. The 'destructive' approach was the practice of earlier centuries, when past forms of styles had not been taken into consideration in new additions or alterations.

2. The 'conservative' approach had the aim to reproduce the exact details of every piece of ancient work at the time of the repair, making the church 'a facsimile'.

3. The 'eclectic' approach represented a mid way, where the building was evaluated on the basis of its distinctive qualities and its history, and repaired or remodelled accordingly in order to reach the best possible result.

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