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All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, Reconsidered

  • Paul Thompson
Extract

From the moment when in the early 1850s its patterned walls first rose above the monotonous stock-brick streets north of Oxford Street, All Saints’ Margaret Street (Fig. 1) has been recognized as a building of exceptional originality and significance. Long before its interior was finally completed for consecration in November 1859, the church was illustrated and applauded in the architectural press (Figs 2 and 4). Subsequent critics, from Eastlake and Bumpus and Muthesius to Summerson and Hitchcock, have all acclaimed it as a turning point,‘a bold and magnificent endeavour to shake off the trammels of antiquarian precedent’ which had fettered the early Victorians, ‘in many ways the most moving building of the century.’ Even so, the critics have always been puzzled by All Saints'. How did this revolutionary building come to be designed as the model church of the Ecclesiological Society, whose concern had hitherto been the strict observation of English medieval precedent ? How, indeed, does it fit into the Victorian Gothic Revival? Does it represent the influence of Rus-kin? If, as Professor Hitchcock and Sir John Summerson both conclude, its revolutionary features are due to its architect, William Butterfield, did he get the ideas through travelling, or reading, or did he invent them? Are the faults in the building, as well as its powerful inventiveness, due to naïve ignorance and an inability to co-ordinate the work of fellow artists, or to a deliberate and sadistic hatred of beauty? Finally, what is the real aesthetic effect of this building : certainly it is fascinating, but is it fascinatingly beautiful or fascinatingly hideous?

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Notes

1. Eastlake, C. L., A History ol the Gothic Revival, 1872, p. 253 ; SirSummerson, John, Heavenly Mansions, 1949, p. 174 ; Hitchcock, H-R., Early Victorian Architecture, 1954, chapter xvii; etc.

2. For the latter theory see especially Summerson, op. cit.

3. H. W. and I. Law, The Book of the Bereslord-Hopes, 1925. A. J. Beresford-Hope (1820–87), son of Thomas Hope, writer and art patron, was one of the founding members of the Cambridge Camden Society in 1839 and its Chairman from 1843. He continued to be Chairman after its reconstitution in 1845 as the Ecclesiological Society. He was a Con servative M.P., a noted champion of High Church interests, in 1841–52 and 1857–87. He married Lady Mildred Cecil in 1842 and was proprietor of the Saturday Review. The most important of his other building schemes was the reconstruction of St. Augustine's, Canter bury, as a missionary training college, with Butterfield as architect, in 1844–48. Benjamin Webb (1819–85), whom he met at Trinity College, Cambridge, was first secretary of the Cambridge Camden Society, and later priest at Kemerton (1843–51), Sheen (1851–62), and St. Andrew, Wells St. (1862–85).

4. I am deeply grateful to Mrs Tritton for permission to use these letters.

5. Bumpus, T. F., London Churches Ancient and Modern, 1908, II, 239241 . Letter from Hope, Morning Chronicle, 13 June, 1854.

6. Ecclesiologist, November, 1841.

7. Law, , op. cit., p. 161 .

8. William Upton Richards (1811–1873), graduate of Exeter College, Oxford; an assist ant in the British Museum Manuscript Department until 1847; joined the Ecclesiological Society in 1847; priest at Margaret Street from 1847.

9. Law, , op. cit., pp. 161–63; Bumpus, , op. cit., pp. 240–41.

10. Hope to Tritton, 18 December, 1852 (Tritton Letters).

11. Ibid., 23 January, 1850; 18 December, 1852.

12. Ibid., Richards to Tritton, 18 March, 1853.

13. e.g. Builder, 9 November, 1850.

14. Law, , op. cit., p. 166 ; Hope to Tritton, 26 July, 1852 (Tritton Letters); Morning Chronicle, 13 June, 1854.

I5. Law, op. cit., p. 176.

16. Ibid., p. 175 (Cf. Ecclesiologist, February, 1842).

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., p. 177.

19. e.g. Builder, 4 June, 1859; Ecclesiologist, August, 1853, October, 1855, and June, 1859.

20. Hope to Tritton, 15 November, 1856 (Tritton Letters).

21. Beresford-Hope, A. J., The English Cathedral of the 19th Century, 1861, p. 234 ; cock, Hitch, op. cit., p. 581 .

22. Ecclesiologist, October, 1849.

23. Hope to Tritton, 1 September, 1850 (Tritton Letters).

24. Ibid., Hope to Tritton, 6 August, 1850.

25. Ruskin, J., The Seven Lamps of Architecture, pp. 22, 126–9, 161.

26. Ibid., pp. 20, 36–37, 51.

27. Hitchcock, op. cit., p. 572; Summerson, op. cit., p. 166.

28. Law, op. cit., p. 177.

29. Wyatt, M. D., Specimens ol Geometrical Mosaic of the Middle Ages, 1849, p. 20 .

30. Building News, 27 May, 1859; Bumpus, , op. cit., p. 249 .

31. Law, , op. cit., p. 177 ; Illustrated London News, 24 March, 1855; Architect, 23 Novem ber, 1900.

32. Illustrated London News, 24 March, 1855; Bumpus, , op. cit., p. 244 .

33. Law, , op. cit., p. 177 .

34. R.I.B.A. Journal, 1900, p. 241.

35. Hitchcock, , op. cit., p. 596 .

36. Paul Waterhouse in D.N.B.; Bumpus, , op. cit., p. 264 ; Architect, 23 November, 1900.

37. Art Journal, 1860, pp. 293–96. J. C. Horsley, originally commissioned to paint the nave, was also associated with the progressive design reforms; Peter Floud “Victorian Furniture” in Edwards, R. and Ramsey, L. G. G. , The Connoisseur Period Guide, 1830–60, 1958, p. 41 .

38. Scott, G., Remarks on Secular and Domestic Architecture, 1857, p. 108.

39. Ecclesiologist, April, 1850.

40. N. Pevsner, London, II, 326.

41. Law, , op. cit., p. 178 ; Richards to Tritton, 18 March, 1854 (Tritton Letters).

42. Hope to Tritton, 17 July, 1852 (Tritton Letters).

43. Ibid.

44. Hope to Tritton, 22 April and 10 September, 1852 (Tritton Letters); Builder, 22 January, 1853.

45. Hope to Tritton, 19 April, 1853 (Tritton Letters).

46. Builder, 27 May, 1859; Ecclesiologist, August, 1853; Law, , op. cit., p. 164 .

47. Law, , op. cit., p. 177 .

48. Ecclesiologist, October, 1855.

49. Law, op. cit., p. 164; Hope to Tritton, 1 November, 1853 (Tritton Letters).

50. Morning Chronicle, 13 June, 1854.

51. Tritton to Hope, 21 April, 1856 (Tritton Letters).

52. Richards to Tritton, 9 June, 1856 (Tritton Letters).

53. Hope to Tritton, 26 June, 15 July, 8 August, 1856, and Tritton to Richards, 12 July, 1856 (Tritton Letters).

54. Hope to Tritton, II August, 1856 (Tritton Letters).

55. Ecclesiologist, October, 1857, and August, 1858.

56. Bumpus, , op. cit., p. 253 .

57. Ecclesiologist, October, 1857; Builder, 4 June, 1859.

58. Building News, 27 May, 1859; Builder, 4 June, 1859.

59. Law, op. cit., p. 168.

60. Ecclesiologist, June, 1859; Builder, 28 May, 1859; Building News, 27 May, 1859.

61. Architect and Building News, 14 April, 1944.

62. Church Times, 25 September, 1895; Butterfield's accounts, 1861. I am deeply grateful to Captain Starey for permission to use these account books.

63. Bumpus, , op. cit., p. 252 ; Andrews, A. B. de T., A Guide to All Saints, 1953, p. 20 .

64. Ibid., p. 9.

65. Church Times, 25 September, 1895.

66. Andrews, , op. cit., pp. 9–10.

67. Summerson, , op. cit., pp. 165–66; Pevsner, , op. cit., p. 326 .

68. Ecclesiologist, June, 1859; Builder, 28 May, 1859.

69. Ibid.

70. Building News, 27 May, 1859.

71. Hitchcock, , op. cit., p. 594 .

72. Summerson, , op. cit., pp. 166–67.

73. Ibid.

74. Goodhart-Rendel, H. S., English Architecture since the Regency, 1953, p. 129 .

75. Hitchcock, , op. cit., p. 588 .

76. Art Journal, 1 July, 1859.

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Architectural History
  • ISSN: 0066-622X
  • EISSN: 2059-5670
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