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Tag: Gothic Revival

Ashridge House (1808-14)

During our week looking at Victorian eclecticism we also explored the Gothic revival. As it happens I’d recently visited James Wyatt’s Ashridge House in Hertfordshire with the family for the pumpkin trail. Only the gardens were open, but I was keen to explore the hall’s exterior as I’ve previously only seen it at distance from other parts of the Ashridge estate:

Image: Struan Bates.

The elevated setting is undeniably spectacular, as is the house at first glance, but there’s something about the much-altered building that’s not quite right – perhaps it’s the crenellations? It conjures childhood visits to the hall at Alton Towers, so perhaps there’s something suggestive of ‘theme park Britain’ in its desire to recreate the past … though I’ve just read Ashridge’s entry in Pevsner, who is firmly in the other camp, calling it ‘..the best example of Wyatt’s truly romantic handling of the Gothic style’!

Image: Struan Bates.

I’m keen to return to have a look inside once we’re allowed to – the fact that it’s been altered so much since its priory days certainly make it a fascinating building. At time of writing the house was putting on more outdoor events open to the public in (I assume) the absence of their usual business college bookings.

Image: Struan Bates.
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Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury (1850)

The other morning I caught Christ the King, Bloomsbury bathed in dramatic light. Pausing to take the photo below, I had another go at applying the skills learned on my course to the church’s exterior.

Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury

Early English Gothic revival was my first guess. Why? Firstly, age: the honey-coloured ashlar is insufficiently weathered, so it’s plainly not old enough to be a medieval gothic church. We haven’t yet reached the Victorian period on our course, so I don’t yet feel confident identifying the nuances that would place it firmly of that age, though from earlier studies of the variations of gothic architecture, Christ the King seems be Early English Gothic in style.

What makes it so? Most apparent are the narrow, plain, lancet windows with little-to-no tracery, typical of the Early English Gothic style of the late 12th and early 13th centuries (see my previous post on Wells Cathedral). Supporting the structure’s weight are a series of external buttresses, an invention from the same period. However, the south transept rose widow, uncommon in England at the time, nods to the later English Decorative style, though its design here seems a little perfunctory, another clue perhaps to this being an imitation of an earlier style.

And the answer is (according to Wikipedia)…

Early English Neo-Gothic in style and cruciform in plan, the church was built by Raphael Brandon between 1850 and 1854 (with Brandon’s interior designed in 1853) for the Victorian church movement the Catholic Apostolic Church (also known as “Irvingites”). It is built of Bath stone, with a tiled roof.,_Bloomsbury

So I wasn’t too far off (though if I had to put a year on it I’d have probably said nearer 1900). The article also notes (citing the church’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography) that:

‘… this extremely large church was criticized by a contemporary for its lack of originality of design. Recent scholars, however, have drawn attention to the combination of 13th- and 15th-century Gothic precedents in its design,’

Both points of which tie with my initial impression … so I must be learning something!

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