This series of photographs looks at the change in the typology of English church building in the early nineteenth century and follows on from previous projects I have made looking at the religious architecture of England’s medieval cathedrals and the civic vernacular of London’s town halls.
In the early 1800s rising religious non-conformity and the mass expansion of urban populations were perceived as threats to social stability. A major function of the Church was to complement the work of the state, acting as a bulwark against this potential civil unrest and the possibilities of revolution. In 1818 The Church Building Act allocated a million pounds of government money for a new programme of church building which would eventually lead to the construction of over 600 new churches.
Built between 1820-1830 the churches in these photographs chart a shift in architectural thinking away from classicism to medievalism. By 1827 all the churches being built were in the gothic style. This is arguably the time when this nation first started to look back on itself and romanticise its past (the repercussions of which are still all too evident today) – gothic came to be seen as something less European and altogether more English, more Christian and less republican.
Photographing building types in this way allows the subjects to be compared and contrasted, demonstrating the similarities and differences between the approaches of the architects involved. This seemingly objective photographic approach echos the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher with their typologies of industrial and functional buildings who in turn were influenced by Walker Evans with his depictions of plantation mansions and so called primitive churches in America’s southern states during the depression of the 1930s.
St Mark's Kennington. David Roper and A B Clayton
St John's Waterloo. Francis Octavius Bedford
St Luke's. West Norwood. Francis Octavius Bedford
Holy Trinity Newington. Francis Octavius Bedford
St Georges, Camberwell. Francis Octavius Bedford
St Anne's, Wandsworth. Robert Smirke
St Mary's, Bryanston Square. Robert Smirke
Holy Trinity Marylebone. Sir John Soane
St Peter's, Walworth. Sir John Soane
St Peter's, Hammersmith. Edward Lapidge
St Clement's, King Square, Finsbury. Thomas Hardwick