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The houses of the Lord made with hands

by
24 June 2016

Nicholas Cranfield commends this book to DACs everywhere

Warrior saint: John Crawford’s design for a relief carving of St George and the Dragon, in St George’s, Headstone

Warrior saint: John Crawford’s design for a relief carving of St George and the Dragon, in St George’s, Headstone

All Manner of Workmanship

Robert Gage, editor

Spire Books £34.95

(978-1-904965-50-3)

Church Times Bookshop £31.45

 

THIS useful book surveys church building, predominantly of the Anglican Church from 1915 to 1965. Broadly, this covers the period during which the Society of the Faith, founded in 1905 by two clerical brothers, Charles and John Douglas, thrived.

The Society’s first successful work, printing Sunday-school stamps for children, led to the founding of the Faith Press, and, in 1916, Faith Craft was founded to provide high-quality artisan-made artefacts for churches. Michael Yelton comprehensively shows here what Faith Craft offered for Anglican fixtures and fittings, before both organisations ceased trading in the 1970s.

Canon Gage has published the 2013 lectures of two historians: a judge, and the priest of the sub­urban London parish of St George’s, Wealdstone, which will make more widely known the work of the Society.

The collection opens with an overview of church building from the First Word War. Elain Harwood does not concentrate only on the Church of England — how hard is it now to think that Holland W. Hobbiss’s Queen’s College chapel in Birmingham (1938-47) should become England’s centre of liturgical renewal, with its emphasis on the centrality of the eucharistic sacrifice for the common priesthood of all believers?

The 1930s and 1940s also demon­strate the impact of the international Liturgical Movement. Hector Corfiato’s Notre Dame de France (1953-55) was built into the circular plan of Robert Barker’s diorama, 1793; and the troubled history of building a Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool, once the first designs by Edwin Lutyens
were abandoned, is sympathetically told.

Laurence King (1907-81) emerges from the second essay as one of the great champions of religious archi­tecture in the middle years of the past century. Sitting through the confirmation of an election of a diocesan bishop recently, I was reminded of just how grandly, and yet how simply, St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside works, thanks to his post-war inter­ventions.

In 1935, George Orwell acutely noted that if a clergyman wanted to keep his congregation, he must either be Anglo-Catholic or “daringly modern and broad-minded . . . providing that there is no hell, and all good religions are the same”. This made popular the work of Catholic-minded colourists such as Sir Charles Nicholson, Martin Travers, and Sir Ninian Comper, and allowed churches such as Cachemaille-Day’s splendid 1933 St Saviour’s, Eltham, to be built for relatively impoverished commun­ities.

The last essay carefully researches Ian Howgate’s work throughout the Wealdstone church where the sym­posium was hosted.

Maintaining this heritage is not easy. Between 1869 and 1964, the Church of England declared 1086 churches to be redundant. In November 1960, a six-year-old church at Huyton on Merseyside was demolished, never having been consecrated or used; and in 1976 it was claimed that a church was demolished every nine days. Copies of this book should be owned by every archdeacon and every mem­ber of a diocesan advisory com­mittee.

My only regret is that photo­graphs of some of the lost churches have not been included: St Paul’s, Dollis Hill, of 1939, now the Mararahta Mandal Temple; St Christopher’s, Withington; Bernard Miller’s 1939 (Grade II*) church, demolished 20 years ago; St Gabriel’s, Blackburn (1932) by
F. X. Velarde).

 

The Revd Dr Nicholas Cranfield is Vicar of All Saints’, Blackheath, in south London

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