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The Ecclesiological Society

For those who love churches

1900: Lions & Lambs – The Irresistible Rise and Bashful Demise of the Arts & Crafts Church

When: 25/11/2020
Time: 6.00pm
Location: Online via Zoom
Organiser: Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
Website: sahgb.org.uk

This Members’ Talk will focus on the Arts and Crafts Church. In the 1880s Arts & Crafts was something new – by 1920 it was old hat: but around 1900 the ideas were in their prime, and especially rich and suggestive in the architecture and decoration of churches.

After the certainties of the High Victorian Gothic Revival and before the stern diktats of Modernism, church architecture in Britain took a primrose path. The Arts & Crafts were idealistic, egalitarian, visionary – rejecting convention, the city and machine capitalism. Instead architecture was all about nostalgia and romance – unworldly, impractical and a little fey. The architects – and their clients – were most interested in houses, comfort, and the right way to live. Churches had had their day: church-going was no longer central to cultural life. People were going their own way. And yet churches were still being built. It was just that the reasons had changed – and thus the results were no longer so sure-footed or predictable. And, therefore, much more interesting. The peak of Arts & Crafts church- and chapel-building was around 1900. Alec Hamilton considers churches from this period – lions of innovation and ambition; lambs of self-effacement and equivocation: oddities, puzzles, conundrums and artistic dead ends. Yet all these churches express something thrilling about the way Britain was turning from church-going certainties to a world more radical, exploratory, adventurous and brave. In this talk, Alec Hamilton will consider 25 little-known churches – none of which he has lectured on before. Who commissioned them? And why? Who designed and built then? What did they have in mind? Did they lead on to Modernism, as Pevsner argued? Or were they a beautiful, self-contained, seductive backwater, aesthetically ravishing and intellectually left-field? The talk is lavishly illustrated, and unashamedly provocative. (And 100% different from his talk in October 2020 to the Victorian Society!)