Stuart and Georgian Churches; the Architecture of the Church of England outside London, 1603-1837

By Marcus Whiffen | Go to book overview

Chapter III
EARLY GEORGIAN (1714.-1760)

THE most important group of churches dating from George I's reign are those built under the Act of Parliament of 1711 that provided for "fifty new churches in and about the Cities of London and Westminster and Suburbs thereof". It is notorious that the number of churches actually erected fell very far short of the number envisaged by the Act. As Sir Roger de Coverley said, "church work is slow", and Whig Latitudinarianism was not the ideal stepfather for a child of Tory Highchurchmanship, such as the Act was. However, for us there is consolation in the fact that the failure in quantity was amply made up in quality.

In terms of both quantity and quality, the greatest contribution to this London church-building movement was Nicholas Hawksmoor's. He designed six churches under the Act, and each is a masterpiece. Yet Hawksmoor's influence on subsequent church design was negligible. Partly this was because his personal style was too individual, and too intensely emotional, to invite or allow imitation. Even more it was because, by the time any of Hawksmoor's churches was as much as half built, a reaction against baroque architecture had already set in.

The style advanced by the opponents of baroque is commonly described as Palladian, the adjective having reference to its adherence to the principles and examples of the sixteenth-century Vicentine architect Andrea Palladio. An English translation of Palladio Quattro Libri dell' Architettura was published by Giacomo Leoni in 1715-20, and the Earl of Burlington, whom contemporaries acknowledged to be the leader of the movement, followed up his sponsorship of William Kent Designs of Inigo Jones ( 1727) with the publication in 1730 of Palladio's drawings of the restoration of the Roman thermae under the title Fabbriche Antiche disegnate da Andrea Palladio. Thus it is not surprising that the history of early Georgian architecture in general may be seen as the swift rise, followed by the unchallenged supremacy, of Palladianism. But there are not many English churches which can properly be called Palladian. The churches of the Italian master himself were not suitable prototypes, and the new fashion in church architecture, when it arrived, was set by an architect who was destined by training and temperament to stand outside the strict Palladian school--namely, James Gibbs.

* * *

In deference to chronology, three large pre- Gibbs churches must be discussed first. One of them, St. Modwen's, Burton-on-Trent, has already been mentioned. It is, as we have noted, practically a reproduction of

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Stuart and Georgian Churches; the Architecture of the Church of England outside London, 1603-1837
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgment vii
  • Contents viii
  • Chapter I 1
  • Chapter II - Late Stuart (1660-1714) 14
  • Chapter III - Early Georgian (1714.-1760) 28
  • Chapter IV - Later Georgian (1760-1811) 46
  • Chapter V - The Gothic Revival 65
  • Chapter VI - The Regency and After 79
  • Chapter VII - Craftsmen and Artists 94
  • List of Stuart and Georgian Churches Arranged Under Counties 107
  • Index 113
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