Coventry Cathedral: Art and Architecture in Post-War Britain

By Louise Campbell | Go to book overview

2
The Cathedral Project 1940-1947

IN March 1941, the Cathedral Council, comprising the Bishop, Assistant Bishop, the Provost, the honorary and residentiary canons, the Archdeacons of Coventry and of Warwick, and representatives of the diocese and the cathedral congregation met for the first time since the November raid. Endorsing a public promise made by Provost Howard on the morning after the raid, the Council resolved to rebuild the cathedral 'on or near its present site' using funds from the Government's War Damage Commission.1 The Provost, like a dean in an older cathedral, was responsible for both the fabric and the administration of the cathedral. He believed that the cathedral should play an important role in the moral regeneration of Britain, and reflect the more egalitarian conditions which he envisaged after the war. The new Bishop, Neville Gorton, who arrived in Coventry in 1943, was even more radical, concerned with what he termed a co-operative 'Christian social attack' on contemporary problems. For both, the project for a new cathedral was not merely a building project but also involved rethinking its function. But by 1947, specifications for a cathedral along traditional lines--and quite contrary to the Bishop's ideas--were drawn up; in the process, the scheme was to lose some of its most innovative features.


'A People's Cathedral'?

The Provost initially sought advice from the cathedral architect, Randoll Blacking, and the secretary of the Central Council for the Care of Churches (CCC), Francis Eeles. Eeles, disliking

____________________
1
'Pointing to the ruins, I said [to a journalist on 15 Nov.] "We shall build it again"', R. T. Howard, Ruined and Rebuilt: The Story of Coventry Cathedral 1939-1962 (Coventry, 1962), 20. Howard's newspaper account of the destruction of the cathedral includes the same promise: 'the Mother church and daughter churches will rise again from their ruins and those of the city around them'. It concludes that the spirit which will win the war 'will inspire us to build again. It will be worth winning the war if only to re-build St Michael's.' Coventry Standard ( 28 Nov. 1940). CCM 1937-58.

-22-

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Coventry Cathedral: Art and Architecture in Post-War Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Color Plates ix
  • LIST OF BLACK AND WHITE PLATES xi
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I. Architecture and Politics 5
  • 1 The Cathedral and the City: The Blitz, Civic Ideology And Reconstruction 7
  • 2 The Cathedral Project 1940-1947 22
  • 3 'towards a New Cathedral'? 37
  • Part II. The Creative Process 69
  • 4 Modernism and Tradition: The Genesis of Spence's Competition Design 71
  • 5 The Competition Design Refined, 1951-1954 81
  • 6 The Architect and the Artist 102
  • Part III. Design into Building 131
  • 7 The Licence to Build, 1954 133
  • 8 The Turning-Point, 1954-1956 141
  • 9 The Design Recast, 1956-1958 148
  • Pa IV. For and Function 193
  • 10 The Modern Church 195
  • 11 Provost and Architect 206
  • 12 The Cathedral Completed, 1960-1962 216
  • 13 The Cathedral and the Post-War World: Austerity and Triumphalism 243
  • Conclusion 254
  • APPENDIX: DONATIONS 276
  • Bibliography 278
  • Index 283
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