The Turning-Point, 1954-1956
THE period between May 1954, when the Minister issued a licence for building work to the value of £985,000, and the end of 1956, when a contract for building the walls was signed, was a crucial one for the genesis of the cathedral. During this time, Spence and Bishop Gorton, who had watched closely the design of the nave windows and the slow development of Sutherland's ideas for the tapestry, commissioned two further works of art, from Jacob Epstein and from John Piper. These commissions signalled a new confidence about the cathedral project, prompted by the letter from the Minister of Works. After a lean period, a stream of commissions began to arrive in Spence's office from 1954, offering design opportunities across a wide spectrum.1 Talented young assistants--including David Rock, Tony Jackson, Roger Button, and later Anthony Blee, John Bonnington, Christopher Walker, and Brian Nicholls--were recruited to help with these and to produce detailed drawings for the cathedral. An exchange of ideas began between these young assistants and Spence which was important for the development of the cathedral design. The character of this design was also to be shaped by a more triumphalist iconography developed during the conflict with the City Council, and informed by a lively awareness of post-war continental church design.
In June 1954, a meeting of the Planning and Redevelopment Committee of the City Council, chaired by Hodgkinson, declared itself to be 'now more satisfied that the new Cathedral will not seriously interfere with building priorities for other needs, and that the new Cathedral fits beautifully into central development'; the only sour note was struck by an editorial written by a member of the city engineer's department for NALGO's local branch magazine.2 The work of clearing the graveyard began in June and was completed in the autumn. The building contract was divided into four, corresponding to the chief stages of construction; the firm of____________________