William Butterfield and Gothic Revival Architecture
During the late nineteenth century, architect William Butterfield created two Anglo-Catholic churches in the Gothic revival style: the All Saints Church in London and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. This era of architecture was based heavily upon older Gothic buildings, and rose to prominence during the Industrial Revolution. Movements such as atheism and Darwinism were becoming popular, something which inspired a return to medieval architecture within religious communities. Butterfield was hoping to create buildings which contrasted with the modern, rapidly evolving world and drew the Anglo-Catholic faith back to older, simpler beliefs.
William Butterfield was working in the middle of the nineteenth century’s rapid technological advancement, and this would influence his designs for his churches, especially the All Saint’s Church. During the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution began and would permanently change the position of religious groups in society (James-Chakraborty, p. 22). New scientific discoveries led to a huge number of factories being constructed in London. The community became fixated with science, and books like Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein became very popular (Stiles, p. 889). This new fascination with science caused atheism to become prominent, and many religious circles became anxious and wanted to ensure that their communities remained faithful (Gillespie, p. 216). Butterfield’s designs for the All Saints Church in London and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne were in the Victorian Gothic style, and were intended to bring medieval piousness back into the social conscience. "It was here, in the 1850s, that the revolution in architecture began...It led the way, All Saints Margaret Street, in church building." (Sir John Betjeman) Their designs encouraged communalism and placed an emphasis upon history, as Butterfield was encouraging a return to older religious days. The All Saint’s Church contrasted with the modern buildings of 19th century London, and was very bold in its determination to represent the past. It towered above its neighbours, and its lavishly decorated interior demanded attention. The reredos (the wall behind the altar) towered in front of the congregation and was decorated with elaborate paintings. The walls were decorated with various types of marble, and the bright colours within the building were deeply impactful. It contrasted vastly with the colour scheme outside, and contributed to the great amount of attention the building received. The church was a declaration that Anglo-Catholicism remained powerful and would not be easily abandoned. St. Paul’s Cathedral was constructed in a slightly different cultural context, but for similar reasons. Melbourne was in the midst of a massive economic and population boom in the 1880s, and was becoming large enough to rival the likes of New York (Coleborne, p. 20).
Once again, a city was advancing...