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18 September 2014
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The Reformation: The People's View

By Carol Davidson Cragoe
'Gothick' fantasy

Image of Victorian interior of St John the Evangelist
18th-century rococo interior, St John the Evangelist, Herefordshire ©
From the mid-18th century, there was a conscious revival of medieval forms, especially as picturesque features in landscapes. The gardens of Studley Royal house were designed so that the ruins of Fountains Abbey formed a main feature.

Where an existing ruin wasn’t available, one could always be created. At Shobdon, in Herefordshire, Richard Bateman pulled down most of the medieval church so that three of its arches (probably the doors and chancel arch) could be re-erected on a nearby hill to form an ‘eye-catcher’ in the views from his garden.

'... Bateman’s new church adopted a kind of fantasy style called Gothick.'

Having demolished all of the old church except the tower, Bateman had a new nave and chancel built between 1752-56. Rather than use a classical style as many church builders were doing around this time, Bateman’s new church adopted a kind of fantasy style called Gothick.

Gothick was a mix of medieval and rococo elements, with a hefty dose of Moorish thrown in. It drew heavily on late medieval buildings such as the Henry VII chapel at Westminster. Perhaps Bateman felt such a style would be more appropriate because the new church was attached to a genuinely medieval tower, or perhaps he just had a Romantic turn of mind and liked the style.

Churches like Shobdon and Croome d’Abitot (Worcestershire) of 1763 (another Gothick eye-catcher church designed to go with a house and gardens by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown), set a precedent for the revival in the 19th century of traditional Gothic forms in Anglican church architecture.

It is important to note, though, that Gothic had never been completely lost in the Anglican church, as most of the 10,000 or so medieval parish churches remained in use. Therefore, there were plenty of original medieval buildings for later architects to study.

Published: 2005-02-07

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