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24 September 2014

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Lutyens' Cathedral
Conservator Chris Moseley and the model

The Cathedral that never was

By Paul Coslett
A large model of a spectacular cathedral planned for Liverpool by Edwin Lutyens is restored and put on display.

A scale model of a spectacular cathedral planned for Liverpool but abandoned after World War II has been put on display at the Walker Art Gallery.

The model like the cathedral itself was never completed. Since 1992 conservators at National Museums Liverpool have been working on the restoration of the model.

Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to design a cathedral for Liverpool’s Roman Catholic community in the 1930’s, on the site of the current Metropolitan Cathedral. The interruption caused by World War II and a lack of funds meant that only the crypt was built.

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If completed the cathedral would, at 520 feet, have been higher and larger than the Anglican Cathedral. Work on the model ceased before the interior could be completed and in 1975 it was presented to the Walker Art Gallery.

Lutyens' Cathedral
The restored model of Lutyens' Cathedral

Conservators have painstakingly restored the model, which had been damaged over the years, and completed the interior to Lutyens’ final design.

Design changes

Chris Moseley Head of Ship and Historical Model Conservation says “The whole of the exterior was finished for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1934.

“But the interior was incomplete and there were two reasons for that. The first was the diocese had got completely fed up with Lutyens coming back and asking for more and more money for this model which they thought they were never going to see.

“But also they had a design change at that point and they completely redesigned the sanctuary, the high altar and the choir, and that on the model was just an empty void.”

The architectural model is one of the most elaborate in Britain. During the war years it was stored in the crypt at the Metropolitan Cathedral and when the Walker received it in 1975 it had suffered damage with many parts including lanterns and spires missing. It had also been cleaned which resulted in its now faded appearance.

Lutyens' Cathedral
Detail inside the model

If completed the Cathedral would have dominated Liverpool’s skyline, Julian Treuherz Keeper of Galleries at National Museums Liverpool says, “It was intended to be 520 feet high which is much higher than St Peters Rome, which is 450ft.

“Lutyens, I think, was of the opinion it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime, but he knew all about the big medieval cathedrals that took 300 or 400 years. I think he hoped that this might happen with this one.”

The exhibition, The Cathedral That Never Was - Lutyens' design for Liverpool, runs from 27 January to 22 April at the Walker Art Gallery.

last updated: 26/01/07
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