[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]
[ocr errors]

the same time. But we are bound to say of woth these very clever, careful, and in parts highly elegant erections, that if they have any purpose besides that of ornamental landmarks, they are extreme cases of its being superseded by secondary objects, -of the overgrowth and choking of essentials by non-essentials. This church has been built at the expense of the Rev. W. H. E. Bentinck, archdeacon and canon of Westminster.

Near this, in Great Peter Street, is a far less pretending but very noticeable church, St. Peter's, Westminster, of a broad open useful plan, few and small pillars, and a plain Edwardian style. Its chief ornament is a very interesting carved font. Otherwise, as it has only the preparation for a tower (not to be carried further, we hope, till many other things are done), it may boast of being what no Early English imitation perhaps can be, cheap without being offensive. The only carved details, however, the corbels, strike us as needlessly exact in their imitation. We see no necessity, at least within the building, for partly humorous busts of medieval clerics in mediæval dresses.

Among the smallest class of churches, that of Sledham, near Midhurst, by Mr. J. Butler, is admired for its simplicity and good proportions. It has a north aisle, south porch, chancel, and tower accommodates 300, and has been built in the short space of six months.

The Free Church, Inverness, by Messrs. Mackenzie and Matthews, is in imitation of the “Perpendicular," or late English Gothic of the Lancastrian age, but not such an imitation as is now fashionable in England; rather in the manner of ten or fifteen years ago, when (though the reproduction of Gothic details might be less perfect) the general plan of a church was still, like that of other buildings, directed to something besides picturesqueness. The recent affectations, we are glad to see, have not yet reached quite to the ends of our land. This church accommodates 900, in a simple rec-. tangle of three aisles, all covered by one roof. It has, at the angle next the river, a bell and clock-tower surmounted by an octagon lantern and spire, the two latter an unique instance, among us, of the arrangement seen in those of the Town House at Brussels, decidedly superior to our common mode in beauty of sky-line, as seen in different directions, and perhaps, too, in structural excellence.

An unfinished church at Hampstead, is distinguished by a lofty spire, visible, from its high situation, far around the country, and so disproportioned to the church in decoration as well as size, that the latter has the air of a mere adjunct, or an excuse for the spire. It consists of three low and equal aisles with separate parallel roofs, and is the only recent church we have seen without an excrescent chancel; the style, the plainest of Edward III.'s time.

The new parish church at Swindon, Wilts, is remarkable among modern ones for the picturesque grace of its external form ; which, however, is due to a strict adherence to medieval arrangement and proportions, abjuring all attempt at their modification to our widely altered wants. Its plan is uniform (a rare remnant of simplicity

amid the present intensely artificial fashions) and consists of a nave with aisles, a west entrance-tower and spire, à quasi-transept (i.e. one confined to the projection of the aisles, (as at the choir of York,) and the usual excrescent chancel ;--the whole dressed in a well imitated Edwardian style. The position of the tower gives it one advantage over the modern cross churches of the Camberwell type, that of not being supposed to need four extra-massive pillars in the very centre. It would also be better, in reproductions of this or any form of church with aisles (supposing such reproduction a necessary evil), if the nave clear-story wall were entirely suppressed, the most barn-like extent of roof being preferable to the ghastly apology for a clear-story now common (as at Camden New Town, and St. Matthew's, Westminster) while dormers would far better answer the end. Such arrangement was common in the latest, and as we believe also the earliest, Gothic village churches, though nearly obliterated by successive repairs.

A church nearly finished at Ealing, Middlesex, presents the same plan as Swindon without the quasi-transept. . Its central nave, having a clear-story, is uncommonly lofty for its width, and has a fancy roof of the Westminster Hall form without its principal arches, the omission of which must render such imitations (now too common) even less stable and capable of retaining their shape than their gigantic prototype. They also require, like it, (or would require, supposing their supports not needlessly massive,) flying buttresses; which this has not, though the tower and aisles, needing no buttresses, have, as usual now, very prominent ones, much to the injury of pictorial breadth and dignity. The interior has a peculiar ornament added to each arch dividing the chancel from its aisles, viz. a pillar supporting two minor arches, with tracery filling the

space above them. The novelty is, of course, not in the feature itself, but in its application to an internal arch on the ground floor ; and though a perfectly useless addition, it is not more superfluous here than in the old triforial arcades and unglazed cloisters, which (together with the whole system of grouped apertures or traceried windows in unvaulted buildings) completely contradict the common idea that the mediæval builders adorned their works with no useless additions, or no constructive peculiarities unconducive to physical excellence. For there was no physical reason for fitting a large aperture (not meant to be glazed) with subordinate pillars and arches; nor any reason (except in vaulted buildings) for leaving external apertures wide enough to require subdivision, or collecting them into close-packed groups (such as ultimately became what we call a tracery window), but every reason, on the contrary, for leaving all lights equidistant, and their separating masses equally strong (as we see in classic buildings, and the nave of St. Albans, and all unvaulted ones before the affectation of a style had begun). These things therefore, however common in the golden age of Gothic art, are certainly (to use Mr. Pugin's comprehensive formula) not "decorated construction,” but “ constructed decoration ;" the first instance of it indeed, and the most beautiful and excusable—the only one

perhaps found as early as the 13th century—but still the first instance of approach to that scenic or represented architecture which, gradually overgrowing that of all decorative arts, has at length, in modern times, come to be the universal and distinctive nark of those of Europe and Christendom:--the first step too in that mode of adornment by representations of human instead of natural works, which Mr. Ruskin perhaps justly calls “ignoble," and which certainly characterised the decline alike of the Classic, the Gothic, and (as far as we can see) every other school of decorative arts. But though essentially a mark of decline (implying an apish confession of inferiority to the imitated past) it would seem justifiable in particular states of society ; viz. where there was such intellectual disparity between the designing and executing hands as to require the former to supply all the art, and yet no such debt or distress as to render elaborate ornament a pretentious, cruel, or unlawful sacrifice.

Two very ornate Romanist churches have been completed at Clapham and Greenwich ; the latter with a tower and spire of very singular unsymmetrical outline at one end, and an arch for a bell at the other, which is droll, and as it cannot be any ceremonial requirement (for we have seen nothing like itin any other fabric of the unchangeable Church) it implies some incipient tendency in their architecture towards the principles now pervading our own. These structures affect, as usual, the Second Edwardian style ; and the free use of the human figure in carving gives a life and richness that nothing else

It also renders all antedating of the fabric (such as some antiquaries have feared from our imitative propensities in art) impossible ; for nineteenth-century angels are not to be mistaken for thirteenth. They are of a different creation. On the whole, we find here no support to the common notion that this faith is favourable to the development of arts; a notion, indeed, untenable even by Mr. Pugin, for (as that enthusiastic artist has most truly observed of Protestant ecclesiastical arts) “we must not test them by the works of preceding centuries, but by the corresponding period."

Dissenters, in their imitation of mediæval art, seem hitherto many years behind us in the character and spirit of the decoration, which as yet seems purely exhibitory, as on shops or shows, or the churches (whether Pancras Greek or Chelsea Gothic) of George IV's time. They still, therefore, as heretofore, simply follow in the steps of the national church architecture at a respectful distance, varying in each sect, from the Congregational, &c., to the Society of Friends, who bring up the rear, with their singular fancy for being always at the top of the most genteel fashion of fifty years ago. With the more forward sects, those disgustful conventional pretence3 of the bricklayers (still, we fear, rooted in the public eye as belonging to “plain" building, with which they have no connexion whatever) have now given way to gay masquerade representations of all the mediæval styles of this country, some sects, perhaps, affecting particular styles (at least the Wesleyans seem to show, by several London examples, a monopoly of the Norman).



The Independent Chapel, Gloucester, by Mr. J. Medland, is an uncommonly church-like specimen, in the Third Edwardian style, with considerable ornament. It accommodates 1,000 in the three aisles, of which the side ones are divided into two floors. The centre roof is a litt le raised, on a clear story of circular windows (instead of the us ual stunted dwarf representations of those contrived for vaulted bu ildings), and the whole height to the ridge is 56 feet. Several texts cut in stone are noticeable as an enrichment peculiarly fitted to modern circumstances--real, interesting, and admitting of being done well. For the architect has no right (as Mr. Ruskin says) to say, "My design requires a Titian hung in this panel and a Claude in that.' He is to provide for the complete exercise of all the abilities, high or low, of the several workers, yet all in subordination and concert, as in a chorus of part-music, not as the cheering of a mob ; for the true temple is as an embodied chorus of praise, in which the most unequal talents, the most difficult and most easy instruments, all bear their due part. Thus, the Parthenon consisted of erery man's best work, from Phidias down to the polisher of the steps-- Ictinus also doing his best (and what Phidias probably could not have done) as composer and conductor of the whole band. And so it was in mediæval architecture. But if there be no Phidias, a true Ictinus will provide no metopæ for him ; and where there are no artist-workmen, he must make no work for them ; or, if he can get only human machines, he must reckon only on their mechanical dexterity, and make it the exponent of his sole brainwork, as was done in the Egyptian or the Tudor styles.

The Independent Chapel, Tottenham (see engraving), is a fairer and far less favourable specimen of these structures. We give its view to show how many beauties and proofs of artistic skill may exist in a work fundamentally odious in principle. Mr. Ruskin's ironical proposal to cast churches in a mould is here carried out. It is forgotten that our fathers, in a state of rising civilisation, might as easily have multiplied ornament hy ing, &c., as we can; but then it never occurred to them to do so. Now, why does it occur to us? Simply because the use of ornament now is totally different from its use then; and this betrays the whole difference. In its beginning and progress, all ornament is a free-will offering, added to the necessary part of man's work, or rather incorporated therein, as a distinction from the work of brutes (which would otherwise be superior to ours, being without botching or bungling), and a source of satisfaction in our work, by rendering it such that we may love it; and when finished may, in a measure, see that it is good, and bless God for it. Such ornament it never occurs to any one to cheapen, whether it be offered to Heaven in the house of praise, to our guest in our own house, or our neighbours outside. It is of the nature of an offering, and must be sweet-savoured, costing its full price, the best of its kind. No man cheapens it, but, if poor, brings cheaper, not the same cheapened ; wrought zigzags, not cast foliage; a choice ram, not a cheap inferior heiser; a choice pigeon, not a lean pretentious ram. In the times of " Early English" (or early anything else),

[ocr errors]


« ElőzőTovább »