Friday, 26 October 2007

The Cathedral That Never Was

With recent postings on the foundations of the Cathedral in 1895, it might be worth looking at an earlier project. Cardinal Vaughan himself considered other designs before settling upon the surprising Byzantine proposal of John Francis Bentley. But as early as 1867, Cardinal Manning had approached the architect Henry Clutton to come up with designs - this was even before he purchased the Victoria site in 1884. The illustrations here were produced by Clutton in 1873.

Clutton's design was for a French style gothic Cathedral - an idiom never beloved of Cardinal Manning who preferred Italianate architecture. In the end, the Cardinal had other priorities, most notably the building of catholic schools and the relief of the poor. It was Clutton's pupil, Bentley, who enventually was to build the Roman Catholic Cathedral.


Anonymous said...

Looks fantastic. Is it possible to use coade stone for buildings of this scale ? It would allow high levels of ornation and make maintanance so much easier.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Henry Clutton also submitted a design for the new cathedral in Lille, France. (

Although he was awarded the first prize, his design was not built, and the contract was given to a French architect.

Anonymous said...

While I prefer the gothic to the Byzantine, it seems wholly irrational to choose a French style for the mother church of England & Wales. A proper English gothic would have been nice. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is a superb modern English gothic.

Still, the Byzantine Cathedral has worked surprisingly well, and perhaps it's best not to complain.

Where there any proposals other than the Clutton and Bentley ones? I recall seing a gothic interior in the long corridor at the Cathedral, but perhaps that was an interior of the Clutton proposal.

Mark Langham said...

Thanks for the information about Lille - how fascinating.

Westminster Abbey is itself a French Gothic; I believe that these styles corssed borders easily in the early middle ages.

There are other proposals, which I will post soon.

Stephen M. Collins said...

I love the Cathedral just the way it is. Gothic is a favorite style of mine, but this drawing has the tower looking a little bit at a loss. But then I lookid more closely - at the large pane of louvers. This tower was meant to accomodate a peal of change ringing bells. OTOH, the existing tower works much better with a carillon - something which itself is more "continental" than British!