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All Saints Margaret Street, a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture

One of Britain's best examples of Victorian Gothic, the church is a rich celebration of colours and geometric shapes.

All Saints Margaret Street
 

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Designed by architect William Butterfield and completed in 1859, All Saints was named by architectural historian Simon Thurley as one of the 10 most important buildings in the country.


William Butterfield was a leading figure in the Gothic Revival movement in the 19th century. All Saints is widely regarded as his masterpiece. Whereas previous Gothic architecture of the period broadly copied medieval buildings, Butterfield took the style into new directions.


His use of brick and application of polychromy (decorating in a range of colours) are particularly notable. All Saints is considered the first important building to use brick decoratively. According to the church's website, the pink brick chosen by Butterfield was more expensive than stone.

The 19th century critic, artist, philosopher and patron of the arts, John Ruskin, described All Saints as "the first piece of architecture I have seen built in modern days which is free from all signs of timidity and incapacity".


The architect Gorge Edmund Street said it was "not only the most beautiful but the most vigorous, thoughtful and original" of the Gothic Revival churches.


All Saints faces onto a small courtyard and is flanked by a vicarage (to the right) and the old choir school (to the left, now a parish room and residential accommodation).

It was built on the site of the Margaret Chapel, which became the centre of the High Church Tractarian Movement in 1839-45. In 1850, the Tractarian Movement joined with the Ecclesiological Society to rebuild the chapel in the Gothic style, but it took nine years to complete. The church continues to worship in the Anglo-Catholic style.


The stained glass window in the baptistery was designed by Butterfield and made by Arthur O'Connor. It was moved from the east end of the church in 1996.


The spire of All Saints is 227ft (69m) tall, while the interior boasts a fine display of granite, marble, alabaster and tiled decorations.


The friezes on the north wall were painted by Alexander Gibbs, who also designed the west window in 1877 (pictured in the gallery at the end of this blog and based on the Tree of Jesse in Wells Cathedral).

The reredos behind the altar was made by William Dyce, but deteriorated badly and was reproduced in 1909 by Ninian Comper on wooden panels in front of the original.

The statue of Mary with the baby Jesus was carved by Louis Grosse. Painted and gilded in London, it was given to the church in 1924.

All Saints Margaret Street is in a quiet location only a few moments' walk from the bustle of Oxford Street. For those with an interest in Victorian Gothic, whether religious or not, it provides a peaceful and visually stimulating respite from central London's frantic pace of life.



 

For a full schedule of London On The Ground tours and events, please click here.

 

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2 Comments


Guest
Sep 08, 2023

What a wonderful Chapel, Jonathan! I don’t it comes into one of your walks, if it’s just off Oxford Street.

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London On The Ground
London On The Ground
Sep 08, 2023
Replying to

I'm pleased that you like it! I only saw it for the first time this week, but it's very central and so I wanted to let people know about it. No, it doesn't feature on one of my walks ( but who knows what might happen in the future?!).

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