The east end of All Saints, Margaret Street
All Saints is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece executed by William Butterfield beginning in 1849. Butterfield was a devout Catholic with strong views on church architecture, and in All Saints he found a perfect canvas to express his religious and architectural creativity.
The church was funded by a wealthy businessman, AJ Beresford Hope, who handed Butterfield the unenviable task of cramming a church, clergy house, and choir school into a narrow city plot, bounded on three sides by neighbouring buildings. Not only that, but the church buildings had to express the flowering Tractarian ideals then so prevalent in Britain.
Butterfield succeeded brilliantly; All Saints is probably the most influential urban church built in the Victorian era. In his design Butterfield drew heavily on Gothic themes and work by AW Pugin
All Saints opens onto Margaret Street by way of a small courtyard, entered through a pointed arch. The building is of red and black bricks, pierced by small, randomly spaced windows. The church achieves its powerful emotional effect by dint of sheer height of the strong tower, which soars upward in imitation of Perpendicular Gothic style.
The Tractarians believed that the exterior should be plain, unadorned, and time and money lavished to create an evocative interior. Influenced by the writings of John Ruskin, Butterfield set about to show how a relatively gloomy interior could be made to shine with colour through use of chequered patterns, polished granite piers, coloured tiles, rich stained glass, and the painted reredos by Dyce.
Butterfield's aesthetic tastes changed over the years it took to finish All Saints, leading to arguments with the patron, Beresford Hope, who felt that his architect was deviating from the original vision. That said, the overall effect of All Saints is glorious, though not always harmonious, Victorian idealism realized.
About All Saints, Margaret Street
Address: 7 Margaret Street,
England, W1W 8JG
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Website: All Saints, Margaret Street
Phone: (0)20 7636 1788
Photo Credit: John Salmon, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Nearest station: Oxford Circus - 0.2 miles (straight line) - Zone: 1
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