St Paul’s Cathedral

6 March 2023:

St Paul’s Cathedral with towers as designed by English architect William Butterfield in 1877. I could never understand why the 1920s spires don’t match the rest, not even the stone. Just got a great little book on its history by the late (Bishop) James Grant, which clarifies a lot for me. First the stone – it’s Pyrmont sandstone, because the original Waurn Ponds wasn’t available, but … that stone starts off a pale colour then goes yellow, which they must have known? And when the they decided to build the spires in the mid 1920s, Victorian Gothic was out of fashion, but to go off in a completely new and fussy new direction ?Bit that’s what they did, deciding in a competition to go with ‘correct’ 12thC Gothic. First image is from Alchetron, no date by with the cable cars must be 1880s, perhaps commissioned to show the church with the spires. Rest from the internet.

Butterfield was known for his creative forms and use of colour and pattern, but it seems this was a more conservative design of his. He famously resigned from the job in a huff in 1884, since he felt the local architects Terry & Oakden were making too many decisions, but the only major changes they made was which exact stones to use, and the diagonal scoring on the blocks (which I always assumed was a Butterfield idea). The interior is very much as Butterfield designed it, except he didn’t choose the fixtures or the floor or wall tiles, the latter thought of as too green and loud and discordant by the 1910s and nearly removed a number of times.

Someone has just pointed out to me that St Andrew’s Christchurch Rugby, designed by William Butterfield the Dane year as St Pauls in 1877 has a stripy interior too ! It was finished in two years unlike St Paul’s, with the tower added to his design only 20 years later. The exterior is quite restrained. He left a medieval tower behind.

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