Detail of Southwark Cathedral

Many of the most brilliant buildings produced by the Victorians were churches. The period witnessed a revival in the Anglican Church, in theology and architecture. Medieval churches across the land were actively studied by clergy and architects alike. Most were restored, and are in many ways more Victorian than Medieval. These served as inspiration for a church building boom across the land, with churches and chapels erected in a myriad of forms. 

Of all the many Victorian ecclesiastical architects, perhaps the best known is A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852). His most celebrated building is the lavishly decorated St Giles, Cheadle (1840-6). It had an exceptional budget for a Roman Catholic church, which Pugin used to the full, creating an attention-grabbing exterior and exceptional interior that continues to dazzle even today. 

Writer and architect, he is credited as playing a central role in the Gothic Revival. The late Victorian architect and critic J.D. Sedding stated in 1888: ‘We would have no Morris, no Street, no Burges, no Shaw, no Webb, no Bodley, no Rossetti, no Burne-Jones, no Crane, but for Pugin.’ Perhaps these images justify Sedding’s statement, and explain Pugin’s enduring influence?

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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