High on St James’s Mount, the great Anglican Cathedral of Christ in Liverpool dominates the city centre and the Mersey estuary. King Edward VII had laid the foundation stone on July 19 1904, when Liverpool was at the peak of prosperity. It is the interior spaces that awe and impress: the immensely high central tower space, the 457ft long nave, and the round arched bridge. Can there be any other 20th century British building that creates such sublime spaces?
20th century churches are incredibly varied and interesting.
They range from traditional styles (including Gothic and Byzantine) to modern designs with structurally innovative features such as concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roofs and laminated timber beams. Many also have wonderful fittings, including stained glass, fonts, sculpture, murals, tilework, mosaics and tapestries, frequently in rich, jewel-like colours.
In this period concrete and steel gave a new freedom to construction, while new ideas about how congregations could participate in services changed assumptions about traditional layouts, bringing celebrants and people closer together.
The century saw dynamic churches in dramatic shapes of all sizes thanks to ambitious engineering, and brilliant colour from new forms of stained glass, murals and sculpture.
These churches were chosen by the 20th Century Society to celebrate the launch of their book '100 Years'. It also followed a joing project with the National Churches Trust to discover the UKs best modern churches.
No trip to Liverpool is complete without a visit to the awe inspiring Metropolitan Cathedral, a dramatic icon of faith, architecture and human endeavour. Explore the Cathedral's majestic interior which includes modern works of art and stunning design features. The crypt is magnificent, one of the most significant works in this country by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Don’t miss a chance to explore this remarkable space.
Why visit only one Cathedral when in Coventry you can visit two, the old and the new. Basil Spence’s vision, voted the nation’s favourite 20th century building, is home to one of the most significant collections of artworks from the 1950s and 60s, including works by John Piper, John Hutton, Graham Sutherland, Jacob Epstein, and Elisabeth Frink amongst others.
Guildford Cathedral is the only new build Anglican cathedral in England of the last 100 hundred years; Coventry replaced an existing one. It was won in competition in Edward Maufe in 1930 but WWII delayed its completion. What makes Guildford Cathedral special is the interior with strong contrasts of bare wall and colour in the form of stained glass , textiles and heraldic design, all embodying the best of Swedish early 20th century design and arts and crafts traditions.
Fr Edmund FitzSimons, priest of this Lancashire parish from 1952, came up a revolutionary design for a circular church with a central altar. Every object in the church seems to have been made especially for it: the candlesticks are spiky and lumpy arts and crafts objects; there is a crucifix by Adam Kossowski, a tapestry reredos in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a tabernacle by Robin McGhie; even a holy water dispenser with taps and biblical message.
A prominent landmark on a turn in the road in Bermondsey, the church of Most Holy Trinity, Dockhead dates from 1960. In the words of the list entry, this is ‘an impressive building and a fine example of Harry Goodhart-Rendel's work, showing his use of polychrome brickwork, inspired by High Victorian churches and his powerful use of concrete to achieve a manipulation of sculptural form and an exciting spatial arrangement.
St Bride, East Kilbride is widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of post war ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland. The interior of St Bride's has amongst the highest walls and longest span of any church by MacMillan and Metzstein. The lighting of the sanctuary and pulpit required particular ingenuity: Andy and Isi came up with the idea of light cannons to focus attention on the altar and pulpit.
Our Lady Star of the Sea, Amlwch is one of the most unusual churches on Anglesey. As an homage to Amlwch's maritime history and proximity to the sea, Rinvolucri designed the church to reflect the shape of an upturned hull of a ship, complete with porthole like windows near the bottom. These windows open into the parish hall on the ground floor, underneath the main body of the church.
Worship in the round Designed and built by the famous architect Sir Ninian Comper, St Philip, Cosham near Portsmouth, has been described as possibly 'one of the outstanding pieces of architecture of the inter war period'. The internal arrangement is one of the first in this country to revert to the older idea of ‘worship in the round’ where the altar is towards the centre of the church rather than separated from the congregation. The central feature is the ornate ‘ciborium’ which focuses attention on the altar.
Real effort was put into making Church of the Ascension, Crownhill a stunning contemporary architectural achievement. It’s a building full of light and soaring open space, thanks to vast west windows and slender tapered columns, but is also a building full of colour, with a rich maroon reinforced concrete vaulted ceiling, colourful baldaccino altar canopy and unique geranium garden inside the church under the west window. It is an architectural gem of Plymouth.
Consecrated in 1963, this avant garde Lincolnshire church is a major contribution to ecclesiastical architecture of the second half of the 20th century. Its impressive hyperbolic paraboloid roof made in reinforced concrete was fashionable and functional (romantically rational). It gave an impression of contradicting laws of gravity. It summarises the post war excitement with engineering.
St Paul's Bow Common, in east London, is the most famous and significant parish church to be built in Britain in the latter half of the 20th century. Its 800 square foot mosaic is by Charles Lutyens. Made from coloured Murano glass tesserae, and taking five years to make, the mosaic is likely to be the largest artist created contemporary mosaic mural in the British Isles. The church is also home to Lutyens's 'Outraged Christ'.
Mitcham Methodist Church was designed by the architect Edward Mills (1915–1998) and built in 1958-9. Regarded as the best surviving work by the most successful nonconformist architect of the period. A radical and inspiring building in this bustling London suburb.
Believed to be the only Quaker Meeting House in the UK in the concrete Brutalist style. It was completed in 1972 at a cost of £37,842. It won a Civic Trust award in 1973 and a Concrete Society commendation in 1974 and has been described as a ‘Brutalist jewel’ and of exceptional aesthetic value.
Unique, this modern hexagonal church with its innovative roof structure and stunning, kite shaped stained glass windows is well worth a visit. In 1964 the foundation stone was laid for a new church to the designs of Donald A Shanks who is generally recognised as an exponent of modern church architecture across Northern Ireland.