Which Building Led To A Stonework Restoration Revolution?

Owning a historic building is a tremendous responsibility, one paid back through being a part of the history of the British Isles.

Ensuring that any necessary repair and maintenance work does not affect the character of the older building or monument is critical, to ensure that generations will be able to trace the history of British design and artistry through works that still exist thanks to painstaking effort and specialist skills.

However, this was not always the case. In fact, the concept of restoration as a means to preserve history in the UK is not even 150 years old, and the flashpoint that led to such a revolution in restoration is rather surprising.

In the 19th century, the concept of restoration was very different, in no small part the product of over two centuries of neglect of many English churches following the Reformation and a resurging interest in medieval history and the Gothic Revival.

Restoration, therefore, was not about preserving and repairing historic buildings in ways that preserve their historic character but quite the opposite; churches were modified extensively if not outright demolished and rebuilt in a style reminiscent of 12th-century Gothic.

Given that as many as 80 per cent of churches under the purview of the Church of England were affected by this, there were massive concerns with the push to effectively change architectural history, both practical and philosophical.

One of the most vocal opponents was designer and poet William Morris, although it must be noted that his stained glass company did profit from the Victorian restoration movement.

Whilst concerns had been raised for a while, particularly with the restoration of Tewkesbury Abbey, the flashpoint was St John the Baptist Church in Inglesham where Mr Morris and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) protested successfully to ensure it was restored with the character of the building prioritised.

Since then, stonework has focused on historic materials and techniques to ensure that history can live on.