The photographs used here were originally posted on the Geograph website; the first, by Philip Pankhurst, has been slightly modified for use on our website. The other two are by Julian P. Guffogg. Many thanks to both for allowing their reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


All Saints' Church, Brockhampton, by W. R. Lethaby (1857-1931). 1902 (designed 1901). "Coursed and squared sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings, concrete vaults, thatched roof, weatherboarded cladding and tiled roof to bell tower over south porch" ("All Saints'"). Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. This is a Class 1 listed building, commissioned by Alice Foster, the Bostonian wife of Arthur Foster, who came from a Halifax mill-owning family. The couple had settled in Brockhampton, where Alice's parents had paid for Brockhampton Court to be rebuilt for them, and where Alice in turn later decided to build this church in their memory. The commission probably came about because Arthur's aunt had once employed Norman Shaw (see Rubens 154).

With its stone walls surmounted by thatch, All Saints' looks perfectly traditional, especially for the Herefordshire area. Yet it has many unusual features, like the chunky clean-cut porch and latticed or wavy window tracery, echoed in the patterning near the top of the crossing tower; and, inside, the high concrete vault with its great pointed arches. There are various symbolic touches, such as an anchor-style cross over the eastern gable, just visible in the top picture here, and a font in the shape of a ship's bollard (see Garnham 35), with a vine decoration round the bowl, which can be seen in the lower right-hand corner of the second picture (better when enlarged). There is also work here by other Arts and Crafts designers. The windows were by Christopher Whall, and the tapestries by the altar were designed by Burne-Jones, and made by the Morris & Co. "On every side is embroidery, carving, pictures and icons" (Jenkins 310).

All Saints' has been widely acclaimed as "an expression of past time, yet without imitation or pastiche" (Jenkins 309), and also, with regard to the interior, for presaging 1920s Expressionism (Rubens 154; Pevsner 91). An earlier comment by Nikolaus Pevsner helps to explain how the building could have achieved both at once: Lethaby, he says, was "a follower of William Morris in his faith in the spirit of the Middle Ages, his faith in a rational approach to a job, his interest in the materials he used, and his fearless consistency" (90). The "fearless consistency" that Pevsner mentions allowed Lethaby to produce a building that embodied his own vision of bold structural expressiveness.

However, building the church was not a happy experience for Lethaby. He was let down by the young architect to whom he delegated work, who (for example) neglected to report that an arch had collapsed, and took it upon himself to make the tower higher than intended. Lethaby ended up out of pocket, having waived his fee, and never built another church again. From now on, he turned his energies mainly to teaching.

Related Material

References

"Church of All Saints, Brockhampton." British Listed Buildings. Web. 1 October 2013.

Garnham, Trevor. "William Lethaby and the Two Ways of Building." Architectural Association Files. No. 10 (Autumn 1985): 27-43. Accessed via JSTOR. Web. 1 October 2013.

Jenkins, Simon. England's Thousand Best Churches. London: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Pevsner, Nikolaus. Herefordshire. The Buildings of England series. London: Penguin, 1963. Print.

Rubens, Godfrey. William Richard Lethaby: His Life and Work. 1857-1931. London: The Architectural Press, 1986. Print.


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Last modified 1 October 2013