The Victorian Restoration
The Gothic Revival was popular throughout the world but it was a combination of factors in England and Wales that led to what was known as the Victorian Restoration. This was a period during which as many as 80% of Church of England churches and cathedrals were refurbished and rebuilt in order to ‘restore’ them to the Decorated style of Gothic architecture.
This was in part a reaction against a shortage of churches in cities where the Industrial Revolution had led to increased populations without a corresponding increase in the number of churches and to the often poor state of repair of the existing ones. This lack of suitable worship space helped other religious groups such as the Methodist Movement and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) to increase in popularity. Comfortable, convenient venues for worship were springing up across the country in direct competition with the traditional church. Indeed, the original Wesleyan Chapel in Newton was directly opposite the church – the white building, now privately owned, named Chapel House.
The Church of England was keen to draw worshippers back to the Anglican Church and embraced the suggestion by the Cambridge Camden Society and the Oxford Movement of a return to a more medieval attitude to churchgoing.
The Cambridge Camden Society was founded in 1839 and was initially a society for recording and discussing medieval church features. This soon moved on to suggesting that the only correct form for a church was the Decorated Gothic style. This matched the trend in society for all things medieval and the Gothic Revival.
The Oxford Movement advocated that instead of taking Holy Communion at the Pulpit the rite should take place at the altar in the Chancel. As this became popular it made sense for church designs to alter so that the pulpit was off to one side, to introduce a central aisle with a better view of the altar and to have a larger chancel to enable worshippers to receive Communion comfortably.
Not everyone embraced the Victorian restoration. Influential thinkers like John Ruskin and William Morris were opposed to such large-scale restoration, which was often at the expense of original features of the church. Like-minded individuals formed societies dedicated to preserving buildings – such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).
Here at All Saints the top stage of the 12th Century tower was removed to make way for the spire.