The Gothic revival was an architectural movement of the Victorian era, which sought to “revive” medieval forms in distinction to the classical styles which were prevalent at the time. During the 18th century, there had been some interest in medieval styles, such as Horace Walpole's house at Strawberry Hill. But it was in the 1830s that architects really became interested in medieval buildings. August Pugin wrote two of the seminal works of the Gothic revival. In Contrasts (1836), he expressed his admiration not only for medieval art but the whole medieval ethos. In The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841), he suggested that modern craftsmen seeking to emulate the style of medieval workmanship should also reproduce its methods. John Ruskin expanded these ideas in The Stones of Venice.
The Church of England was undergoing a revival of Anglo-Catholic ideology in the form of the Oxford Movement, and as it became desirable to build large numbers of new churches to cater for the growing population, the medieval style seemed appropriate. This found ready exponents in the universities, where the ecclesiological movement was forming. Its proponents believed that Gothic was the only style appropriate for a parish church, and favoured a particular era of Gothic architecture – the “decorated”. As the Victorian Age wore on, the revival became more generalised, and not only churches but secular public buildings were built in a variety of styles loosely based on medieval antecedents.
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2 Gothic revival buildings
3 Further reading