The names of Augustus Welby Pugin, Edwin Lutyens and the Gilbert Scotts are rightly recognised in the annals of British architecture. Perhaps George Frederick Bodley is largely forgotten in the popular pantheon of great architects, but he thoroughly deserves his own place of honour.
Born in 1827, Bodley studied architecture under Sir George Gilbert Scott and rose to become a pre-eminent ecclesiastical and corporate architect of the later Victorian era. Many of his commissions are Grade I listed and his fame proceeds beyond Britain, with Washington National Cathedral and St David’s Cathedral, Hobart bearing his mark. Bodley designed pleasant, practical buildings that were well made and often beautifully decorated. His is a genius of competence as his work still stands where others have crumbled under the onslaughts of pollution and progress. High quality materials, shaped with simple elegant designs, have ensured Bodley’s buildings shrug off British weather, more than a century of corrosive smog and 1960s progressive vandalism.
This week, we are celebrating one of Bodley’s gems in Cambridge. All Saints, Jesus Lane was built in the 1860s to replace a medieval parish church which stood where All Saints Gardens are today in the centre of Cambridge. Bodley designed the fabric and decoration of this church as an harmonious whole and employed William Morris, Burne Jones and Kempe to realise his design. The pulpit is as beautiful and brilliant as any Gothic revival item in the V&A, and Bodley’s font is a good companion to the medieval font preserved from the old All Saints church. The V&A celebrated the brilliance of Bodley with a major exhibition in 2007-8, marking the centenary of his passing. Michael Hall, curator of the exhibition, also wrote an accompanying book, George Frederick Bodley & the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America.
Bodley’s design was a great success and the parish prospered, only faltering long after Bodley’s passing. The church was declared redundant in 1973 and initially marked for demolition. A determined and organised friends group successfully saved this masterpiece and care is now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust. The CCT received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to revive and reinterpret All Saints for the C21st. A new doorway now links it to Westcott House next door, enabling the theological college to make ever more use of the church. New interpretive materials have been installed to enable visitors to understand the story of All Saints, the architecture, decorations and the brilliant artists who created it.
We shall be performing as G.F. Bodley and his wife, Minna Reaveley at All Saints’ launch event on Friday 29 April. Bodley’s character and work will be brought to life in a recreation of his study. Visitors will also be able to meet Bodley and Minna on Saturday 30 April, and learn about Victorian art, architecture and poetry as part of a special , free open day. There will be a Victorian photography ‘selfie’ studio as well as sketching, stencilling and Victorian writing.
10.00 - 16.00, 30 April 2016, All Saints Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BP. Entry FREE