Unusual Neo-Gothic Building in Glasgow


One of the buildings that took my eye while I was mooching around Glasgow Merchant City last Monday afternoon was what the British Listed Buildings website describes as a

Bizarrely detailed Gothic warehouse,

I think that just about sums it up! It’s relatively restrained in that there isn’t much decoration or embellishment and looks more like a later Art Nouveau or Glasgow School style building than a typical Victorian Gothic wedding cake.

I particularly liked this eyecatching

unusual semi-octagonal door head with heavily moulded octagonal oculus above.


I haven’t been able to find much information on it other than from the British Listed Buildings posting, but that does tell us that it was originally a warehouse, that it was built in 1859, and that the architect was R W Billings


Shrewsbury Abbey


Shrewsbury Abbey is a large Medieval church standing on the opposite side of the English Bridge from the old city centre. As with many old churches it’s been altered and adapted over time and, consequently, displays a mixture of styles – Romanesque, Gothic (the later, Perpendicular style) and Victorian Neo-Gothic.


It was founded as a Benedictine Monastery by Roger de Montgomery in 1083 although there had been a Saxon church on site before the Conquest.


The church which survives today was originally part of a complex of buildings which, other than a few remnants, are long gone – some demolished following the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII and others by Thomas Telford when he built the main road that runs alongside the Abbey.

After the dissolution of the monasteries there were plans for the church to be designated a Cathedral, but that never came to fruition. It continued to serve as a place of worship, though, as a rather grand Parish Church.


The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, written by Ellis Peters, are inspired by medieval Shrewsbury. Cadfael is a Welsh Benedictine monk at the Abbey in the first half of the 12th century. He was played by Dereck Jacobi in the TV series of the stories, although it was filmed in Hungary rather than Shrewsbury.

The Abbey used to have a shrine to St Winifride, a 7th Century Welsh saint. In the 12th Century Monastaries wanted to have relics which would attract Pilgrims and earn them ncome so the Abbot had the remains of Winifride brought from her place of burial in Gwytherin in North Wales. The shrine was destroyed and the relics can now be found in Shrewsbury’s Roman Catholic cathedral and Holywell in North Wales. However, there’s a window devoted to the saint in the Abbey, installed in 1992, designed by stained glass artist Jane Gray.



There’s also a window by the same artist celebrating the fictional monk, Cadfael.


The Abbey was built in the Romanesque (Norman) style with substantial round pillars supporting rounded arches and a substantial part of the original building still stands in the central section of the Nave.



It was remodelled in the 14th Century when the tower was built. This required replacing the Romanesque arches at the west end of the nave with bays with stronger pointed Gothic arches supported by slender columns.


After the dissolution the west end of the Abbey was closed off and fell into ruin. There was a wall at the end of the Romanesque nave. The west end was rebuilt in a Neo- Gothic style during the Victorian era, designed by John Loughborough Pearson.


IMG_2331A new clerestorey was also created above the Romanesque and Gothic nave.


A war memorial tablets close to the west entry of the church includes the name of the First World War  poet Wilfred Owen.


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Outside the Abbey, there are still some remnants of the monastery



St Laurence’s church, Church Stretton


On the Tuesday of our holiday the weather forecast was for rain during late morning. As we’d already done a couple of decent walks on the previous two days we decided to take it a little easy and have a mooch around Church Stretton.

There are a lot of old buildings in the town, and St Laurence’s church, a Grade I Listed Building, is the oldest with a nave built in the 12th century. The chancel and the upper stage of the tower were built in the 15th century while the south vestry and west aisles were added during the 19th century. This is the church that put the “Church” in Church Stretton!


The oldest part of the church, the nave is Romanesque (Norman). This unused door in the north wall is very typical of the style with its simple rounded arch.


Above the door, to the left, is a sheila-na-gig.


This website provides a good explanation of these pre-Christian symbols found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain

Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually Romanesque, building.

The rest of the church is Gothic –  Early English, although the top stage of the tower, which is Perpendicular.

A Gothic door with a pointed arch in the South wall


We had a look inside


The timber roofs in the nave


and the south transept


go back to the 13th Century and are in remarkably good condition.

I liked this metal sculpture in the roof in the tower crossing – dating from about 1970 it depicts St Laurence and his attribute, a gridiron.


There was some attractive stained glass




Whitby Abbey

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Perched high on the top of the East Cliff, standing next to the old Parish Church, dominates the view as you approach Whitby. There’s been an Abbey here since Anglo Saxon times, indeed the presence of the religious community is the reason why the town exists.


The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy who had converted to Christianity. The original name of the settlement was Streoneshalh, becoming known as Whitby only after the area was occupied by the Danes in the 12th Century – Whitby being derived from “white settlement” in Old Norse.

Ruled by an abbess, Hilde, the Anglo-Saxon monastery was one of a few known examples from the Anglian period of a ‘double house’ for both men and women and was an important religious centre in the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 664 it was the location of the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition. Nothing remains of that building today as it was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This was a Romanesque (Norman) building; it was replaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin.  Today it is preserved under the stewardship of English Heritage.


We decided to climb the 199 steps from the bottom of the East Cliff on the Sunday, the first full day of our holiday. However on reaching the top we were greeted by this


The Abbey was shrouded in mist which had blown in from the sea and was soon covering much of the town. It looked very eerie and it was easy to understand why it featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

We felt there was little point looking around when our view was obscured by the mist, so we decided to leave the visit until later in the week.


Entry is cheap, £8.40 with a Gift Aid donation, £7.60 without, but although there are decent views from outside the walls, we stumped up to get a closer look.


The majority of the structure is in the Early English style of Gothic architecture with distinctive, tall, narrow, pointed lancet windows




richly moulded arches and distinctive ‘clustered’ columns

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The west end was built during the latter part of the prolonged period of construction and so reflects the Decorated Gothic style,


as illustrated by these large windows with the remains of elaborate tracery.




There’s a visitor centre which has a display of archaeological material excavated at the site. I found it a little disappointing. But that’s a minor quibble as getting close up to the ruins made the visit more than worthwhile.



After I’d had a look around the Minster in Howden, I decided to have a mooch around the town starting in the town square, which is immediately in front of the east end of the Minster.


It was a thriving town in medieval times with a connection to the Bishops of Durham. They would stay in the town when travelling down to London and had a palace built here. The remains, the Bishop’s Manor, is just off the market square and around the corner from the Minster .



Originally there was a complex range of buildings, inside an irregular walled courtyard. But the majority of these buildings were demolished in the late 16th century. Nevertheless the remaining structure is quite impressive for a small town.

The Minister towers over the buildings in the town centre


The old streets are narrow and twisty, probably reflecting their medieval origin.



but many of the buildings are Georgian town houses built for professional men and tradesmen




With a few grand houses


This is the town’s war memorial. An ornate Gothic monument.


During the First World War an airship station was built just to the north of the town, near Spaldington. The airships based here provided protection for ports and shipping along the east coast. After the war the station was closed but the hangers were converted into a manufacturing facility for airships including the R100, designed by Sir Barnes Wallis (who later designed the Vickers Wellington bomber invented the “bouncing bomb” used by the Dambusters).  The author Nevil Shute Norway (better known as Nevil Shute) was part of the team that created the R100 and lived in the town.


Another day, another Minster


Starting to feel like a prisoner in my hotel room, I drove over to Howden, a small town a five mile drive from my hotel. It’s not more than a village, really, but it’s dominated by a large Gothic church – Howden Minster.

The Yourhowden website tells us

The Minster was owned by monks from Peterborough Abbey in Saxon times, but in 1080 it was gifted to William of Calais, the Bishop of Durham. The Norman church was rebuilt in the early English style in the 13th century and rebuilding work was completed in the ‘decorated’ style around 1340. A small octagonal Chapter House was built after 1388, the last of its kind to be built in England.

and that

The church survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries as it was not a monastery, but fell victim to the Dissolution of Collegiate Churches and Chantries in 1548.

It was one of the first Decorated Gothic churches in the north of England


Over the years the church was neglected and started to fall into ruin lack of funds for maintenance. Today, only the nave survives intact, with the quire and chapter house in ruins, but preserved under the guardianship of English Heritage. The remaining, intact, parts of the building are still in use as a parish church.

I had a look around the outside of the building.  This is the octagonal Chapter House.


A view of the tower from the graveyard to the south of the building.


The south entrance. It’s clearly undergone some restoration.


A view of the tower from the north west


The view from the south. It’s considerably plainer than the Minster at Beverley


Although it was early evening the entrance wasn’t locked, so I decided to have a look inside.

Looking down the nave with it’s high ceiling supported by characteristic pointed arches.



The altar.


The ornate Quire screen.


A modern series of abstract sculpture by John Maine R.A. was installed outside the minster 2002 –2008, inspired by the four elements.

The churchyard itself represents “Earth”.

This star like pattern made of granite and inlaid into the pavement in front of the west entrance is “Water”. The granite is from the Himalayas.


Air” is represented by series of truncated columns of various heights, with patterns inspired by the carved columns in Durham Cathedral,




This is “Fire”, which stands in the north east corner of the churchyard, in front of the ruined Quire.


Beverley Minster


The minster very much dominates the centre of Beverley. It’s a massive building, comparable in size to many cathedrals yet it only has the status of a parish church. The designation of “Minster” may suggest to some that it is a cathedral, especially as the Minster in York has that status, but it isn’t the case. A minster is a designation given to church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. So it’s the origin of the church that explains its designation – the first church on the site was attached monastery founded in Beverley in the 7th century.


The original building was destroyed by the Danes, but was rebuilt and then refashioned by the Normans. After this burnt down in 1188, the current Gothic building was constructed between 1220 and 1420. This prolonged period resulted in all three styles of Gothic church architecture can be seen in the Minster.  The Quire, which is the oldest part of the church, was built in the Early English style while the nave is the Decorated style with the west end of the church in the Perpendicular style.


The Minster is mainly built of limestone, mostly from Tadcaster near York so it is a bright creamy colour. However limestone as a soft stone of calcium carbonate is susceptible to damage from acidic rain and the elements, so there are signs of weathering and it has clearly been subject to repair and restoration. Black Purbeck ‘marble’ (actually not marble but a hard limestone from Dorset) has also been used for some of the shafts and columns inside the building.

These extremely ornate twin towers at the west end of the church are an outstanding example of Perpendicular Gothic


A close up of the west entrance.


The north west entrance (the main entrance into the church) – more Perpendicular Gothic


The south east of the building. Much less ornate Early English style


English Decorated style on the north side of the nave


The north entrance


The church is open to visitors until 5 p.m. so I was able to take a look inside. However, there was a Baptism service taking place which meant I had to be careful not to disturb the worshipers and restricted where I could wander.

I did, however, manage to get a quick look down the nave before the service started.


Typical of Gothic buildings it has a high ceiling supported by clusters of relatively slim columns with pointed arches.

The elaborate carved elements are typical of the English Decorated style


I rather liked the carving of musicians along the north aisle of the nave



The ceiling in the nave has relatively simple decoration but there’s a more elaborate section over the alter in the quire



As we’d expect with a major Gothic church, there’s some attractive stained glass.

The Great East Window contains the oldest glass in the Minster, dating from around 1220-30 to the early 1400s.

Nearby, this attractive modern design in the Pilgrim’s window at the right hand side of the Retro Quire


Also in the Retro Quire, this modern statue of two pilgrims, heading towards the Pilgrim window


There’s also several tombs and plaques representing members of the Warton family who were benefactors to the Minster, including this rather elaborate monument.


More attractive stained glass windows in the chapel at the north east of the building

I rather liked these  lancet windows in the “Retro Quire” at the east end


The very elaborate Percy Canopy which stands over the tomb of one of the Percy family who were one of the richest and most powerful families in the north of England in the 14th century.


It’s not certain who is buried here although it is thought that it is likely to be Lady Eleanor Percy who died in 1328.


These two large wooden doors below the west window were carved in the early 18th century by a York wood carver named William Thornton. On the doors are figures of the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beneath the figures are their symbols – an angel, a lion, a bull and an eagle. Between the symbols and the figures are four carvings representing the different seasons of the year.


Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to take a photograph from directly in front.

There was more to see, but by now the service was in full flow so I felt it was appropriate to depart quietly.

The Minster’s website tells us

One reason the Minster is judged to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe is that the different styles have been carefully harmonised.

I have to say I agree. It’s a beautiful building and I was pleased I’d taken time out to drive over to Beverley to take a look.