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  • Writer's pictureRoger Button

Reviews of the Year

Several articles and reviews have appeared since publication.

In June Christopher Howes used the book as his theme for his 'Sacred Mysteries' column in the Daily Telegraph under the sub heading 'The Arts and Crafts movement brought design and its execution together in some surprising ways.' He reports 'I have never been to Kempley, but it features in a marvellous new book by Roger Button, Arts and Crafts Churches of Great Britain, selecting 53 of the best. A foreword by Andrew Crompton of Liverpool University calls it a compendium, but it is much more than that, for it gives a connected narrative of the development of Arts and Crafts church-building, from the forerunners like George Truefitt and G E Street from the 1840s, to Wells himself, active into the Thirties. As a civil engineer, the author knows what he is talking about, but he does so in an engaging non-technical style'.

In September the Chapels Society Newsletter, No 75, had on its cover the Arts and Crafts Hampstead Friends' Meeting House, with a review of the book, where the Meeting House is described.

In October both the 20th Century Society Magazine and Opollo published reviews side by side with Alec Hamilton's 'Arts and Crafts Churches' that was published in September.

In November, Ian Jeffrey, author of a number of books on photography, wrote to a friend: 'Thank you for the book by Roger Button on Arts and Crafts Churches of Great Britain. It is very good indeed – I would say exemplary. It even has a fine and enticing introduction, by Andrew Crompton. I went to Brockhampton (see front cover) twice with Tina, after visits to Wales. I once went to the famous church at Roker – or I was taken there by some local specialists.

Arts & Crafts buildings give the impression of being very heavy and purposeful, with masses of stonework and sharp edges – like the Brockhampton church. The book itself has an Arts and Crafts feel, very carefully laid out and solid – everything well spaced and nothing flamboyant. What I particularly liked was the way in which the text told short life stories of those involved – a lot of the buildings are commemorative, too – not funerary, as are a lot of conventional churches. This is remarked on in the introduction – at the top of pp. 10. I was thus able to (and asked to) relate the solidity of the buildings to the fragility of human life – to all those people who had died young or just before their time. The texts are very much to the point and quotations are succinct and relevant. It helps that the book is written by an engineer who has some idea about building – this aspect comes through very often, and makes the book different to almost all other histories of architecture that I have looked at.

There are some particularly apposite quotations from Thomas Carlyle and from John Ruskin – one of the Ruskin pieces has a lot of the manoeuvring at which he excelled – meaning you always have to read it a few times to follow his drift. Roger Button’s text is much more objective and laconic. You could, on a visit, commit most of the texts to memory – or at least their salient points.

It is a good guide book, one that could be read in the car or on site. The entries are just long enough. Pevsners, especially the recent ones, are much more of a palaver, too comprehensive to grip or focus one’s attention. You could use this book to arrange a tour, in northern England, say, or in the Edinburgh area. Such a tour would give you an opportunity to look both at buildings and at furnishings. I would say that Arts & Crafts furnishings are relatively difficult to find. I used to take Tina to Cambridge once a week to attend a seminar run by someone from an Arts & Crafts family (related to Gimson, I think). All the furnishings in her house were from that era.

I liked the picture on the back of the book, from the church at Port Seton. Shown like that it looks like a juke box, or like a premonition of Art Deco – I was looking at it from long range. I would say that the book gives me a lot to think about, and doesn’t set out to do the thinking for me – as is usually the case. I mean that in a complimentary sense.'

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