100 years

In the 20th century concrete and steel gave a new freedom to construction. Dynamic churches in dramatic shapes of all sizes were built, thanks to ambitious engineering and brilliant colour from new forms of stained glass, murals and sculpture.


A sublime space

High on St James’s Mount, the great Anglican Cathedral of Christ in Liverpool dominates the city centre and the Mersey estuary. King Edward VII had laid the foundation stone on July 19 1904, when Liverpool was at the peak of prosperity. It is the interior spaces that awe and impress: the immensely high central tower space, the 457ft long nave, and the round arched bridge. Can there be any other 20th century British building that creates such sublime spaces?

Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool

Icon of faith

No trip to Liverpool is complete without a visit to the awe inspiring Metropolitan Cathedral, a dramatic icon of faith, architecture and human endeavour. Explore the Cathedral's majestic interior which includes modern works of art and stunning design features. The crypt is magnificent, one of the most significant works in this country by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Don’t miss a chance to explore this remarkable space.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool

Casket of jewels

Why visit only one Cathedral when in Coventry you can visit two, the old and the new. Basil Spence’s vision, voted the nation’s favourite 20th century building, is home to one of the most significant collections of artworks from the 1950s and 60s, including works by John Piper, John Hutton, Graham Sutherland, Jacob Epstein, and Elisabeth Frink amongst others.

Coventry Cathedral, Coventry

Bare wall and colour

Guildford Cathedral is the only new build Anglican cathedral in England of the last 100 hundred years; Coventry replaced an existing one. It was won in competition in Edward Maufe in 1930 but WWII delayed its completion. What makes Guildford Cathedral special is the interior with strong contrasts of bare wall and colour in the form of stained glass , textiles and heraldic design, all embodying the best of Swedish early 20th century design and arts and crafts traditions.

Guildford Cathedral, Guildford

A circular church

Fr Edmund FitzSimons, priest of this Lancashire parish from 1952, came up a revolutionary design for a circular church with a central altar. Every object in the church seems to have been made especially for it: the candlesticks are spiky and lumpy arts and crafts objects; there is a crucifix by Adam Kossowski, a tapestry reredos in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a tabernacle by Robin McGhie; even a holy water dispenser with taps and biblical message.

St Mary, Leyland

Polychrome brickwork

A prominent landmark on a turn in the road in Bermondsey, the church dates from 1960. In the words of the list entry, this is ‘an impressive building and a fine example of Harry Goodhart-Rendel's work, showing his use of polychrome brickwork, inspired by High Victorian churches and his powerful use of concrete to achieve a manipulation of sculptural form and an exciting spatial arrangement.

Most Holy Trinity, Dockhead

Light cannons

St Bride's is widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of post war ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland. The interior of St Bride's has amongst the highest walls and longest span of any church by MacMillan and Metzstein. The lighting of the sanctuary and pulpit required particular ingenuity: Andy and Isi came up with the idea of light cannons to focus attention on the altar and pulpit.

St Bride, East Kilbride

An upturned hull

This is one of the most unusual churches on Anglesey. As an homage to Amlwch's maritime history and proximity to the sea, Rinvolucri designed the church to reflect the shape of an upturned hull of a ship, complete with porthole like windows near the bottom. These windows open into the parish hall on the ground floor, underneath the main body of the church.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Amlwch

A unique star

St Michael & All Angels, near Manchester, is a grade II* listed building which was consecrated on 4th December 1937 to the design by the Architect Catchmaille-Day. It is a unique in that from a bird's eye view it is in the shape of a star (two interlocking squares). The other striking features are the impressive stained glass east windows and the chandelier.

St Michael & All Angels, Lawton Moor

Worship in the round

Designed and built by the famous architect Sir Ninian Comper, St Philip’s, near Portsmouth, has been described as possibly 'one of the outstanding pieces of architecture of the inter war period'. The internal arrangement is one of the first in this country to revert to the older idea of ‘worship in the round’ where the altar is towards the centre of the church rather than separated from the congregation. The central feature is the ornate ‘ciborium’ which focuses attention on the altar.

St Philip, Cosham

Glorious geraniums

Real effort was put into making Ascension a stunning contemporary architectural achievement. It’s a building full of light and soaring open space, thanks to vast west windows and slender tapered columns, but is also a building full of colour, with a rich maroon reinforced concrete vaulted ceiling, colourful baldaccino altar canopy and unique geranium garden inside the church under the west window. It is an architectural gem of Plymouth.

Church of the Ascension, Crownhill

Contradicting gravity

Consecrated in 1963, this avant garde Lincolnshire church is a major contribution to ecclesiastical architecture of the second half of the 20th century. Its impressive hyperbolic paraboloid roof made in reinforced concrete was fashionable and functional (romantically rational). It gave an impression of contradicting laws of gravity. It summarises the post war excitement with engineering.

St John the Baptist, Ermine

Ancient & modern

This was the first parish church to be built in York after the Second World War and stones from the ancient church of St Mary the Elder, Bishophill have been skillfully used in the design by architect George Pace. Above the altar, an empty cross made of iron by W Dowson in 1964 has in its centre a 9th or 10th century Saxon cross, found at St Mary’s.

Acomb, Holy Redeemer

Gate of heaven

St Paul's Bow Common, in east London, is the most famous and significant parish church to be built in Britain in the latter half of the 20th century. Its 800 square foot mosaic is by Charles Lutyens. Made from coloured Murano glass tesserae, and taking five years to make, the mosaic is likely to be the largest artist created contemporary mosaic mural in the British Isles. The church is also home to Lutyens's 'Outraged Christ'.

St Paul, Bow Common

Radical nonconformist

Mitcham Methodist Church was designed by the architect Edward Mills (1915–1998) and built in 1958-9. Regarded as the best surviving work by the most successful nonconformist architect of the period. A radical and inspiring building in this bustling London suburb.

Mitcham Methodist Church, Mitcham

Brutalist jewel

Believed to be the only Quaker Meeting House in the UK in the concrete Brutalist style. It was completed in 1972 at a cost of £37,842. It won a Civic Trust award in 1973 and a Concrete Society commendation in 1974 and has been described as a ‘Brutalist jewel’ and of exceptional aesthetic value.

Blackheath Quaker Meeting House, Blackheath

Steel & wood

Steeltsown's simple symbolic tented form blends into the sub urban landscape of Derry, Northern Ireland. The western hemlock timber sheeting to the interior gives it a warmth. Whilst sitting inside the church, any sense of the houses, road, or people outside, are forgotten. The pitched roof, wooden cladding, and dim lighting create a very incubated and inward looking atmosphere.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Steelstown

Twentieth Century Society

The Twentieth Century Society exists to safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards. The Society’s prime objectives are conservation, to protect the buildings and design that characterise the Twentieth Century in Britain, and education, to extend our knowledge and appreciation of them, whether iconic buildings like the Royal Festival Hall or everyday artifacts like the red telephone box.

Twentieth Century Society

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