The ecclesiological movement and its antecedents in Devon: a study of 19th-century churches, church furnishings and church restoration in an English county
Date: 2 September 2019
University of Exeter
PhD in Archaeology
This thesis seeks to explore how the physical fabric of Devon churches reflects changing perceptions of the role of the Church in society during the 19th century; how churchmen, architects and craftsmen of the period employed architecture and liturgical planning to reflect a revived national Church with a new sense of its connection ...
This thesis seeks to explore how the physical fabric of Devon churches reflects changing perceptions of the role of the Church in society during the 19th century; how churchmen, architects and craftsmen of the period employed architecture and liturgical planning to reflect a revived national Church with a new sense of its connection to the past, to the great ages of Christian civilisation, and a strong sense of its duty and mission to all members of society. Nineteenth-century furnishings are not well understood as an archaeological resource: they are disappearing fast as more and more churches succumb to fashionable re-ordering schemes, yet many are of high artistic quality and even the least among these artefacts reveals much about the people and the society which created them. Church interiors of all periods are precious resources in that they clearly reflect contemporary religious and social controversies. Church furnishings can powerfully embody and reveal the character of a place and people at the time of their creation. They may survive as complete period pieces, or may have accumulated incrementally, each alteration reflecting changing trends in churchmanship and the progress of archaeological and liturgical scholarship among architects, clergy and patrons. Above all, 19th-century church furnishings reveal a clear trend away from rigid social divisions towards a more egalitarian Church, inclusive of all people. We know very little about why particular styles or layouts of furnishings were chosen, which of these are uncommon or unusual, what they signified to those who chose and used them, and which were fashionable at which period. My thesis seeks to explore the impact of Victorian ‘ecclesiology’ upon Anglican churches in Devon; to explore the huge variety of types and materials employed in their creation and to show how these embody a desire on the part of Victorian churchmen and women to replace a Church of clear social distinctions and privilege with a Church which embodied and showed forth a more open mission to all members of the community. Out of 711 churches in existence in Devon during the 19th and early 20th centuries, 647 have been visited and photographically recorded by the author in person. The remaining 64 demolished or inaccessible churches have been studied, as far as possible, by documentary research and in photographic archives compiled by others.
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