Stories & People – Paper 2
(REFORMED AND ECUMENICAL)
Some significant lay people
1. Built Environment Educationalist Patrick Nuttgens Roman Catholic
2. Structural Engineer Sir Edmund Happold Quaker
3. Architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson Presbyterian
4. Window Manufacturers Crittall Family Congregationalist/Anglican
5. Building Contractor George Myers Anglican/Roman Catholic
6. Public Undertaking –
7. Private Developer –
8. House-builder Sir John Laing Brethren
Some involved ministers
1. Edward Alexander Architect Episcopalian
2. Sir Halley Stewart Brick manufacturer Nonconformist (unspecified)
3. Dawn Waterton Building contractor’s staff Anglican
4. John Wates Trustee Anglican
5. Bernard Thorogood Passer by United Reformed
Discussion and Conclusion
In Stories & People Paper 1, Building – a project in ministry, I outlined my own story of working as a professional in the world of building and being a minister, these two facets making up one integrated experience.
Part of the enjoyment of that experience has been discovering that all sorts of other people are, or have been, travelling along a similar road, some building or built environment professionals, some ministers. In my mind these people have become a kind of ‘vocational community’. .
The main part of this paper summarises the work of eight significant Christian lay people representative of various facets of the building world. They can be envisaged in the form of an octagon representing the octagonal font or baptistery, the origin of our vocation.
This is followed by a small section on ordained ministers.
In all cases I have confined myself to the use of published or publicly available information, generally a single main source for each person.
1 Built Environment educationALIST – PATRICK NUTTGENS
Main source: Nuttgens,
Patrick (2000) The Art of Learning: A
To me the most enlightening and exciting story of a built environment educator is that of Patrick Nuttgens (PN) (1930-2004).
family were Catholics, with deep involvement in arts and crafts. PN’s
formative childhood was spent at Ditchling in
decided on architecture as his career and to study in
some years, PN moved on to the then new University of York where he was
appointed Director of the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, located
in the medieval church of St John Ousebridge, specially restored for such a
purpose. During his time there he organised summer schools, short courses and
lectures attended by some 5000 participants. This work included programmes
relating to old buildings, for which
final professional appointment was as Director of the newly designated Leeds
PN’s concludes his own story thus: ‘The message of Christ – that we should all be one and united in love – has been rejected throughout history. In the year that records the two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, I finish my story hoping that in a small and local way I have not increased those divisions but taken part in mutual activities and possibly helped fellow students of life and learning to find themselves and contribute to our culture and happiness’.
2 STRUCTURAL ENGINEER – SIR EDMUND HAPPOLD
Main source: Walker, Derek and Addis, Bill (1997) Happold: The Confidence to Build Happold Trust Publications Limited
Particularly during my time with the CIOB it was a real privilege to work and talk with Sir Edmund Happold (EH) (1930-1996)
was born into a Quaker family and remained deeply committed to it for
the whole of his life. His personality and sense of purpose were fashioned in
the demanding climate of his early life in
EH studied first at University of Leeds Department of Geology and worked as a labourer, truck driver, mechanic and drag line operator, joining Sir Robert McAlpine for as a junior engineer. He continued studies at the University of Leeds Department of Civil Engineering and joined Ove Arup and Partners, working initially with Povl Ahm and John Hutton on designing the screen frames for Coventry Cathedral.
EH studied architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic in the evenings and so developed a vision of an environment in which student architects and engineers could learn in common some of the technical and aesthetic aspects of their subjects and a little of each other’s languages. He wanted them to come to understand each other’s problems and perhaps respect each other’s professionalism rather more than was, and perhaps still is, the norm. EH believed that ‘a world that sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the world as a whole’. His eventual Knighthood was for services to engineering and architecture.
EH argued that the engineering profession developed to serve the nonconformist industrialists of the eighteenth century, who were the midwives to the industrial revolution. These men, predominantly Quakers, were barred from the established universities and professions. They valued creative opportunities within their limited possibilities by turning to inventive industry. And because they believed in the equality of mankind guided by individual conscience, backed humanistic management and had very broad long-term aims. They coped with persecution by forming close bonds with their fellow industrialists and these inter-relationships and the pooling of ideas and information facilitated the development of the industrial revolution.
commitment to inter-professional working and his strong social motivations led
to his selection by Arups to work with the Borough Architect at Lambeth on a
long term basis in the field of public housing development. He thought that the
most satisfying building that his group at Arups worked on in 1964 was
Bootham’s, a Quaker school in
extraordinary professional journey took him to the Islamic world where over
some thirty years he developed friendships, cultural associations, a diversity
of projects and great personal satisfaction. ‘In a sense his combination of a
gregarious enthusiasm and the Quaker capacity for reflective contemplation was
perfectly suited for his introduction to
the collaboration of his old firm, Arups, and a broad selection of specialists
in the industry, he generated the enthusiasm to set up the Centre for Window
and Cladding Technology, one of the world’s leading institutes in this field.
This, together with the firm he founded, Buro Happold, and the University
3 ARCHITECT – ALEXANDER ‘GREEK’ THOMSON
Main source: Stamp, Gavin (ed) (1999)
The Light of Truth and Beauty: The
Lectures of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson Architect 1817-1875
During my time with CIOB, NHBC and CIRIA there were
many opportunities to meet Scottish colleagues and learn something of the story
of building in
AT came from a Scottish Presbyterian family, and his many brothers and uncles were teachers, ministers and missionaries. He was an elder of the church. Behind all his arguments about architecture and reason there was in immanent sense of the Divine, of a Creator who was responsible for all that was worthwhile and beautiful. For AT theology and architecture were inseparable
An orphan by the time he was thirteen and destined for a lawyer’s office, AT was rescued by the architect Robert Foote who took him as a pupil. AT would seem to have been largely self-taught but with his wide learning and enquiring mind, AT was an archetypal, Scot, a true son of the Enlightenment.
AT never saw
of AT’s most practical discourses related to the improvement of masonry work in
the buildings of
His most detailed criticism is of traditional, wasteful processes in stonework. He argues the case for the reduction in thickness from the normal 2 feet used for 4-storey tenement work, the substitution of solid stone for stone-and-mortar infill, and the greater use of derrick cranes and steam engines for handling and lifting on site. The solid wall is simpler to measure and estimate. There would be benefits for transferring the final cutting of the stone from quarry to site, where the intelligent mason can cut his stuff for profit and to suit circumstances. Perhaps most convincingly there is in fact precedent for the solid wall: ‘I may mention that there are tenements in the older parts of our city, four and five storeys high, built of ten-inch perpend stone, which have stood the test for a hundred and fifty to two hundred years, without showing any tendency to nod or tumble’.
AT addressed the question of what the
It is most desirable that all connected with building - the representatives of the various trades - the measurer, the architect, the client, and the general public, should meet on the same platform, that each should understand the relation which he bears, and the duties he owes, to those around him and to the whole, and by their united efforts to take architecture to that position which it has occupied in the best periods of the world's history. The tradesman ought not to be content with merely fulfilling his contract, so as to secure his price - he should find his chief pleasure in his calling, giving it the best attention that any worldly pursuit deserves. Let everything be done honestly and satisfactorily. Let him make himself acquainted with all scientific methods of construction, with the properties of the materials with which he has to deal. He should understand as much of architecture and architectural expression as enable him to bring out the spirit of any work put into his hands.
The architect's education should embrace all these, and it is incumbent on him that he practise them with great care. But he has, besides, another class of duties to perform; and, first of all, he has to fill his heart with wisdom, and to exercise his mind with great thoughts, for the end and aim of his art is to express these. To aid him in so doing, let him search the whole world of nature and art for modes of expression, not that he may quote them entire and unchanged, but that he may learn from them something of the nature and meaning of lines, of forms, of proportion, of light and shade, and of colour. Let his imagination be filled with images rather than his memory with modes. How often have we heard it said, that architecture was a finished art - that every form of it had been wrought out. I have never allowed myself to think so, and it is gratifying to observe, that during the last few years, our illustrated periodicals bear evidence of the approach of an era of life and progress, and I hope to see the day when it will not be considered necessary to answer the question, "What style do you call that?" but when every man will have his own style, as in literature…….
put forward powerful arguments for the adoption of the classical style for the
design of new buildings for
I have admitted its [Gothic’s] merits, and the interest which for various reasons attaches to it. And I have also shown that it is not associated with learning in any way – that it is not national – that the Christianity which it represents is not of the purest type – that it is founded upon erroneous principles of construction – that it was the product of uneducated men – that it does not teach us the highest principles of architectural art – and that it is inconsistent with the best examples of sculpture and painting. And I hold that, for these reasons, it is quite unfit to express the character and purposes of the University – an institution the object of which is to instil into the youthful mind a knowledge of the principles and laws by which all things exist and are governed – where the greatest and best examples of human attainments are exhibited and explained, and where habits of mental discipline and refinement are expected to be formed.
4 – WINDOW MANUFACTURERS – CRITTALL FAMILY
Main source: Blake, David J (1989) Window Vision: Crittall 1849-1989 Crittall Windows Private Publication
As students we were introduced to metal windows
including those manufactured close to my home in
When he first arrived in
In 1886 Francis Henry
realised that if the Company was to prosper it would need to specialise. He was
already manufacturing a number of metal window types without realising their
future significance. Fundamental to his philosophy was the view that providing
production was improved this should be rewarded both in rates of pay and
working conditions. By 1905, 500 men were employed, and many of these people
held Preference Shares in the Company. During that year the Government Health
Inspector noted that the most marked feature of the place had been the
improvement of the dwellings of the towns-people, due to the prosperity of the
various industries there. While window production was concentrated in
During the 1920’s and as the
company grew, many funds were started up with an initial grant from the Company
for the employees’ benefit, to take care of its people during sickness and to
help widows and old employees who could no longer work, and also to provide
death benefits. A savings scheme was introduced with a newly formed Crittall
Building Society to offer homes for its employees at the
By the 1950’s the housing boom was well under way with over 300 000 houses a year being built. Although Crittall’s dominated the metal window industry as the major manufacturer, the Company under the Crittall family were anxious not to exploit the situation, and made just enough profit to satisfy their shareholders and maintain steady growth. Lord Braintree had long felt that the most pressing social need was to clear the slums and provide people with decent affordable housing, and he regarded the standard metal window as the best window on the market, and felt that the industry was honour bound to produce it and sell it in the largest quantities at the lowest possible cost. This, coupled to the belief that his employees should be given good working conditions and fair reward for their productive efforts, was at the heart of his business philosophy.
During 1958 the Company was
responsible for providing windows in at least three-quarters of all major
Direct concern for design was
fostered by John Francis Crittall (b
By the 1980’s traditional
Crittall windows were within the domain of ‘heritage’ building products. The
story of Crittall’s as a discrete company ends with its merger with Hope
windows, and subsequent takeover by Slater Walker. The Silver End village was
ultimately sold to Witham Council. In June 1936 John Crittall and his wife had
chosen to be married by Courad Noel, a family friend of the Crittalls, at
Perhaps over the generations the journey had been back to Francis Berrington Crittall’s original Anglicanism but enriched by the Congregational and Chapel ethos experienced along the way!
5 BUILDING CONTRACTOR – GEORGE MYERS
Main source: Spencer-Silver, Patricia (1993) Pugin’s Builder: The Life and Work of George
Myers The University of
The story of George
Myers (GM), (1803-1875) is well told by Patricia Spencer-Silver. A personal
connection for me is that he built the Warley mental hospital, located near my
grandparents’ home and which I passed in the train everyday when studying and
GM, known as Pugin’s builder, was born Kingston-upon-Hull in 1803 and was baptised in the Church of England at Holy Trinity Hull where he was later to work and marry his first wife Isabella in 1829. His second marriage in 1841 to Judith Ruddock was at St Martin-le-Grand York. GM and Judith came to Southwark, living in opposite St George’s Catholic Cathedral to which their son Ruddock Myers ‘was carried across the road to be baptised in the still unfinished cathedral’
GM’s life as a building contractor centred on London and included a small number of projects with Congregational connections. The area now known as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea boasted five complete Myers churches including the Congregational Church, Markham Square, Chelsea (now demolished) for which the architect was John Tarring. Tarring and Myers were also responsible for Clapham Congregational Church, Mostyn Road Brixton, which again is now demolished. With architect Sir Rowland Plumb, Myers built Stratford Congregational Church, Newham which was bombed in World War II.
There was catholicity to Myers’ work. He constructed or restored over ninety churches in London and the Provinces. Although he had spent his youth restoring beautiful medieval Beverley Minster and Holy Trinity, Hull, it was not until 1837, when he won the contract for St Mary's, Derby that we hear of him actually building a church. From then on he averaged three a year, taking about thirteen months to complete one of average size.
In 1818 the Government granted £1,000,000 to encourage the `Building and Promoting the Building of Additional Churches in (newly) Populous Parishes'. A similar grant was made a few years later. This money was made available only to the Established Church, the Church of England. As Government money was involved, the Church Commissioners set up a complex bureaucracy with detailed application forms. `Commissioners' Churches' were sometimes said to be unimaginatively designed and cheaply, but the contracts undertaken by George Myers cannot be included in this category.
The Religious Revival and
Catholic Emancipation provided major components of his livelihood. He built the
monument to William Wilberforce in Hull in the year of the anti- slave-trader's
death; three of the asylums [including Warley, see below] which conformed with
the new lunacy laws with which Lord Shaftesbury's name is associated; several
hospitals including the Herbert Hospital whose plans were approved by Florence
Nightingale and Sidney Herbert; he sent prefabricated huts to the war zone in
the Crimea and carried out vast contracts for the Army at home. He worked for
In the City of London GM built offices, banks and warehouses for City merchants, and he built their country houses too. In his later years it would have been impossible for him to have driven through the streets of London without passing one of his own buildings and most of the counties of England could display at least one example of his work. His warehouses encircled Tower Hill overlooking the Tower itself and, standing beside Samuel Wyatt's Trinity House, they played their part in the expansion and increasing: prosperity of the City of London. There was great variety in Myers' contracts', and those who think of him only as `Pugin's Builder' fail to appreciate his versatility.
It has been said that, without Myers, Pugin's buildings would not have stood up. Pugin's drawings of ethereal churches enchant, but so often the reality fails to realize expectations. His polemical writings inspired religious zeal and often rage in his readers. He had time to write and travel because Myers was in charge of his building sites all over the country. It is difficult to imagine Pugin's working life without Myers. They were true friends, and the sense of affinity and understanding which existed between these two remarkable people was not to occur again in GM's lifetime.
Of particular interest is the Essex County Lunatic Asylum at Warley and built by Myers. In August 1846 the Committee of Visitors advertised for a site. Twelve offers were received and the Brentwood Hall Estate of eighty-six acres was purchased. The Estate was eighteen miles from London and close to the Eastern Counties Railway. A competition was arranged between ten selected architects to choose the best design for a hospital to house 450 patients. Mr H.E. Kendall was the winner with F.G. Francis second and Daukes, who had built the other two asylums, third. In July 1851 Myers' tender of £57920 was accepted. On 11 July, the Essex Standard reported the formal commencement of building. C. G. Round Esq., chairman of the Committee ‘dug the first sod' and addressing Mr Myers said:
I now on behalf of the Committee authorise you to commence this great work. The Committee have as much pleasure in receiving you as the builder as, I have no doubt, you will feel in executing the work. From all we have heard and seen of you, we are perfectly satisfied. I trust your artisans will have skilful heads and steady hands; and may God prosper the undertaking.
But despite this trust, a Building Sub-Committee was appointed with instructions to inspect the work daily.
The style of the outside of the building was medieval but the interior was modern with hot and cold running water 24 hours a day, lavatories, bathrooms and gas supplied from the town gasometer. Once again Myers' `patent windows' were installed. They were described in The Builder on the 16 May 1857 as being `of cast iron fancy patterns, the casement opening outwards above the transoms; but the frames being double, when open, one of them remains in position unglazed so that ventilation is combined with perfect safety'. The surrounding countryside was beautiful and the buildings and gardens were circled by a ha-ha to prevent stray animals from eating the newly planted shrubs.
The work progressed satisfactorily and was finished just over two years two months and two weeks after the starting date. Kendall wrote a report which ended:
... from the turning of the first sod to the laying of the last brick everything has gone very smoothly, notwithstanding a quicksand on the site which occasioned much extra work. Everything was completed singularly free of extras ... with punctuality and success ... nor should the contractor be forgotten who has acted throughout with great liberality and laboured in every way for the benefit of the work.
Myers gained an artist's satisfaction from the fulfillment of his contracts. Monetary gain was never his prime objective. He was comfortably off, but his wealth did not compare with the large sums accumulated bv other Master Builders of the day. At Colney Hatch, he had fitted up the committee room very sumptuously' at his own expense, and at Beverley he accepted a reduced offer in settlement of his account because the churchwardens had on all occasions treated him with great kindness and it is said that with his last breath he cancelled the large debt still owed to him by St George's Catholic Cathedral in Southwark . He died on 25 January 1875.
6 PUBLIC UNDERTAKING: London Transport – FRANK PICK
Main source: www.designmuseum.org
Frank Pick is an outstanding example of someone from a provincial Congregational background coming to London and making a major impact on the constructed infrastructure. As a commuter over 30 years, I value his underground map very highly.
As head of the London Underground in the 1910s and 1920s and of the newly merged London Transport in the 1930s, Frank Pick (FP) (1878-1941) was instrumental in establishing the world’s most progressive public transport system and an exemplar of design management.
FP’s designs included the red, white and blue roundel that has symbolised the London Underground since the 1910s and the first diagrammatic map of the Underground.
FP’s modesty, drive and diligence stemmed from his childhood in a devout Congregationalist family in Spalding Lincolnshire, where he was born in 1878. He studied law at London University and joined the North Eastern Railway as a management trainee. He joined Sir George Gibb when he was appointed chairman of the Underground Group in 1906 FP was appointed publicity officer with responsibility for the marketing of the Underground Group. He set aside some of the advertising poster hoardings in Underground stations for the company’s use. He installed illuminated boards at the entrances for London Underground’s own posters and maps
FP took many initiatives on poster design seeing them as part of the network’s responsibility of educating the public. To this end he organised exhibitions of modern art and design, including the posters, in the booking hall at Charing Cross Underground station. “No exhibition of modern painting, no lecturing, no school teaching can have anything like so wide an influence on the educable masses as the unceasing production and display of London Underground posters over the years,” pronounced Nikolaus Pevsner.
FP’s achievements were recognised not only within the UK but internationally. He was invited to advise foreign governments on the construction of underground networks, including Stalin’s regime in the then-Soviet Union, which awarded Pick an honorary badge of merit in 1932 for his work on the Moscow Metro.
For years, the Underground Group had taken over smaller companies running bus and tram networks in London. In 1933, all the city’s transport companies – five underground railway companies, seventeen tramways and sixty-six bus companies – were merged into one, the London Passenger Transport Board and Frank Pick was appointed as managing director. The challenge of merging these companies into a coherent network, which could then expand to meet the fast-growing city’s future transport needs, gave him an even bigger canvas to work on.
A priority was helping passengers to navigate the new network. By the early 1930s, the London Underground network had expanded so much that it was increasingly difficult to squeeze all the new lines and stations into a geographical map. Passengers complained that the existing map was crowded, confusing and hard to read. Having decided that the network was too big to be represented geographically, Pick commissioned Harry Beck (1903-1974), who worked for London Underground as a draughtsman, to devise a new diagrammatic means of doing so. Basing his map on an electrical circuit, Beck represented each line in a different colour and interchange stations as diamonds.
Throughout his time at the Underground Group and then London Transport, Pick championed the network’s expansion by building new lines and new stations out into the suburbs wherever new housing developments emerged. At a time when public buildings in Britain were still designed in a traditional monumental style, Pick was determined that the architecture of the new stations should reflect the modern, progressive spirit of the rest of the network. Working closely with the architect Charles Holden (1875-1960), he commissioned a succession of landmark stations in the modern style. He and Holden travelled in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands to seek inspiration there and to define a modern architectural style for Britain.
Their showpiece was the extension of the Piccadilly Line to the north and west from 1930. The new stations at Sudbury Town, Arnos Grove, Southgate, Oakwood and along the rest of the Piccadilly Line adapted the geometric detailing, exposed brickwork and sweeping curved, cylindrical and rectangular structures that Pick and Holden had admired on their travels. Other stations were rebuilt and expanded, notably Hammersmith, which was designed by Stanley A. Heaps with the walls, columns and ceiling of the ticket hall made from exposed concrete – a daringly modern statement for the time.
Firmly of the belief that every element of a building should be coherent in its design, Holden ensured that the ticket kiosks, lighting, benches and even the litterbins at the stations were integrated with the architecture. Pick also commissioned state-of-the-art trains, trams and buses for the network, each of which was more spacious and streamlined than its predecessors with wider doors and windows, more storage space and more comfortable seats.
In 1940 FP was appointed director of the Ministry of Information, an important post in Britain’s war effort. He held the post for just a year before his death in 1941, after the publication of his book, Paths to Peace, a personal manifesto of his beliefs and approach to planning.
7 – PRIVATE DEVELOPER – JAMES BURTON
Main source: Baines, J Mainwaring (1956, 1990) Burton’s St Leonards Hastings Museum and
When working as an NHBC Regional Manager for a while, my area included the Sussex coast, also very familiar through personal visits. Hence, the development of St Leonard’s is of interest.
James Burton (JB) (1761-1837) has a family history traced back through the name Haliburton to Roxburghshire in Scotland. First in line was a minister, Revd James Haliburton (1681-1756). His son William Haliburton (1731-1785) was a builder who left the family home at Kelso to work in London. James (1761-1837), who became founder of St Leonards, was baptised in the Presbyterian Chapel, Soho.
JB was articled to a surveyor, Mr Dalton, for six years, his duties taking him to Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Ipswich. Bridewell designs were among the projects with which he was concerned. On completion of his articles he went into partnership with Mr Dalton until 1783. A diary note of 1786 indicates that in August he ‘Went on Andrew Gage’s business to Chelmsford’.
Subsequently, from his base in London he carried on a flourishing property development business both in London itself and around the south-eastern counties including Sussex. The business was ‘vertically integrated’ as he notes that while in 1800 he made 8,140,000 bricks in 1801 the number increased to 10,368,000. In the years up to 1823 he was responsible for superintending the development of 2366 properties, mainly in London on the Foundling, Bedford, Regent Street and other estates and having a rateable value of £1,848,900.
It is appropriate to note the public responsibility aspect of his work:
Not content with building houses, it was typical of the man that he should endeavour to improve the lot of those who might live in them. in December 1831, he issued ‘Cottage Regulations recommended for the Preservation of Health’, including such suggestions as regular washing of floors, opening of windows, removal of refuse and even personal items of clothing and diet, including abstention from ‘indulgence in spirituous liquors’.
The practicalities of building are explained: ‘The first building to be completed was Burton’s own house, No 57 Marina, the timber framing of which had been prepared in London and brought down in readiness. As the roads of that period were poor, all materials had to come by sea to Hastings and then be carted along the coast. The Sussex Advertiser, April 7th, reported that great quantities of scaffolding and materials had been unloaded from a sloop and conveyed along in wagons’.
The economic and social value of the work was perceived as important: ‘Many of the workmen employed belong to different parishes and we should hope that this may operate in some measure to lessen the parochial rates, while it will hold out cheering prospects to the labourers, and enable many of them to procure a livelihood in their own country, without being under the necessity of seeking it in a foreign land’.
A further indication of the controversial and complex nature of the works is this comment dating from 1872:
As time went on it became more and more difficult to get the necessary stone. The railway excavations at West Marina proved most helpful, but in 1872 the Commissioners turned their attention to the beach and ordered the surveyor to take enough rock between high and low watermarks to "such spots as will least interfere with the present picturesque appearance of the shore" to put the whole length of the roadway along the front in good condition. This raised a great local uproar, as it was rumoured that this would endanger the natural deposit of shingle and expose the front to the action of the sea. Among the Commissioners was Dr. J. S. Bowerbank, the marine zoologist, and he had known the coast at St. Leonards since 1825. He maintained that their action would make no difference, but when the Ministry of Trade was informed and the question of the foreshore being Crown Land was raised it was decided to give up the idea. So 100 tons of Kentish Rag stone were ordered from Maidstone at 4s. 6d. per ton to be delivered by barge. This had to be broken to pass through a 14in. mesh.
As regards church buildings in St Leonards, Baines comments first on that for the Dissenters: The growth of religious toleration in the early part of the 19th century is shown by the erection of a chapel for the Independents at St. Leonards within its first few years. Twenty-five years earlier no local tradesman had dared to tender for the erection of such a place in Hastings, and so the little chapel in the Croft had had to be made of wood and transported from London. ‘The Chapel for the use of the Protestant Dissenters, usually called Independents, but more properly Congregationalists, is about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide, and will seat about 400 persons. It is built by voluntary contributions. Attached are excellent rooms, 20 feet by 15 feet each, intended for day and Sabbath schools, for children of the poor of both sexes. This building is of Grecian architecture, and forms the north end of a quadrangle. One half the sittings will be appropriated to the use of the poor; from the sittings of the other half the income of the minister arises’.
It was known as the Quadrangle Chapel ..... [However] within a few years financial difficulties arose and eventually the buildings were purchased and turned into dwelling houses.
Turning to the parish church, Baines says: A church had always formed part of Burton's original designs and he had settled on a site at the top of West Hill. His friends however objected to the climb and so a spot was chosen midway between two blocks of houses on the Marina, but standing apart from them and off the immediate front line. The cliff had to be excavated to provide space. He revived his plan for a crescent with the church at the centre, but later abandoned it.
Early in 1831 he obtained the necessary Act of Parliament to build a private chapel and as there was a royal visitor staving in St. Leonard’s at the time, the Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, daughter of the Duke of Gloucester and niece of George III, she was prevailed upon to lay the foundation stone. This was done on September 8th and the building was completed in the following year. .... The year 1837 however had seen a disaster, a sudden fall of cliff destroying the whole of the chancel and endangering the building. As a result the new chancel had to be much shortened. Since that date services were held there steadily, the chapel having become the parish church and the incumbent thenceforward the rector by Act of Parliament in 1868, until the Second World War, when it was finally destroyed by a flying bomb on July 29th, 1944. The church was rebuilt post-war. JB and his wife Elizabeth are buried in a vault in the burial ground behind the church.
8 HOUSE-BUILDER – SIR JOHN LAING
source: Coad, Roy (1979) Laing: The
Biography of Sir John W. Laing London: Hodder and
For this section one could have chosen house-builders such as Janes of Luton or Leech of Newcastle, to name but two. But it is Laing whom many would call to mind when thinking of a specifically Christian commitment.
John Laing (JL) (1879-1978) from Carlisle followed on in his family’s dual commitment to stonemasonry and other aspects of practical building, and strong religious anchors in the Brethren tradition. Following a grammar school education ‘JL set himself a deliberately hard schooling in the trade’ recalling his father’s insistence, ‘My father believed in his son having three years practical training, so as to get a knowledge of humanity, of the British weather, and of the difficulties of doing work and overcoming these difficulties’. The Brethren sought a simple, untrammelled fellowship, refusing an appointed ministry on the grounds that the spiritual gifts of all their members should flourish. JL combined a simplicity of outlook with empathy with Darwin’s insights and a Christology, summed up towards the end of his life in the verse ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them..’
JL came to London and established what was to become one of the largest and most respected groups of contractors and house-builders rooted in quality and science rather than speculation. The essence of that business philosophy, and an associated social philosophy, can be discerned in Coad’s account of JL’s approach to building houses for sale.
The basis of JL’s approach to housing was a simple one. 'Would I wish to live in this house?' He had great sympathy with ordinary people, and his own tastes were straightforward and uncomplicated. Having decided to go into private-housing development, he threw himself into it with great enjoyment ..... and he wrote at the end of his life, 'Our experience in housing was one of the happiest and most successful parts of our business.' If he sold a thousand houses, he hoped to have gained a thousand friends. `Every class in the country wants a house,' he said in 1948. 'Once a man owns his house, he has a stake in his country. Else he is rootless . . . The man who is tenant of a house and garden can be very happy but never altogether satisfied ...'
His standards were high, and this meant that his houses were more expensive than others on the market at the same time. Yet he was concerned that people could afford to buy the houses he built:
My great desire was to build some houses in which the purchaser could pay a £50 deposit, and then his expenses for rates and interest would cost him only one pound a week. On one estate we achieved that. At one part ... we let the houses and charged £1 a week, and that was the total payment the tenant had to make, but we had to increase that because the rating authorities said that if we agreed to let the houses for such a cheap rent they were not going to assess them on that and they put the rates up beyond what the £1 a week justified, and we had to increase the rent a little.
The advent on the London building scene at this time of the powerful new Company, with high standards of construction, was of extreme importance. They brought with them, from the more testing climate of the north-west, standards that were by no means normal in the south-east. The common nine-inch solid brick wall of the south-east was unreliable, and liable to damp penetration. Most builders of the time dealt with this by rendering the external surfaces. John Laing (and he had only a few companions in this at that time) insisted on the eleven-inch cavity wall that he knew from Carlisle. Foundations demanded especial care, with deep concrete foundations to the walls, including partition walls, and ballast concrete under the whole house. The unfamiliar London clay had brought him special problems and he took no risks. Damp courses had his close attention for quality, and roofs had wide eaves; thev were adequately felted and of over-size timber; there was none of the inadequately protected roofing that marred so much of the speculative building of this period and inflicted annual winter misery on the occupants of the houses.
One man, later a director of some of the Group Companies, told of a visit by John Laing to the Woodford estate; dissatisfied with the bracing of the roofs, he sacked all the carpenters and ordered the remedying of the work (the men were re-instated the following day). Another, later to be a director of the main Company, was in charge of a site, and was reproved by John Laing on inspection, as he considered the roofing unsatisfactory. The man pointed out that he had consulted the architect, and that the architect would not authorise payment beyond the specification. 'That does not matter,' John Laing had replied; 'the firm's reputation will suffer if in twenty years' time these roofs are seen to sag.’
1 - Edward Alexander - Architect
Main source: Lowrey, John (1987) ‘A Man of Excellent Parts’: Alexander Edward – Minister, Architect, Jacobite 1651-1708 University of St Andrews: The Crawford Centre for the Arts
Today we are inclined to think in terms of built environment professionals becoming ministers. With Edward Alexander in the 17th-18th century it is for political reasons the other way round.
Edward Alexander (EA) (1651-1708) was a Jacobite whose professional activity started as that of Episcopalian Clergyman and proceeded to that of Architect and garden designer. He was born 10th June 1651, his father Robert Alexander being Episcopalian minister of Murroes in Angus. EA graduated in St Andrews 1670 and in 1682 became Minister at Kemback near Cupar. It is possible that the 1670’s may have been spent on non-religious work. The practicalities of building confronted him in relation to his kirk and manse; ‘… he found the kirk, manse and parish in general in a poor state. His efforts to improve matters led firstly, in August 1686, to a commission appointed by the archbishop visiting the parish with a mason, wright and slater to assess the cost of repairs to the buildings and to stent the heritors of the parish accordingly. With the Glorious Revolution in 1688 he was dismissed from his parish and took up architecture and garden design as his profession, his final removal from his parish taking place in 1695.
It may be that EA’s technical skills were learned from his father. There is evidence of possible involvement with building work and improvements at Panmure House, home of the Earl of Panmure, the family patron. On removal from his parish in 1695 EA resumed an association with Sir William Bruce for whom he had worked in 1684-85 as a draughtsman and surveyor at Kinross house which Bruce was then building for himself. In 1697 Bruce and Edward worked for the Earl of Melville at Melville House. In a further project at Kinnaird Castle for the earl of South Esk,,Edward undertook some responsibility for design as well as draughtsmanship. His specialist and considerable contribution to garden design in relation to landscape are notable. By 1700 he was acting as independent architect for work at Rossie House in Angus.
EA’s clients, the earls of Mar, Hopetoun, Panmure, North and South Esk, Loudon and Strathmore in 1701 financed a visit to England and the continent. For a subscription of £10 sterling each they required him to ‘make draughts of the most curious and remarkable houses, edifices, gardings, orchards, parks, plantations, land improvements, coal works, mines, waterworks and other curiosities of nature and art.’ He was bound to visit each of his clients at his home for three days in each of the first three years after his return probably to render his professional services. His death in 1708 cut short extensive work at Hamilton Place utilising the studies made during his travels.
EA can be seen as ‘a man of excellent parts’. One cannot judge the relative extent to which things architectural and religious interested and motivated him. The reality is that as an Episcopalian living in an era adverse to them, it was in architecture and landscaping that he could earn the living not available to him in the church.
2 - Sir Halley Stewart – brick manufacturer
Main source: Jeremy, David J (1990) Capitalists and Christians: Business Leaders and the Churches in Britain 1900-1960 Oxford: Clarendon Press
Sir Halley Stewart over a very long life practised as nonconformist minister, brick manufacturer, politician and philanthropist – connectedness indeed!
Sir Halley Stewart (HS) (1838-1937) had varied life consisting of periods as preacher, politician, business man and philanthropist. In 1853 he started work as bank clerk. After ten years, in1863, he became the Minister of the first nonconformist church in Hastings. In1877 he left ministry in Islington for politics and in 1888 was elected Liberal MP for Spalding. He became Involved in the brick industry in 1899. He held the strong belief in the provision of safe and healthy working and living conditions. This led to the establishment of the town of Stewartby at the centre of what was to become the largest brickworks in the world. Stewartby United Church had its origins in the village Methodist chapel. A sharing agreement between Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed and Roman Catholic churches was entered into in1981.
3 - Dawn Waterton – building contractor’s staff
Main source: Waterton Dawn (undated) Ministry in the Construction Industry in Reflections on Ministry in Secular Employment Coventry Diocese
Dawn Winterton shows us clearly the human face of the construction industry and the contribution og f the Minister in Secular Employment (MSE)
Dawn Waterton (DW) has been working in the Construction Industry since 1970 as Sales Office Manager and Sales Representative, She begun to feel that she was being called to ordination around 1990 but had no sense of being called to parish ministry. After a time of searching she identified herself with those preparing for Ministry in Secular Employment.
She has come to see that Construction is a 'caring' industry’, not different from ‘the caring professions’. Building, she emphasizes, speaks clearly about Creation. As anyone who has spent time out 'on site' will tell you, the nature of the work is such that it involves a many different people working together to make something happen. That 'something' could be a 3000 seat Multiplex Cinema or a suspension bridge, it could be new supermarket or a pub. The wonder and risk of Creation are reflected on any building project. A vast range of skills is needed and each person involved needs the others to complete their part of the work for the project to be a success. At Creation, God gave us everything we need to work with and took the risk that we would do it right. We don't of course. On a building site everything needed to do the job is available but it doesn't always work as it should. Things can and often do go wrong. But if all goes well and the contract is completed on time then something good is created and those involved care that the building is good.
Good building can bring new life to a community if it is done sensitively and well. Building also involves issues of stewardship, looking after resources of materials, land, minerals and environment. People care that resources are used properly and not wasted. In a recent survey, her company identified wasted resources as one of the main concerns that employees have about the industry.
People care about each other. They celebrate good things, new homes, new jobs, new relationships and we mourn the bad things and the sad things, the loss of a colleague through illness perhaps or the loss of a relationship or a bereavement. Ministry is pastoral. The significant conversations may be at the tea machine instead of at the back of church but they are no less a building up of fellowship and community for all that. The silence following a discussion in the office about any one of a number of issues currently affecting people, may not be prefaced by 'Let us pray' but it happens, there in the silence. And the support offered to one another through listening and sometimes grumbling together is vital because for many this community is their primary community. The place where someone notices if they are not there and cares enough to find out if they are OK.
The people Dawn works with may not attend church, may not know the liturgy or the theology of sacrifice or redemption, but, make no mistake, they 'do' the theology every day. The church has authorized her presence there as a Priest to do the theology with them.
4 - John Wates – Trustee
Main source: www.watesfoundation.org.uk
Many founders and owners of building businesses have established charitable trusts to support various strands of community and social work in the UK and elsewhere. The Wates Foundation is one of these. Its list of trustees includes Revd John Wates
Rev John Wates (Chairman). A qualified solicitor. Served as a
magistrate in Croydon for 21 years where he was Vice Chairman of the Youth
5 - Bernard Thorogood – passer by
I guess many ministers pass by buildings when on holiday. Bernard Thorogood stopped, sketched, thought and wrote.
Main source: Thorogood, Bernard (1991) Looking at Leisure: A European View London: The United Reformed Church
Bernard Thorogood (BT) Minister and one-time General Secretary of The United Reformed Church, did something different from his normal line of work when he went on holiday to Europe: he sketched buildings for pleasure.
With some of the sketches there are indirect biblical allusions. ‘Whose inscription is on these coins?’ asks BT as he draws a town gateway in Verona where taxes would have been paid. And he adds the comment, ‘Right then pay up’. The humility aspect of the Gospel comes through in this thought-picture of a Venice canal: ‘But it is the little canals which provide corners for reflection where you can watch the rubbish cart or the wine merchant or the undertaker sail up and down’.
Alongside his sketch of surviving columns at Olympia, BT reflects: ‘Here the Olympic flame begins its journey… What enormous influence derives from such a little corner of a rather poor land. It says something to me about vision and dedication and quality counting for more than wealth in the bank’.
BT homes right in on the New Testament in Rome: ‘Back to the ruins of the Forum where some of the remains are impressive, and for me particularly this triumphal arch by Titus in AD 70. This links us very directly with the New Testament. Here is the Babylon of Revelation and we can still run our hands over the stones’.
Still in Rome, BT sketches the dome of St Peter’s and perhaps reveals his love of the simplicity of English chapel building when he says: ‘Somehow the size and the grandeur are too much… I wonder if the focus of the world church ought to be a very simple room, quiet and modest ……’.
The eight significant lay people have appeared above in the order in which I found myself wanting to introduce them, rather than in a historical or other sequence.
Patrick Nuttgens (PN) was a lifelong educationalist, investing his own life in the people of the future. He was not afraid to move from the relatively high status of Edinburgh and York universities and their communities of architectural specialists, to Leeds Polytechnic where his energies became available across the whole institution, with its variety of departments, disciplines and people, both students and staff from wide-ranging streams and strata. His story seems to me to have been a good one sustained by a devout Catholicism.
Sir Edmund Happold (EH) is the only one of these eight whom I knew personally. He signifies for me modern buildings and structures at their most technically innovative. He is not only an innovative engineering designer but also in part an educationalist. His active Quakerism is of a piece with his openness to architecture in partnership with engineering, to the organisational affairs of the building industry, and to the multi-faith, multi-national context of today and tomorrow. It is good to have been on his path in a small way.
In introducing Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (AT) I take a step back into the 19th century. His stage was largely that of Scotland but in his perception of the role of the Glasgow Society of Architects he, like Happold, touches the enduring issues of the building industry. He is equally at home discussing the economic minutiae of building masonry walls as he is in advocating, albeit unsuccessfully, the classical style for Glasgow University’s buildings. In this caring, challenging and integrating professional life he demonstrates what Eldership in the church can mean, that is to be an exemplar of lay vocation.
My instinctive link to the Crittall business is that it belongs, as I do, firstly to Essex. It exemplifies that genre of applied or lived Christianity revealed by what a family does over several generations. It is there for the long-term, providing good employment conditions and well-designed estates in which to live. While that was paternalistic and, as an era, reached its natural end, arguably while it was there it was good. Additionally, Crittall is important because it reminds us that the building industry is not only the exciting deign office and readily seen site but also the hidden factories where standard products are the every day diet.
If the Crittall’s were a dynasty, George Myers (GM) was the individual, strong business man working on widespread sites throughout his lifetime. While undoubtedly his enterprise skills contributed much to his industry, it was his ability and willingness to bring Pugin’s designs into the world of built reality that he contributed to the achievement of architecture. In his building work for both Congregationalists and Catholics he displayed an ecumenical openness, whether for business or spiritual reasons.
Frank Pick (FP) travelled, made the pilgrimage from his devout Congregationalist home in rural Lincolnshire to the centre of London Transport and a fast developing urban world. I feel the man was the sum of his sensitivity to design, his ability to lead and manage and that quiet, solid rural background, which I encountered when working in Norfolk; possibly the whole was more than the sum of the parts. His clients were the travelling public, impossible to know individually, yet every one important.
As the designer and developer of St Leonard’s, James Burton (JB) was the creator of a whole place for a specific and whole community. His output was not simply individual sites but whole streets and, most enduringly, a seafront; not just housing and accommodation but the churches and other facilities. There is something here about the whole of life being embraced and a particular environment and location being brought to be. I do not know whether his churchmanship went much further than his Presbyterian baptism in Soho but for some it is enough to have been an effective business man and professional.
There is no doubt or mystery about Sir John Laing (JL), his Christian commitments being as visible as his skills in developing a business, soundly based both economically and in terms of its human values concerning employees and house-buying customers equally. There is something that feels right about a business, whether of Laing’s size or much smaller as with my own family, that devotes at least some of its resources simply to the building of ordinary houses to become homes for ordinary families.
These are only eight out of many thousands, most of whom will never be known or would want to be known except to their own small networks of family members, colleagues and friends. I think the eight give us some insight into what must go on in the lives of the thousands. They signify something of the nature of the larger community across centuries and continents. There is a sense of belonging with them.
The ordained ministers are a much more restricted group. Edward Alexander (EA) moved from Scottish Episcopalian parish ministry to an early form of architectural practice because of political restrictions imposed on him. The move was not, one surmises, a free choice. Nevertheless, in a single life he seems to have combined competence in both fields. There is a complementariness here of value. Going further, in the days before the formalisation of professions it was possible for versatile people to vary their fields of activity. That in itself is a witness to a wholeness for which in our own time we search. Sir Halley Stewart (HS), approaching 200 years later, was another with a varied life in terms of professional roles, yet perhaps with an underlying unity of purpose. A yet further century on we find Dawn Waterton (DW) weaving together 20th/21st century professional concepts of contracting and priesthood. The closeness of her weaving is distinctive by comparison with those of EA and HS. Construction and building is a wealth-creating industry. John Wates helps utilise wealth that originated in building, while Bernard Thorogood uses his holiday sketching to prompt questions about what and how we build and with what priorities.
These ministerial contributions do not have the magnitude of the lay ones. But that is precisely the point; they should not. Yet they remind us that our contemporary separations of things are not inevitable. There are lives which carry within themselves the seeds of unity.
This study has been largely retrospective, drawing its examples from my own and some earlier generations. I have not gone round trying to dig out what is happening in the present and still less have I tried to see into the future. That is for another time.
I would maintain that past, present and hopefully future, there is a community to which it is good to belong.