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The Church Missionary Society and Architecture in the Mission Field: Evangelical Anglican Perspectives on Church Building Abroad, c. 1850-1900

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2016


The Gothic Revival occupies a central place in the architectural development of the Church of England in the nineteenth century, both at home and abroad. Within the expanding British colonial world, in particular, the neo-Gothic church became a centrally important expression of both faith and identity throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. From a symbolic and communicative perspective, the style represented not only a visual link to Britain, but also the fundamental expression of the Church of England as an institution and of the culture of Englishness. As such, it carried with it a wide range of cultural implications that suited the needs of settler communities wishing to re-established their identity abroad. Expansion during this period, however, was not only limited to the growth of settler communities but was also reflected in growing Anglican missions to the non-Christian peoples of annexed territories. The two primary organs of the Church of England in the field, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) and the Church Missionary Society (CMS), actively employed the revived medieval style throughout the Empire as missions were solidified through infrastructure development. As a popular style with direct connotations to the Christian faith, revived medieval design became increasingly popular with Anglican missionaries abroad in the period between the early 1840s and the end of the century. Not only did its origins in ecclesiastical buildings make it attractive, but it was also stylistically distinctive, and set apart as a sacred style from both secular and ‘heathen’ structures.

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Copyright © Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. 2015

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