The Victorians completely transformed our churches: not only building thousands, but restoring – which often meant rebuilding – thousands more. Still more importantly, they transformed how the British understood and experienced their churches. No longer mere receptacles for worship, churches became active agents in their own right, capable of conveying theological ideas and designed to shape people's emotions.
In this lecture, Professor William Whyte explores this forgotten revolution – and its effects on us today. These church buildings are now a challenge: their maintenance, repair or repurposing are pressing problems for parishes in age of declining attendance and dwindling funds. By understanding their past, by unlocking the secrets of their space, there might be answers in how to deal with the legacy of the Victorians now and into the future.
William Whyte is Professor of Social and Architectural History in the University of Oxford. A fellow of St John’s College, the Royal Historical Society, and the Society of Antiquaries, he is Chairman of the Oxford Preservation Trust and the Oxford Historical Society. His most recent book is Unlocking the Church: the lost secrets of Victorian sacred space.