South Wonston Church

Churches and chapels

Tuesday 4 July 2017



The course

Great medieval cathedrals and churches – so often examples of high architectural endeavour and elaborate stone carving – have understandably attracted much attention from historians.  But from Roman times to the Middle Ages there were other types of religious building, from Norway’s famous stave churches and Russian log churches to the timber-framed churches that survive in some parts of England. Are these simply part of the development of Early Christian, Romanesque and Gothic architecture, or are they better understood as vernacular traditions?

With the Reformation, many Christians came to appreciate the value of buildings that were relatively unornamented. Even Inigo Jones was asked to use a barn as the model for one of his churches, while the first clapboard meeting houses were erected by English settlers in America.  A new emphasis on preaching led to high pulpits and new kinds of seating, as well other fixtures, fittings and furnishings. Through the Georgian and Victorian eras the co-existence of vernacular and more elaborate places of worship was the visible expression of changing social and economic conditions as well as changing religious attitudes.  Timber churches, ‘tin tabernacles’ and wayside chapels were an important part of the 19th-century scene.

At the end of the 19th century proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement both investigated and self-consciously re-invigorated the traditional approach to building places of worship, introducing craftsmanship of extraordinary quality, with understanding, and importantly, with restraint where that was called for.  In the twentieth century this vernacular tradition inspired new thinking in plan-forms, in the revived use of local materials, and wide experimentation in architectural expression that suited the temper of the times.

The Study Day will explore these themes, from early Christian examples to more recent church and chapel building.  A visit to the Museum’s own ‘tin tabernacle’ will be included in the day, and several buildings now owned by the Historic Chapels Trust will get special mention.

9.30 – 11am    

Introduction:  The architectural status of religious buildings
Anglo-Saxon and early medieval church building: vernacular and grander traditions
The later Middle Ages: Gothic architecture and the Reformation

11 – 11.15am coffee

11.15 – 12.45 pm

Reform and Dissent: meeting houses, temples and toleration
After 1711: Queen Anne churches, Methodism and chapel-building
Case studies: Walpole, Farfield, et al

1.45 – 3.15pm

Aiming high?: Commissioners’ churches, Pugin and ecclesiology
Victorian chapel architecture: vernacular, classic and Gothic
Wooden churches and tin tabernacles

3.15 – 3.45pm tea and site visit

3.45 – 5.00pm

Arts and Crafts influence on religious architecture
Recording and conservation: twentieth-century attitudes to historic places of worship

The tutors

Dr Jennifer M. Freeman OBE  BAHons  DiplCons(AA)  HonDoctArts IHBC FRSA FSA

Jenny Freeman is an architectural writer, historian and lecturer, a practitioner in building conservation and specialist developer of listed buildings ‘at risk’. She was founding Director of the Historic Chapels Trust and a former Secretary of the Victorian Society. She is Hon.President and Chairman of the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery and a longstanding committee member of Save Britain’s Heritage for which she has produced many reports. Her publications include W.D.Caroe; His Architectural Achievement,  Kensal Green Cemetery,  The Curious Case of the Phoenix Columns in Smithfield General Market and  Save the City; a Conservation Study of the City of London. She is a former grants committee member of the National Churches Trust and member of the (then) Council for the Care of Churches and a member of the Chapels Society Council.  .

Christopher Wakeling is a Fellow of Keele University. He was chair of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (2000-2003); president of the Chapels Society (2007-13); and chair of English Heritage’s Places of Worship Forum (2006-16). He chairs the Staffordshire Historic Buildings Trust and is currently revising Pevsner’s Staffordshire.  He has written, lectured and broadcast on many aspects of art and architecture, and among his publications on Nonconformist buildings are The Victorian Church (ed. by C. Brooks and A. Saint 1995), Dissent and the Gothic Revival (ed. by B. Cherry, 2007), and Chapels of England (forthcoming, 2017)

Participant information

Please bring warm outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear, as the day may include a study visit to some of the Museum’s exhibit buildings.


£99 per person, which includes tuition, teas & coffees and a light lunch. If all five courses in the series are booked together  a discounted price of £400 applies.

The Museum

The Weald & Downland Living Museum has over 50 historic building exhibits. It is also home to the award winning and innovative Downland Gridshell, which houses a conservation workshop and artefact store, and is also used for many practical courses. The Museum runs a full programme of courses in historic building conservation and traditional rural trades and crafts, along with MSc programmes in Building Conservation and Timber Building Conservation validated by the University of York. Please telephone for further details.



Please read our terms and conditions before booking.

If any of our courses are full and you would like to be added to a waiting list please email [email protected] or call 01243811021, we are sometimes able to arrange further course dates.