What is Gothic Revival?
Like any art form, architectural styles change over time and with fashion.
The original Gothic style of architecture first appeared in the late 12th century in France, and spread throughout Europe. It flourished until the late 15th century when architects rediscovered Classical styles.
The main feature of Gothic is the pointed arch. This was a technological breakthrough at the time, enabling taller stone structures with larger windows to be built.
Other key features are flying buttresses and rib-vaulted ceilings, and you'll also spot rose windows and exuberant carving.
Westminster Abbey has flying buttresses which support the nave walls, and a circular rose window in the Gothic style.
Gargoyles can be a practical way to drain away rainwater
Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the earliest Gothic cathedrals
Notre-Dame is famous for its grotesques
Carved monsters and chimeras are typical of the Gothic style. They celebrate the mystery of nature and imagination.
Carved gargoyles (rainwater spouts) have a practical purpose too: they channel rainwater away from the walls to protect them from collecting damp.
At St Barnabas, a lot of damage has been caused by rainwater trickling down the brickwork from the coping stones over time. This is part of the reason for the restoration project.
Newham has three Grade I listed mediaeval Gothic buildings. (One of them, St Mary's Little Ilford, unfortunately has few of its original Gothic features.)
Visit All Saints West Ham to compare its waggon vaulted ceiling to St Barnabas. At St Mary Magdalene East Ham, find the eroded stone above the top window. This may have been a grotesque carving or gargoyle.
All Saints West Ham, built in the late 12th century
St Mary Magdalene East Ham
St Pancras Chambers, opened in 1873
The Royal Courts of Justice, opened in 1882 by Queen Victoria
During the Renaissance, ‘Gothic’ was used as a term of abuse because it was associated with mediaeval culture, which people dismissed as barbaric.
It became fashionable again during the late 1740s - the era of the Gothic novel, and the roots of modern Goth.
Gothic architecture from this time is usually called Neo-Gothic, or Victorian Gothic, because it was fashionable while Queen Victoria was on the throne.
In the 19th century and early 20th century Neo-Gothic was used for many public buildings and almost all church architecture. In Newham, local examples include St John's Stratford and St Antony's Forest Gate.
Examples of Neo-Gothic church buildings in Manor Park
The links between mediaeval Gothic and Gothic Revival can also be seen in church decoration. Compare this 14th-century English 'grisaille' glass with the detail of the stained glass window at St Barnabas.
You'll notice that Comper was working in a fine English tradition of delicately drawn detail.