All Saints Margaret Street
William Butterfield
London, 1859

Chapel of St. Ignatius


Church of the Light

All Saints Margaret Street

Tokyo Church of Christ

19th Century Anglicanism
All Saints Margaret Street Church was built by a religious group called the Tractarians against a stormy background of Anglican history in late 19th century England.  There were many movements going on, all influencing the other and in the design of churches.  Groups particularly active during the period were the Evangelicals, who promoted literacy, Sunday observance and the improvement of living conditions amongst the lower classes.  The High Church tradition, on the other hand was fighting the threat against Protestantism of the ‘Catholic Emancipation’, which had led to the building of many Roman Catholic churches.  On top of all this was the beginnings of the theory of evolution, which threatened the entire Christian world-view beginning with Genesis. 
The Tractarians
The Tractarians were a group of Anglicans who sought to revive the ‘Catholic’ elements of Christianity, particularly through liturgical rites.  This would counteract the growing popularity of Roman Catholicism and go against the ‘unhistoric’ Evangelism.  The Tractarians sought a proper architectural setting for their historically correct traditions and turned to the Gothic style as the only true Christian architectural language.  From 1841, the Camden Society (of Tractarians) published a journal called the Ecclesiologist, a practical architectural publication which outlined the proper way to build a church, criticized improperly designed buildings and invited architects to submit their designs for review. 

An Ideal Church
A church had existed on the Margaret Street site since 1760, when a chapel for a group of Deists was erected.  By 1845, it had become a centre of Tractarian worship.  In 1847, Wiliam Upton Richards became the minister at the Margaret Street chapel and was determined to build a more appropriate church for Tractarian liturgy.  This was to serve as a model church to demonstrate the Ecclesiologist’s architectural theories.  It was also to express the attitude taken on by the Tractarians in the 1840’s to try to convert city dwellers to Anglicanism, believing this to be a social service.  In this mission, the ideal model of a church would be a fortress, strong and tough, just like their urban settings. 

Side Panel: James Stevens Curl, “All Saints', Margaret Street”, Architects' Journal,  20 June 1990. Photos by Martin Charles.
Figure 1: Ibid, p. 36.   Figure 2: Ibid, p. 39.

Page by: Michelle Chan, M.Arch.I (M1), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Last modified: March 5, 2000