Thursday 7 July 2011

Methodist Central Hall, Storey's Gate SW1

I've never been sure what to make of the Methodist Central Hall. It was deliberately designed not to look like a church so heathens would not feel detered from entering, and the design competition specified a non-Gothic style to avoid competing with Westminster Abbey.
However, the design, by Lanchester and Rickards, is not just secular - much of the symbolism is actively militaristic. Bunches of spears, arrays of Roman swords, helmets and flags. This would not be surprising on a Government building in the England of 1905 when the design was started, but it is very odd for Dissenters with their tradition of pacifism.
The high point from an artistic point of view is the pair of angels at the centre of the main facade. By Henry Poole, they float serenely in lovely calm over the bustle of the tourists in Parliament Square.
The entablature on the giant order of columns on the Central Hall is eccentric to say the least, with windows and the symbols of the Gospel writers. The eagle is John, the ox is Luke, the human, Matthew and the lion Mark.
I originally assumed they represented the the continents but that is clearly wrong.
It is not clear who is responsible for them, but Henry Poole was busy with the angels so I imagine they were designed by H.C. Fehr who was also involved with the project.


Hels said...

It might have been very odd for Dissenters with their tradition of pacifism, but the military references were not in-your-face. But semi naked angels cavorting at the centre of the main facade was even stranger for Methodists, no? The drapery and florals look decidedly sexual to me.

ps The word verification for this post was "hymen", I kid you not!

Capability Bowes said...

Angels have wings, surely? All I see is floaty drapery. Secular angels, perhaps?!

Chris Partridge said...

The sacred iconography was deliberately toned down so as not to deter unbelievers from going in, so perhaps they are indeed secular angels. On the other hand, except for cherubim, the Bible nowhere mentions angels as having wings.

Ron Combo said...

I went to a St. Custard's Methodist boarding school. The President of the Methodist Conference, one J. Russell Pope, used to come and preach, invariably about the dangers of alcohol. He has a lot to answer for I can tell you.

Capability Bowes said...

Yes, I know that angels dont have wings, according to the Bible. This, I believe, was a point I made in the discussion about cherubs and putti. Unfortunately, in art, unless they have wings there is no convincing way of rendering them as celestial beings.