Guildford Cathedral

When I started to write articles about my visits to cathedrals I had the notion that I would encourage others to visit 'local' cathedrals. This article is about a cathedral far away: The Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit, Guildford.

So why did I choose this cathedral? What impressed me was the unity of the design of the interior. The building is the only cathedral in England to have been started and finished by the same architect. Guildford was made a diocese in 1927. Work began nine years later on the cathedral designed by Sir Edward Maufe. Construction was intended to span many years to allow necessary funds to be raised, but building work had to be suspended during the Second World War. When war-time building restrictions finally lifted, efforts to complete the Cathedral started anew. Led by Miss Eleanor Iredale, the 'Buy-a Brick' (later imitated by others) campaign was launched in 1952. Between 1952 and 1961 more than 200,000 people bought a brick for 2s 6d (12½p) and inscribed it with their names. The bricks were made from clay taken from Stag Hill on which the Cathedral stands. Many people feel that they have a personal link with the Cathedral because of this scheme and it now calls itself 'The People's Cathedral'.

The outside of the building reminds me of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. It is a very large pile of red bricks. But, inside there is a serenity and an integrity not found in many other cathedrals. Maufe worked in collaboration with designers like Eric Gill, Vernon Hill (statuary), Moira Forsyth (stained glass) and his wife Prudence (on carpets and embroidered kneelers - 1,500 of which were handmade by local people). Maufe's family lived for a time in The Red House originally designed by Philip Webb for William Morris and one can see their influence in the detailing of Maufe's work. I found the shapes and colours of the interior quite memorable. Pevsner described the interior as 'noble and subtle.'.

The Cathedral makes a dramatic statement on the hill just outside the city centre. There are a number of stories associated with the cathedral (there are always so many stories associated with cathedrals!) which I have chosen not to mention here but one recent event is that a scheme to build houses on land around the cathedral seems on target to fund the necessary alterations (removal of asbestos - a building material thought safe at the time of use -), refurbishment and current upkeep of this building the interior of which is unique.

A long journey to visit it perhaps but ninety thousand people a year think it is worth it.


Return to Cathedral page