Thursday 21 March 2019

Saint Giles Church, Cheadle

For many years I have longed to visit 'Pugin's gem' St Giles Church at Cheadle. Having read a great deal about the splendor of this stunning place, and seen it mentioned on Gothic Revival documentaries, I knew this incredible feat of architecture and design was not something to be missed. Finally last year the opportunity arose to hop across the border to Staffordshire and at last see Pugin's gem in all its glory.

Upon arrival in Cheadle the churches location and exterior didn't really prepare you for what lay within. Some nice carvings, an opulent door, but nothing out of the ordinary really. Its not until you venture in that you see this masterpiece in all its glory. A service had just finished so the relatively newly installed lights were gleaming away illuminating every nook and cranny of this amazing, unique place. But usually you have to pop some money in the meter (in quite a novel fashion), as we did several times later when the lights timed out leaving us with only the natural light to illuminate the church.

St Giles is utterly off the scale in terms of grandeur and decadence. Pattern and artwork covers every square inch of the walls, with intricate motifs changing every so often and a different colour taking centre stage for a moment, but Pugin consistently sticks to his signature palette. Deep red, indigo blue, dark green, mustard and gold. Lots and lots of gold.
As far as churches go St Giles is honestly nothing short of perfection. As a former print designer, pattern and art are everything to me. So those things utterly covering a Gothic revival masterpiece is a dream come true.
Hand painting walls in this manner is an art and part of our heritage which is largely lost these days. But it is something which has long fascinated me and I always desired to treat the walls of my own home with such dedicated perfection (probably one of the reasons I've always wanted to convert a church.). Pugin's obsessive nature with the detailing, craftsmanship and perfection of St Giles is something I can honestly relate to in myself. And I can think of no better thing than living within that temple to your own creativity and vision.

St Giles is a truly overwhelming place. Everywhere you look there is something to see and every tiny detail has clearly been meticulously planned by Pugin to create the harmonious union of patterns across many different surfaces and media. The stained glass, the furniture, the candle holders, even down to the floor tiles. The man that Pugin was and what he aimed to create is evident in all of these elements, as well as the church as a whole.

I do feel a sense of sadness for Pugin that he never fully realised his dream and saw the church complete as he intended it with a spire in place. Ultimately it was just too costly and ambitious for the project. But I do hope that if Pugin could see his great gem today and the legacy his vision has created he would be truly proud. St Giles stands as a testament to the glory of gothic revival and its incredible impact of the history of British architecture and aestetics.

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