[Keble College, Oxford: (left) the Chapel and (right) Pusey Quad. Click on images to large them and to obtain additional views of these buildings.]

In 1949 Harry Goodhardt-Rendel described the High Victorian or "Modern Gothic" style of building as Rogue architecture. J. Mordaunt Crook explains

Its heroes were a group of stylistic eccentrics, architectural rogue elephants, most famously William Butterfield, E. B. Lamb, S. S. Teulon, F. T. Pilkington, E. Bassett Keeling, and Thomas ("Victorian") Harris. What these six architects had in common was what musicians call "attack": a commitment to originality at all costs; and a rogue elephant energy which smashed through all the barries of historicism. Their style was "Modern Gothic," an eclectic cocktail based on the harshest, most primitive components of Anglo-Venetian and Early French. It was an attempt to combine medievalism and modernity, traditional forms and new materials, pointed arches and plate glass. And it was popular. Rogue architecture became the demotic gothic of the 1860s. [The Dilemma of Style, 133]

In their attempt to create a truly contemporary style from older elements, these architects clearly moved beyond revivalism, and although a few decades ago their work seemed irredemiably weird and grotesque, with the coming of Postmodernism, these buildings and their architects have increasingly found admirers. As Crook points out, today we admire Butterfield for his "idiosyncrasy, that capacity for abstraction and synthesis; that talent for taking the Gothic, reducing its forms to their primary components, and then combining them with new materials like machine-made brick, engine-polished marble, and plate glass" (142). Looking at Lamb's Parish Church of St. Martin and Butterfield's All Saints, Margate Street, London, and Keble College, Oxford, what similarities to Victorian railroad stations can you perceive? In what ways does Butterfield's work resemble historicism in Victorian poetry and design?


Crook, J. Mordaunt. The Dilemma of Style: Architectural Ideas from the Picturesque to the Post-Modern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Meeks, Carol L. V. The Victorian Railroad Station: An Architectural History. New Haven: Yale UP, 1956.

Thompson, Wiilliam. William Butterfield: Victorian Architect. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971.

Last modified 16 July 2001