Reading: The Cathedrals of England by Clifton-Taylor

Clifton-Taylor, A., 1986. The cathedrals of England Rev., London: Thames and Hudson.

I want to understand Cathedrals more – their history both architecturally and culturally. This seems like a good book to start.

“Not until the development of iron and glass for building purposes were Englishmen to see still vaster spatial envelopes” not partitioned by supporting walls. Cathedrals were, for hundreds of years, the tallest buildings in England.

A cathedral is a building in which the principle man in the diocese, the bishop, has his chair of office. It need be neither large nor fine… England has always favoured large diocese, and not many of them; this made the cathedral, as the mother-church, a natural focus… and so enabled it to grow both in size and power.


Most cathedrals were built from the middle ages onwards and range greatly in style of architecture.

‘Romanesque’ was the style of art which came before the ‘Gothic’

Pages 34 & 35 – two photos of Norwich Cathedral and Ely Cathedral. The main roofs are strikingly different. Norwich Cathedral has delicate fan vaults which flow up and onto the roof, carrying the eyes up across and back down again in a sweeping glance. Ely Cathedral has columns on both sides that stop abruptly on reaching the ceiling, and the ceiling instead of being curved, is made of three flat angles and detailed flat decoration on the ceiling. Ely Cathedral may be just as tall as Norwich Cathedral, but Norwich Cathedral has so much more energy and magic.

Exeter Cathedral looks amazing. It is the longest church roof in England. P.150

The glory of Exeter is beyond doubt the vault. The effect has often been compared to an avenue of stately trees.


P.160 Wells Cathedral: The Lady Chapel vault – geometric and converging at single point in middle. Reminds me of Cassell’s sculptures. Lots of really useful images in here that I can use when designing my sculptures.

Wells Cathedral in Somerset – want to go.

P.176 – Image looking directly up at Lincoln central tower vault – Looks so much like a simpler version of one of Emma Kunz’s drawings! This is great inspo for my next design which I want to be influenced by her work, and this.
This type of tower is called a ‘polygonal corner-butress type of tower’.

P.182 – Another incredible tower called The Octagon (!!) at Ely Cathedral.

P.231 – Best example of fan-vaults yet at Peterborough Cathedral. Good image of looking directly up. This is the work of gothic architect John Wastell.

P.242 – I should make a trip to St.Pauls Cathedral when I am next in London, the interior dome is very like those heavenly paintings and baroque architecture I saw in central Europe (not very tree like but STILL).


I hoped this book was very much focussed on the architectural details of each Cathedral in England, but not so much on cultural or historical details. The images will be useful in considering shapes in my own designs. It just made me want to go see some of these cathedrals for myself!

I keep expecting to look at this architecture and have some breakthrough with my project and work. But I’m not. I’m thinking cool they look good, they’re amazing etc etc but not, wow this is really affecting my practice. Perhaps that is because these are pieces of architecture not paintings or sculptures! I have a few ideas of artists I want to look at, perhaps I should return to fine art more now, I have had lots of architecture inspiration, but I’m making fine art so that’s where I’ll be.

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