St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Armidale, stands just round the corner from its Catholic neighbour. Though both are Gothic in style, their differences are distinctive.
St Peter’s was designed by John Horbury Hunt (1838-1904), the Canadian-born original architect of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle (begun 1869) on the New South Wales coast and Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton (1881).
Hunt favoured brick, an unexpected material for a cathedral, because its relative cheapness ensured that as much as possible could be built with the limited amount of money available.
The first Bishop of Grafton & Armidale, James F Turner, commented, “Our architect has studied carefully to give the church a certain stateliness of character, and therein has succeeded admirably…it is real, honest, and true; and shows what may be done in a material often too little regarded, viz, common brick.”
Hunt used local blue brick sourced from clay on the Saumarez estate, with Uralla granite dressings and a scissor-truss roof. Building began in 1873 and after two years the first phase was opened. The vestries and chapter house were added in 1910, and the tower completed in 1938.
I visited Armidale to lecture to the local decorative and fine arts society on Chicago. Illustrating skyscrapers in that city, I remarked the Mies van der Rohe’s IBM Tower ignores its surroundings while the earlier Wrigley Building is carefully shaped to fit into its geographical context on the bend of a river – very like, I said, the modern annexes to St Peter’s Cathedral, which blend in a neighbourly way with Hunt’s original design.
At the end the gentleman who gave the vote of thanks remarked how pleased he was that I’d mentioned the extensions to St Peter’s Cathedral because he was Tony Deakin, the architect who designed the Parish Hall: http://focusmag.com.au/ne/interviews/tony-deakin.
When you address an audience, you never know who’s listening.
Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Gothic Down Under: English architecture in the Antipodes explores the influence of British architects, and British-trained architects, on the design of churches and other buildings in the emerging communities of Australia and New Zealand. For details, please click here.