Medieval Romance, Antique Primitive: B.W. Mountfort’s Hemingford Church

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Emily Turner


The Gothic Revival is arguably one of the most important and influential architectural movements before the advent of global culture in the twentieth century. Spreading throughout the British Empire in the nineteenth century, Gothic Revival architecture had the power to influence the culture of Britain’s newest and farthest colonies, particularly New Zealand, a colony that was viewed as a blank slate free for development. It is without surprise that Gothic Revival architecture became a prominent part of the young colony’s landscape in the opening decades of its development. One of the architects primarily responsible for the introduction of the Gothic style to the colony was Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort. His first design for the colony was a small church at the settlement of Hemingford in Canterbury. This modest design not only demonstrates Mountfort’s skill as an architect in his ability to adapt the complex and demanding Gothic style to a wooden church constructed with limited financial and material resources but also his ability to create a church that reflected the emerging cultural identity of the young colony. This paper will argue that, for New Zealand, the Gothic Revival and its adaptation on the islands became a symbolic style that represented the country New Zealand was to become: a younger, better England. It will also argue that Mountfort’s Hemingford Church was the ideal representation of everything the colony wished to achieved, neatly packaged in a humble architectural design.

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Session V: Left Brain/Right Brain
Author Biography

Emily Turner

Moderator: Dr. Jill Atkinson, Psychology