Stephen Dykes Bower
Format 234x167mm, 204pp, colour cover, published 2011
By Anthony Symondson.
Stephen Dykes Bower (1903-1994) was unique among twentieth century British architects as a sincere practitioner of Gothic design whose career was mainly in the post 1945 period. He rejected modernism and continued traditions from the late Victorian period, with an emphasis on fine detail, craftsmanship and bright colour.
He built four completely new churches, including the remarkable richly-patterned St. John’s at Newbury. At Bury St Edmunds his extension of a parish church into a cathedral, ‘our finest modern cathedral’ in the view of Sir John Betjeman, was spectacularly completed in 2005 with the addition of a crossing tower, designed by Warwick Pethers, the last of his assistants.
Most of Dykes Bower’s work was in the context of older buildings, including Westminster Abbey, where he cleaned the grimy stonework of the interior and added sparkling colour to the monuments. At St. Pauls Cathedral, he created the sumptuous high altar and baldacchino. Parish churches across England bear witness to his skill and care, and to the team of craftsmen in silver, iron, stone and decorative painting who carried out his designs. In addition, he was an expert on organs and their cases, and one of the best designers of fine embroidered vestments, frontals and hangings.
Dykes Bower’s skill was not only in details but also in making harmonious spaces for worship.
Anthony Symondson draws on many conversations with Stephen Dykes Bower and people who knew and worked with him to create a revelatory account of a largely unknown career. It follows the same author’s major study, Sir Ninian Comper (2006). This book will appeal to lovers of churches and their decoration, to professionals involved in church design and conservation, and to all who are interested in the alternatives to Modernism in the twentieth century.