A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
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BOOK REVIEW: ‘JOHN MIDDLETON – VICTORIAN, PROVINCIAL ARCHITECT’ by the Reverend Brian Torode
The architect John Middleton is known for designing or remodelling several Victorian churches in Cheltenham. He enlarged our own St Peter’s and built St Philip and St James’s (where he is commemorated by a stained-glass window). However, little has previously been written about the work or his private life and interests of this committed Christian, a devoted family man who shunned publicity. Father Brian was prompted to find out more when exploring the history of St Stephen’s, Tivoli, and the list of sources at the end of each chapter and the Bibliography show how extensive his researches were. This excellent and very readable book is the result.
John Middleton (1820-1885) was born in York and began his career in Darlington. He later moved to Cheltenham, ostensibly to retire, but he set up in practice here and accepted commissions for further work throughout Gloucestershire, in neighbouring counties and in South Wales. His portfolio contains designs for mansions, hospitals, railway stations, parish schools and public schools, private residences and public buildings and monuments.
Father Brian gives an engrossing account of Middleton’s life and achievements. His son and partner, John Henry Middleton, was a contemporary and close friend of William Morris and, as a scholar and museum director, became nationally better known than his father had been. Details of his career and his untimely death are also included.
Some carefully chosen photographs show that Middleton’s work in Cheltenham was by no means all religious, though buildings he designed for Cheltenham College and the Ladies’ College do have an ecclesiastical look. The Delancey Fever Hospital, with its patterning of coloured bricks was another of his designs, of which the Ladies’ College Sanatorium and Bartlow on Leckhampton Hill were reminiscent. Sadly, the latter and other buildings such as the French Gothic Westholme in St George’s Road, with its sumptuous and romantic interior, built for his own family’s use, no longer exist. Father Brian has to be thanked for his exhaustive research and for rescuing the memory of these important elements in Cheltenham’s heritage. Eric Miller
THE ‘FRIENDS OF THE POETS’ present a talk by the Rev. Brian Torode entitled ‘John Middleton: his impact on Cheltenham and Architecture’
7.00pm prompt – 23rd September 2009 in St Marks Church Hall, Church Rd.
John Middleton (1820 – 1885) was a prolific Victorian Architect who started work in Yorkshire and the North East of England. He moved to Cheltenham when he was 39 and was responsible for designing 5 of Cheltenham’s 8 Anglican Churches and a staggering number of other buildings in the town and throughout the region.
The first of his Cheltenham Churches was St. Marks and the associated buildings. What was (incorrectly) known as the ‘Old Vicarage’ in Oldfield Crescent was mercilessly demolished a few years ago and the site has been re-developed. While probably not designed directly by Middleton himself, the style and some of the detail of the building was almost certainly influenced by him.
As a result of this act the Borough Council strengthened its ‘Local List’ of buildings so that some 450 or so local buildings not considered special enough to have national listed status through English Heritage have some degree of local protection. Since it has been introduced none of these buildings have been demolished.
The Poets Estate was begun in the 1920s as part of the ‘Homes fit for Hero’s’ response to the carnage of the first world war, and was built on ‘Garden City’ lines with an architectural style influenced by William Morris, who was a close friend of Middleton’s son and later partner, John Henry Middleton.
Brian Torode is Associate Priest of another of Middleton’s churches – St. Stephen’s in Tivoli. He has lived in Cheltenham for 40 years and is the author of the first book totally dedicated to John Middleton. Much of the content is the result of original painstaking research.