Architects Architecture Art Design

Cubitt + Sons + Dorking Cemetery Dorking Surrey

Resting in Peace

Opened in 1855, Dorking Cemetery now has somewhere for everyone: it’s multi-faith. Despite its location on the busy Reigate Road, upon entering through the archway of the lodge an air of tranquillity prevails. A sculpture park for the dead has the rolling Surrey Hills as a backdrop. The pretty flint faced (red roofed) lodge, the (gable ended) Anglican chapel and the (high hipped) nonconformist chapel were all completed the following year. The builder was Cubitt and Sons; the architect, Henry Clutton (1819 to 1893). The same year the cemetery opened, Henry Clutton along with William Burges won a competition to design Lille Cathedral. But after much brouhaha and not a little anti-English sentiment, the executed scheme was built to the design of local architect Charles Leroy, despite him only coming third place.

Company founder Thomas Cubitt (1788 to 1855) was a highly successful housebuilder and developer, best known for developing Belgravia and Lower Belgravia (Pimlico). Stuccoed neoclassical terraces are synonymous with his surname. There’s a statue to Thomas Cubitt in the centre of Dorking: “A great builder and a good man.” He lived just outside the town. Thomas Cubitt has the double honour of having a gastropub named after him on Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, and being the great great great grandfather of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Cubitt and Sons continued as a building company for several decades after his demise.

Architecture Art Design

Lille Cathedral + The Basilica of Notre Dame de Ia Treille

Pointed Arches Circling the Globe

Mid 19th century England saw a flowering of Gothic Revival architects: George Gilbert Scott, William Butterfield, William White and of course the Pugin dynasty. Across the Channel, things were pretty pointed too. At the dawn of the Second Empire, 200 churches were under construction in France. The Gothic style enjoyed official State endorsement as Napoleon III garnered support among the Catholic clergy.

It’s 1854. The booming city of Lille is declared a diocese, independent of the declining capital of French Flanders, Arras. Time for a church dedicated to a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary protected by an iron trellis. Time for an international architectural competition. A diktat declares it must be Gothic Revival. What can possibly go wrong? English Protestant architects winning? In the words of one assessor, “L’Angleterre qui a triomphé!” And so William Burges and his sidekick Henry Clutton take first prize.

William Burges was the master of polychromatic romanticism. Witness his rather bonkers Tower House in Kensington. A neo medieval mini fortress on an uppity middle class leafy avenue. Further witness his bold and brilliant maximalist St Fin Barre’s Cathedral of Cork. But Lille was never to benefit from William Burges’ boldness and brilliance. Much curmudgeonly fudgery later, winner of the third price – the Gothic Revivalist and very French Jean-Baptiste Antoine Lassus – was commissioned to build the “Cathedral for the North of France”.

The church was indeed later upgraded to a cathedral with the establishment of the seat of the Bishop of Lille in 1913. But the dosh ran out in 1947 and Monsieur Lassus’ twin peaked entrance was never executed. Fast forward to the 1990s and the front was finally completed to the design of Lille architect Pierre-Louis Carlier. The style is Minimalist Gothic. A vast arch dominating the façade is filled with 28 millimetre thick white marble which appears opaque outside but allows orangey light to flood the interior. A rose window by Ladislaus Kijno is set into the top of the arch. Shadows crisscross as candles flicker against 21st century artworks. Overhead, a hanging reads: “Revenez à Dieu: Il vous appelle à la Vie en Jésus Christ!