Bombed churches, war memorials and the changing English urban landscape

Larkham, Peter J. (2020) Bombed churches, war memorials and the changing English urban landscape. Change over Time, 9 (1). pp. 48-71. ISSN 2153-053X

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Abstract

War memorials are produced through acts of new creation and by the destructive effects of war. This article examines how some churches, in their bombed and ruinous condition, came to be re-used across England in the post-World War II period. The ways in which these buildings were treated throughout the war and the post-war reconstruction period represent a range of options for repurposing valued structures with varying degrees of damage and provide a useful snapshot of architectural and urban conservation theory and practices.

Surprisingly common in UK cities bombed during the Second World War—perhaps less so in other countries--are the ruins of bombed churches, empty sites, or markers indicating a church's former presence in the city. There are also numerous restored or rebuilt churches with signs narrating the church's history of damage. This paper explores the nature and extent of such commemorations of destruction, particularly at a time when churchgoing was in sharp decline. Churches are, in many ways, 'special buildings' in the physical and mental urban landscape: landmarks for all if not as places of worship. The investment of past societies in such special buildings, their scale, position, intricate detailing, as well as their cultural connections, all suggest why churches might become prominent and memorable memorials. But, three-quarters of a century after the Second World War, there is very limited evidence that the bombed churches remain effective or widely used as memorials. This paper uses examples from across England to explore why and how some bombed churches became war memorials, and their transition over time from memorial to mere memento.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1353/cot.2019.0004
Date: 21 July 2020
Subjects: K400 Planning (Urban, Rural and Regional)
Divisions: Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment > School of Engineering and the Built Environment
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment > School of Engineering and the Built Environment > Resilient Environments
Depositing User: Peter Larkham
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2020 10:34
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2020 12:01
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8869

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