A crown steeple, or crown spire, is a traditional form of church steeple in which curved stone flying buttresses form the open shape of a rounded crown. It appeared in medieval church architecture in England and Scotland, and reappeared in the 19th century as part of the Gothic Revival.
Medieval crown spires
The crown steeple on Newcastle Cathedral, in Newcastle upon Tyne, was erected in 1448 and is possibly the earliest example of this form of steeple. The crown spire of St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, was erected in 1495, and rebuilt by John Mylne in 1648. Another medieval crown steeple was built at King's College, Aberdeen (1500–1509), although this too was rebuilt in the 17th century, after the original blew down. The crown steeple of the Tolbooth Steeple, in Glasgow's Merchant City, was built in 1626-1634 by John Boyd, and at the time was the only such steeple in western Scotland. In 1698, Sir Christopher Wren added a tower with a crown steeple to St Dunstan-in-the-East, London.
Gothic Revival crown steeples
Crown steeples were often incorporated into Gothic Revival churches. The open spire of Faversham Parish Church, Kent was built in 1797, and a crown steeple was added to Tillington Parish Church, Susssex, in 1807. Others include those at Tarbert, Argyll and Bute (1886), and the Kelvin Stevenson Memorial Church, Glasgow, by John James Stevenson (1902).
A secular example tops the Wallace Monument, near Stirling, erected in 1869 to a design by the architect John Thomas Rochead. The north facade of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is a hybrid of gothic and classical architectural forms, topped by a crown steeple. This part of the building was designed by Aston Webb, and completed in 1909.
One of the most recent examples is at St. Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow, where an aluminium crown spire was added in 1964. A crown steeple was proposed for the top of Westminster Abbey, scheduled to be completed in 2013, in time for the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. However, this project has now been discontinued.
- "St. Giles High Kirk, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "King's College Chapel, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Tolbooth Steeple, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Macaulay, James. "Buildings and Cityscape". The Glasgow Story. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Church of St Dunstan in the East". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "The Parish Church of St. Mary of Charity, Faversham". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "The Parish Church of All Hallows, Tillington". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Tarbert Church of Scotland, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Kelvin Stevenson Memorial Church, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Physick, John. (1982) The Victoria and Albert Museum: The History of its Building. Victoria and Albert Museum. ISBN 0-905209-25-7 p.228
- "St. Michael's Parish Church, Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Abbey Development Plan Update". Westminster Abbey. 4 August 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
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