Talk:Charles Holden

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If anyone is interested in contacting me, I have written a biography of Charles Holden, as yet unpublished.

Chris Arnold m: 07778 05 66 86

Is is just me, or does his Bristol Central Library look massively Mackintosh influenced? (talk) 19:05, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

Or vice versa? Eitan Karol in his Holden biography (p.154) quotes Summerson to the effect that Mackintosh's GSA Library wing was influenced by Bristol Central Library.

Jackhughes —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jackhughes (talkcontribs) 09:10, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Holden's IWGC and WWI memorials work[edit]

I'm putting some notes here on what I found in the books I have on Holden and his WWI work:

  • The Unending Vigil (Philip Longworth, 1967) - I have the 2003 reprint of the revised and updated edition of 1985. There are three mentions of Holden that are indexed. On page 93 Longworth says that towards the end of 1922 "the Commission approved Kenyon's proposal that the other Principal Architects, Lutyens, Baker and Charles Holden, should each be given the opportunity of creating a major memorial". I know that some of the plans for memorials were later dropped, so maybe this explains why Holden didn't do a major memorial (this refers to the memorials to the missing). The quote from Longworth that was obtained through Karol is on page 102 of my edition - it is a sentence that points out that the Principal Architects had a tendency to over-decorate "apart from Charles Holden [...] whose cemetery architecture tended to be almost cruelly severe [....]". On page 130, Longworth sums up with "the memorials represented the work of the best artists of a generation" and then includes Holden in the subsequent list. But Longworth tends to say much more about Baker, Lutyens and Blomfield, rather than Holden.
  • The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme (Gavin Stamp, 2006) has much more to say (I have the 2007 paperback). Page 86 is a photo of Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension. Page 143 has a passing mention of Holden's work on 55 Broadway. The other references are on pages 88-93: Warlincourt Halte is said to be a Holden cemetery; "Lutyens and Holden used the least sculpture and carving"; Stamp confirms that Holden went from Assistant Architect to Principal Architect in 1920 (there were only ever four for France and Belgium, I think, the original three and then Holden); the salary of the Principal Architects was "initially £400 per annum, raised to £600 in 1919"; Stamp makes the important point that in many cases it was the Assistant Architects who did designs approved or amended by the Principal Architect, and says that "The ultimate authorship of a particular war cemetery is often confirmed by the Commission's standard report sheets" (doubtlessly Guerst will have made the same point in his book); Stamp does also say (in a sentence describing Lutyens as the chief influence on the architecture of the cemeteries) that "Lutyens himself may well have been influenced by the severely abstract work of Holden", so you could say that Stamp described Holden's work as "severely abstract"; Stamp also quote von Berg as saying "Holden, serious and painstaking, was a senior architect for whom I had the greatest respect"; Stamp also relates the same bit related by Karol and Guerst, and says "There is evidence, however, that Forceville, the most successful of these cemeteries, as well as Louvencourt, were actually the work of Holden as Blomfield's assistant and the economical severity of its design would serve as a model for the Commission's architects". That brings in a new point, that Holden was Assistant Architect to Blomfield? If that can be fleshed out, it might be worth including.
  • Lutyens and the Great War (Skelton and Gliddon, 2008): On page 24-5, this book says that Charles Aitken had suggested the name of Holden (among others) even before Ware's "Working Party" trip to France in July 1917. Presumably, this led to Holden's appointment to the 'Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries' on 3 October 1917; on page 109 there is more detail on the hierarchy of architects in France (and Belgium), with the "Principal Architects" (PA) being assisted by "Architects in France" (AIF). The text says "the Charles Holden who was wanted by Lutyens, started as an AIF but was subsequently made a PA in 1920". There is also a quote from Kenyon on the same page discussing who should be assistant to whom, and he says "[...] Lutyens for Holden [...] Holden will be more able to keep Lutyens's vagaries in check than anyone else". Later on the same page "it would appear that Holden was heavily involved with Forceville at least, because the shelter building bears the hallmarks of his severe aesthetic". On page 113, the quote from Von Berg is repeated (see Stamp above, the notes to Skelton and Gliddon reveal that this was from a letter from Von Berg to Stamp on 13 August 1977). In describing cemetery shelters on page 119 as being mostly classical, the text says "ocassionally, as with the works of Holden, they have a more Modernist appearance". On page 122 is speculation that one of the 'one-off' designs of Lutyens were similar in style to Holden ("modernistic") and may have been the response of Lutyens to Holden's work at Corbie. On page 129, there is a treatment of which architects designed which cemeteries, and there is a table that lists Holden has being responsible for 67 out of 919 cemeteries on the Western Front - for context, this is a relatively low value - the top four entries by number of cemeteries are: Cowlishaw (229), Lutyens (137), Blomfield (119), and Baker (111). Holden is the next one in the list with 67. There are 10 architects named, with 7 attributed to "other". FWIW, List of buildings by Charles Holden only gives 47 cemeteries at the moment.
  • Silent Cities (Gavin Stamp, 1977) is a booklet that accompanied the RIBA exhibition of this name held in November and December 1977. However, what Stamp writes here may have been superseded since. On page 11, he writes of the three experimental cemeteries "designed by Blomfield assisted by F. Higginson for the first two and Charles Holden for the last [Louvencourt]." In describing Holden's style, Stamp also uses the quote (presumably from Longworth's work of 1967) of "almost cruelly severe", but also describes Holden's work as "stripped-down neo-classicism of great power" and "very military in character". This exhibition booklet also includes biographical notes at the back on the architects. The photos here uses Corbie as an example of Holden's cemeteries. Stamp also lists the designers of the memorials, listing the two that Holden worked on. On page 17 (and in the biographical notes on Holden in the appendix), Stamp mentions that the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner was designed by Holden and sculpted by Jagger. The biographical notes on Holden in this booklet say that he left the Commission on 31.3.1928 - a few other things are noted, mostly already covered, but the role of Holden in the Royal Artillery Memorial should be mentioned in this article.

That is what I could find in the books I have. Carcharoth (talk) 17:56, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

Thanks. Karol covers most of this in the relevant section of his book, including the von Berg quote repeated from Stamp and the influence of Holden and Lutyens on each other. I'm working on this section of the article at the moment. Karol implies that Holden only got two smaller memorials and smaller cemeteries on which to work because the other three principal architects had allocated the larger ones before he was appointed to as PA.--DavidCane (talk) 00:40, 20 February 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. Are there any hints as to why a fourth PA was appointed and why he (and not others) was chosen? I presume that the people that would have decided this either realised they needed another PA (and Holden was the natural choice), or that Holden stood out from the possible choices. Holden was the youngest of them, and he was nearly 20 years younger then the oldest (Blomfield). Is it possible to say how he stood in relation to the other PAs at that time? Were the other PAs the leading lights of British architecture, and how was Holden seen relative to that? One other thing, I read a nice story about von Berg and how he was awaiting demobilisation in 1919, an army notice was posted asking for architects to apply to the IWGC, and he jumped straight into the saddle of his horse and raced off to apply (and got the position)! Carcharoth (talk) 01:03, 20 February 2011 (UTC)
Basically, the other three had too much to do. Kenyon had anticipated this and Holden was experienced in the work. Certainly, the other three architects had had longer careers than Holden and Lutyens and Bloomfield had already been knighted by the time Holden was appointed. Holden was younger, but well known in his profession. The von Berg story is mentioned in Guerst (page 59).--DavidCane (talk) 02:22, 20 February 2011 (UTC)
Though regarding the Royal Artillery Memorial, it seems that it was Pearson, Holden's partner in the architectural firm, that did the design, at least according to Holden, Charles Henry, JAMES STEVENS CURL. A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. 2000. Retrieved February 19, 2011 from Though it looks like some other sources are confused about this as well. Carcharoth (talk) 18:01, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
Karol is also clear that it was Lionel Pearson that worked with Jagger on the Artillery Memorial.--DavidCane (talk) 00:40, 20 February 2011 (UTC)