Talk:St. Luke's Church (Smithfield, Virginia)

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The architecture and date[edit]

I have a problem with the description of this church as "English Gothic" in style. It isn't really English Gothic in style. The crow-stepped gables are not a feature of English Gothic churches at all. They are seen on a number of medieval churches in Scandinavia, notably at Malmo, and Holland. They were used on many building in Scotland from the early 17th century. The only example that comes to mind on an English Church is a Saxon church (pre 1066) where the dressed stones appear to be reused from another building and don't match the rest of the masonry. They may have been added much later, to stabilise the ancient building.

In fact, late Gothic churches in England do not have steeply pitched roof, so there is no continuity between English Gothic church roofs and gables, and the roof and gable of this building. The Gable is Jacobean in style, or Dutch in style, or Scottish in style but one thing that it isn't is English Gothic.

Concerning the shape of the openings: they all (with the exception of the east window) appear to be round topped. Gothic openings, as their last development were flattened, squared-off pointed arches, not round arches filled with pointed tracery. The round arches have all been constructed by a builder for whom round arches are the norm. This is an architect who normally builds square doorways and windows, or round arched doorways and windows, but not pointed arches. The builder/designer was someone who worked in a Classical tradition, not a Gothic tradition. That this builder normally worked in the classical style is clearly demonstrated by the oval ocular window, and the classicall pediment over the door, and the rudimentary capitals beneath the semicircular arch.

The only window that is pointed is the East window (I don't know if it is actually to the east). Here the builder has made an attempt at bringing the top of the window to a bit of a point by making it rise eliptically, rather than in semi-circular form. The two lower rows of tracery have round tops. In the upper section, and in the other windows, the builder has made the tracery meet the edges of the window in arcs that result in pointed arches. The result gives a pleasingly Gothic and "Church-like" effect.

Regardless of the date of the church- possibly 1632, but 1682 has been put forward very convincingly. See Colonial Churches [1] .... regardless of the actual date, the architect who built this church was not an architect of the Gothic tradition. He was an architect incorporating Gothic features as best he could. As such the church can be termed a "Gothic Survival" church. or a Gothic Revival" church, but definitely not an English Gothic church.

The events- the tradition of building Gothic Churches had died out. During the English Reformation of the 16th century, there was ongoing strife, and in the latter part of the century, very little church building. In the early years of the 1600s, staunch Protestants refurnished churches as "preaching boxes" ie. They built huge pulpits with sounding boards, and box-pews so that the families who listened to long sermons could be comfy and warmed from the drafts, and so they could charge pew rent. There is a great deal of furnishing dating from this period, but not church buildings. During the Cromwellian period a few rather austere buildings were erected. There is one at Great Houghton.

The Restoration of the monarchy brought a greater wealth, and the new churches were definitely Classical, though occassionally, when built in conjunction with Gothic buildings, they incorporated Gothic details such as battlements or some tracery in the windows. There are very fine windows in Oxford dating from post 1660 with Gothicizing tracery. I would also refer to the elements at this church as Gothicizing rather than Gothic. (but it's an ugly word!)

What's it all about? Regardless of whether this church is 1632 or 1682, its been built for people who grew up attending an ancient church, and probably with a set idea about how a church ought to look. Everyone knows that churches have pointy windows, don't they? It's one of the things that defines a traditional church. So here we have an architect/builder who has done his utmost to construct a "proper" church building for the congregation.

This builder has been more confident with the roof construction in the traditional manner, than he has with the arches. As for the buttresses, well, they are just a touch grotesque, and definitely much larger than necessary, unless the building is roofed with four-inch slabs of granite.

At this point, I could go with the earlier date, pending more research. I am familiar with a window in England which has tracery very similar to that here, but in stone, not brick. I believe the tracery in that building to be a replacement for the true Gothic tracery, but whether it dates from after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, or after the Cromwellian destruction, I don't know for sure. My feeling is that it is almost certainly the latter, putting the tracery at post 1660.

Just to recap, I would tend to refer to the style of this building as "Gothic Survival", definitely not English Gothic. see Gothic architecture. Amandajm (talk) 10:16, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Be bold...this comment is longer than the article! Have at it! -- SECisek (talk) 10:20, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

... PBS did a show about this church (Hast thou seen it with thine own eye?) and I believe it said English Gothic. Could we check this with a professional in the subject? (not saying you aren't one, of course.)

Oh, and could we have a section or a mention that this was put on a PBS show? That is an interesting bit o' info, if I don't say! :) (talk) 03:49, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

The use of the description "English Gothic" comes from the NHL nomination form itself, which is cited throughout the article. I understand the argument that anything constructed in the 1600's shouldn't be called gothic. Nonetheless, a number of learned architectural historians have referred to the church as being "English Gothic." If any published, scholarly material on the Church which refers to it as "English Gothic style" or something to that effect could be found, a notation that some controversy exists with a reference to the source would help the article. VirginiaProp (talk) 22:33, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Reply to the Architecture and the Date[edit]

The comments regading the architecture of Newport Parish Church's status as a Gothic edifice are on the mark. Scholars of Virginia's colonial churches regard their physical structure as a mixture of:

  • the room church as mentioned above -- note the abbreviated rood screen but the presence of an rectangular room of 60'x25'( few Virginia churches had rood screens; none survive except as reproductions (I have added appropriate images.)
  • classial elements -- is the general massing of forma a classical feature? Certainly the triangluar pediment on the west tower and the round arch below it
  • Abbreviated gothic elements -- the analysis of the the church as the product of an architect replicating the "proper style" of an English church is probably correct. These colonial churches were built by contracters who were primarily builders. No known architect can be associated with them. Planning of the churches took place as an interaction between the vestry and the builders in what Dell Upton (cited in my date controversy article on the church) calls an interaction between mode (community standards) and style (exact expressions of those styles).

I have also edited the article about Merchant's Hope -- the perfect example of the Virginia room church. I would appreciate criticsm regarding it. (Kallicrates (talk) 23:54, 19 May 2008 (UTC))

Recent additions[edit]

There are in Wikipedia terms a few problems with the latest (interesting) changes to the article, some of the evidence seems to rely on a conversation between a tour guide at the church and someone called King (presumably the person behind the anon IP address?). This fails Wikiepdia's policies on verifiability of sources and original reasearch. David Underdown (talk) 09:38, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

Reply to Recent Additons[edit]

I appreciate the attention given to the recent comments. I have conducted research by visits to thirty or so of Virginia's colonial churches over the last year. I noted that an earlier comment on this talk page refers to the blog in which I have recorded visits to the churches for the general visitor. I have visited Newport Parish several times over a period of decades and have noted a clear propensity to accept the 1632 date as certain without considering the preponderance of data which militate for a date late in the 17th century. The guide with whom I spoke last summer was quite cordial, and we had a lively discussion regarding the age of the edifice. She showed me no written documentation but cited the results of a crew testing the walls for the National Historic Landmarks program. I should be glad to have any references that do not adhere to Wikipedia policy removed. (Kallicrates (talk) 23:30, 15 May 2008 (UTC))

Basically info has to be available in published sources, so a personally conducted interview isn't sufficient. David Underdown (talk) 11:04, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

I have edited the text to agree with Wikipedia policies. Let me know if there are further problems. If you are interested in Virginia's colonial churches, I plan to write a series of descriptions using published sources on other significant buildings starting with Merchant's Hope in Hopewell, Virginia (Kallicrates (talk) 21:14, 18 May 2008 (UTC))


I have gathered the details related to the colonial architecture of Newport Parish. I would apprecitae any comment or criticisms to render it as accurate as possible.Kallicrates (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 21:08, 18 July 2008 (UTC)