INSPIRED BY GOTHIC: Ruins, Romance, Revival
The latest exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum which explores examples of Gothic art and architecture across Chester is now open. Consisting of over 100 exhibits, including paintings, drawings, woodwork and textiles, the display shows the influence of the Gothic architectural style across Chester, the borough, and beyond.
Cheshire has a wealth of Gothic Revival architecture, seen in places such as Eaton Hall and the restorations of Chester Cathedral, and both houses and churches were equipped in the Gothic style. The exhibition offers an in depth look at Chester’s past with many of the drawings showing the city how it used to look. Meet Hugh Lupus, the original founder of the abbey of St Werburgh, in a painting on loan from the town hall. The Town Hall itself, built 1865-9 is one of the most important Gothic revival buildings in Chester, and is a Victorian interpretation of the 13th century Cloth Hall in Ypres, Belgium.
Not being an expert on architecture, these glimpses into the city’s past were what fascinated me. The bustling port full of docked ships around the Water Tower before the river silted up… the original towers on the old Dee bridge to defend against attacks from Welsh Handbridge.. the collapse of the tower of St Johns.. a bustling Town Hall square in a painting by Louise Rayner. The cloisters of the Cathedral before the stained glass windows were installed. There are many points of interest including a wooden carved Litany desk on loan from the Cathedral. Removed from the context of the Cathedral, which is packed with intricate carvings and decorations it appears even more impressive.
A series of etchings by the Yorkshire artist, George Cuitt show run down and decayed abbeys and castles in North Wales, and reflect the romantic sentiment associated with the Gothic period, These dreamlike pieces of art show decay and time taking hold before the Castles were restored. You can easily imagine Frankenstein’s monster taking a walk through any of these evocative pictures.
In our historic city, where links to the past and tradition are as important as ever, the exhibition closes with a look at the Mystery Plays and the ever popular Midsummer watch. The Mystery Plays date back to the 15th century and were originally performed by members of the trade guilds. The Midsummer watch, another ancient tradition ran from 1498 to 1678 before being revived in 1989. Also on show is a 106 year old dress which was used as a costume for the 1910 historical pageant.
Dan Garner, Chairman of the Chester Archaeological Society, said: “The Society recently donated its collection of Cheshire prints to the Grosvenor Museum, and many of the pictures in the exhibition are drawn from our donation. We are delighted that our gift is being used in this way, enabling the public to understand and enjoy the riches of Cheshire’s cultural heritage.”
There are a range of activities to tie in with the exhibition, including guided tours of the Town Hall (Fri 11 and 21 March) and the Gothic revival in Chester (5 and 23 May) by the Chester Tour guides, as well as a variety of lectures and readings. Activities for children include “Creepy Tales by Candlelight” on the 14 April , with the Midsummer watch on the 18th and 19th June. For the full list of events see : http://events.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk/venue/grosvenor-museum/
The exhibition runs until the 26 June!