FREDERICK PREEDY AND THE VICTORIAN GOTHIC REVIVAL - BY GERRY HARTE
25 November 2021
The November talk was the first in the 2021-22 season to be held exclusively in person - previous talks this season have been either hybrids or held solely via Zoom. Committee Member Gerry Harte spoke about the life and work of the locally-born architect and stained glass artist Frederick Preedy.
Frederick was born in Offenham in 1820. His family lived in that village until 1840 when they moved to Fladbury. There they lived in comparative affluence (in 1851 they had three female servants and a groom). At this time Frederick was training as an architect in the Worcester offices of Harvey Eginton (who restored St Lawrence church here in Evesham)
A major influence on Frederick's work was William Butterfield - Harvey Eginton's assistant at the end of the 1830s. Butterfield was one of the most important figures of the Gothic Revival and Preedy worked with him over the next thirty years. Butterfield's most famous architectural achievement was the building of Keble College, Oxford, but his church of All Saints', Margaret Street, London, is credited with heralding the start of the Victorian High Gothic period, and was named in 2014 by the Head of English Heritage as one of the ten buildings that changed the face of Britain.
Another major influence on Preedy was his aristocratic cousin Henry Styleman Lestrange, Lord of the Manor of Hunstanton in Norfolk. Lestrange knew most of the major players in the Oxford Movement, and it is thanks to his contacts that Frederick gained many commissions in East Anglia, including a stained glass window in Ely cathedral. Henry was a gifted artist and is credited with teaching Frederick to paint. Murals by Preedy can be found in St Luke's church, Headless Cross.
Frederick joined the Ecclesiological Society in 1852, the year he received his first commission as an independent architect - the restoration of Stretton Grandison church in Herefordshire. That organisation was the arbiter of taste in all things ecclesiastical during the middle of the 19th century. Its favoured style was early 14th century gothic, and many architects had their work reviewed in its journal, the Ecclesiologist.
Over the course of his career, Preedy is credited with designing and building 20 new churches, carrying out thirty major restorations, and designing and manufacturing over four hundred stained glass windows. There is scarcely a village in the Vale of Evesham whose church has not been built, restored or adomed by him. The first windows he actually manufactured were installed in All Saints', Church Lench, during its restoration in 1854; the latest window of his that Gerry has been able to identify locally dates from 1885 and is to be found in Fladbury. New churches of his to be found locally include the Workhouse Chapel in Evesham (now a pharmacy), and churches at Binton, Madresfield and Cookhill. Schools that he designed and built include examples in Church Lench, Fladbury and Mickleton.
Frederick died in 1898 and is buried with his wife in the churchyard at Foxham, Wiltshire (a Butterfield church).
There was a lot of interest in this talk on the part of the audience, in particular in Preedy's work the Evesham churches,