Our Lady and St Joseph, Carlisle
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Our Lady and St Joseph, Carlisle

The church of Our Lady and St Joseph at Carlisle was the last major ecclesiastical work undertaken by Dunn and Hansom of Newcastle.

The church of Our Lady and St Joseph at Carlisle was the last major ecclesiastical work undertaken by Dunn and Hansom of Newcastle.  The church is dramatically simple in composition.  Aisles are slung against the long nave and the whole is dominated by a square tower with battlements.  The use of local sandstone laid in long courses gives the church the deep red hue of the vernacular buildings of Cumbria, and binds it to its site.  This connection is reinforced by the square turret that rises from the tower in an echo of Carlisle Cathedral.  Seen from a distance, the church presents a monolithic character, but this is utterly subverted by the intricately Perpendicular tracery and the richness of the sculpture around the door.  Its traceried arch with life-like birds, squirrels, lizards, and foliage does not fall far short of the famous carvings of the Ruskin-orchestrated Oxford Museum of Natural History.             

The interior is an almost continuous space stretched beneath a spectacular wagon roof, with the chancel only distinguished by the gilded wood of its ceiling.  There is no apse, and once again the traditional east window is refused in favour of a bright rose window placed high above a representation of the Crucifixion.  Externally, this arrangement promotes the blind arcade that articulates the rear wall.  Bases for statues are included, but these now stand vacant.  Dunn and Hansom’s interest in woodwork is displayed in the picturesque wooden porch, which makes an effective contrast with the stonework. 

Our Lady and St Joseph’s was the last major collaboration between Dunn and Hansom, and by the time it was completed the elder partner - then in his sixtieth year - had retired.  In February, 1893 the partnership announced its dissolution as far as Dunn was concerned. The addition of younger partners may have promised a new lease of life, but the partnership came to an abrupt end.  For some time Hansom had been suffering from insomnia and headaches that often kept him from working.  He died on 27 May 1900. After Hansom’sdeath the firm gradually dissipated.  Dunn's son, A. Manuel Dunn, departed in 1903, but W.E. Fenwicke continued to practise under the style of Dunn, Hansom, and Fenwicke until he took on new partners in 1906, whereupon the firm became Fenwicke, Watson and Curry.  Unlike his former partner, Dunn enjoyed a long retirement, during which he submitted a well-regarded but unsuccessful Gothic design for the new Roman Catholic Cathedral of Westminster, which was ultimately built to the neo-Byzantine scheme of J.F. Bentley.  Dunn continued to play an active role in the Northern Architectural Association and was accorded the rare privilege of being elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. While residing at Branksome Park, Bournemouth, Dunn died on January 17, 1917, aged 84. 

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Comments (7)

You have a really interesting series running, Michael.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Jerry. These latest articles are about Dunn and Hansom, who were the subject of my MA research.

Such a totally delightful article filled with much information.thank you.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, Roberta.

Looks like a lovely, serene place to visit. Voted.

Thank you dear Michel for this post. Hoping for encouragement.

Dunn and Hansom did marvels here too. A great account here again. 

I hope everything is fine with you, my friend. Thank you and take care, dear Michael.