Item of Interest: the H. H. Willmore Collection

Today’s Item of Interest post comes from Lizzie Hensman, Archive Assistant at the Church of England Records Centre (CERC), who will be talking about the collection of Henry H. Willmore .

Church 2
Window detail of South West Spire

The stage section of the warehouse at the Church of England Record Centre holds a whole range of aging files of obscure origins. Although the Record Centre now only accepts records from the central bodies of the Church of England, we have some collections donated by members of the public.

The Henry H. Willmore Collection is one such donation. Composed of 14 files, it forms a near complete encyclopaedia of church spires in England which was donated to us in 1960 by his widow M. Kathleen Willmore after the Dean of Gloucester made a request for guidebooks to churches. From 1935 to 1940 Willmore visited over 800 churches all over the country, in preparation for publishing a guidebook with a working title of “Stone Spires in England (Including Brick & Stone Examples) With Some Relevant Observations on Towers, Parapets etc.”. He travelled from the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Truro to the parish church of Ambleside in Cumbria. In fact the only counties with no churches included in the main body of his work are Kent, Northumberland and County Durham. Unfortunately Willmore died in September 1940, before managing to complete the work, but what he did do is very impressive.

Church 1.1
Window Detail of Central Spire

The entries for each church include a description of the spire, some history of repairs carried out on it and gorgeous sketches of the windows and ornamentation. It feels like you should be able to play guess the church with some of the more well-known cathedrals. However, some of the drawings are of such small detail that it would seem almost impossible if you didn’t know the church architecture and history well to be able to identify them. So I’ll be very impressed if anyone can work out which cathedral the images here refer to.

Church 3
Window detail of North West Spire

The building of the cathedral in question commenced in 1880, but two of the spires weren’t finished until 1910. The architect was John Loughborough Pearson (although it was completed by his son Frank) and it is one of only two English cathedrals to have three spires.

Have you guessed yet?

For anyone wondering, the cathedral was Truro.

As well as entries for almost every stone spired church in England and Monmouthshire, Willmore’s book would have contained a history of architecture in England, focussing, of course, on the use of spires; and explanations of their construction and distribution around the country – making it a remarkable work for a retired Naval Officer with a side interest in architecture.

This collection is available on our online catalogue here.

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