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Ewan Christian: Ecclesiastical
Architect (1814-93)

by Tony Jarram
& Lynne Dyer

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National Portrait Gallery

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Chancel added to St Peter's church, Copt Oak

Ewan Christian is best known for being the architect of the National Portrait Gallery, London but the majority of his work focussed on the renovation, extension and restoration of churches

After studying at the architectural school of the Royal Academy, Christian was briefly employed by William Railton in 1836 and worked with a number of other architects before setting up his own practice in 1842. Churches became Christian’s speciality and he was appointed Architect to the Ecclesiastical Commission in 1851, replacing Railton.

The chancel of St Paul’s, Woodhouse Eaves was extended in 1871, under the office of the Ecclesiastical Commission, with Christian adding the transepts in 1880. He also added a chancel to St Peter, Copt Oak, the sister church of St Paul’s, in 1889. The 1871 chancel extension at St Paul’s reduced the size of the original galley placed by Railton at the west end of the nave. Christian received some criticism for the severity of some of his changes to existing churches.

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St George's chapel (north transept), St Paul's (by Beth Walsh)

Christian built St Marks, Belgrave Gate, Leicester (1870-72), perhaps one of his greatest works and also carried out work on a number of other local churches, including:

Chancel and restoration of St Peter’s, Belgrave (1860)

General restoration and rebuilding of the chancel at All Saints, Hoby (1863-64)

Chancel, chapels and parts of the transepts of The Assumption of St Mary the Virgin, Hinckley (1877-78)

Rebuild of St. James the Greater, Oaks in Charnwood (1883)

Restoration of St Mary Magdalene, Knighton (1894)

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St Mark's, Belgrave Gate

During his career, Christian carried out work on over 1,300 churches, including 880 chancel restorations and built 90 new churches. Other notable projects include extensive restoration at Carlisle Cathedral (1853-57) and the long term works at Southwell Minster, a project which lasted for 37 years! The replacement of two pyramid spires which had been lost in a fire in 1711 are its most outstanding feature.

Ewan Christian married Anne Bentham in 1848 and they had three daughters. He died in 1895 at his home in Hampstead, London, called Thwaitehead, which he designed himself