A listed Coventry church has been upgraded to Grade II* as part of an initiative by Historic England to commemorate the impact of the Festival of Britain on design in Britain.
The exhibition, which ran from May to September 1951, was centred on London’s South Bank while activities were also held across the UK. The festival helped to popularise modernist styles of architecture and design, such as multiple levels of buildings, elevated walkways and open interiors, which spread across post-war Britain. However, a dedication to materials like concrete meant the designs have not always been to everyone’s taste.
Nine sites linked to the Festival of Britain have been given further protection to celebrate the event’s 70th anniversary.
Christ Church, Coventry was designed in 1953 by Alfred H Gardner and built between 1956 and 1958. Directly inspired by the Festival of Britain, the building has a concrete frame with large areas of self-supporting brickwork, and is covered with a lightweight vaulted, copper roof.
The lavish interior is considered one of the most eclectic of its era, making it very rare. The Architects’ Journal (1953) described it as “Pleasure Gardens pastiche”, no doubt inspired by the Festival Pleasure Gardens at Battersea Park that ran alongside the South Bank exhibitions which was based on fun fairs like Copenhagen’s Tivoli.
Some of the church’s notable architectural features include the hanging birdcage light fittings, likely inspired by the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion from the Festival of Britain, whose overall form the building resembles, and the chequerboard pattern used on the window and tower that is also repeated across the walls in purple and gold.