William Wardell's downunder Gothic revival

William Wardell: Building with Conviction by Anthony G. Evans (Connor Court Publishing rrp $39.95)

During his only visit to Australia, a year before his death, my seminary classmate and friend from our shared Roman days, Professor Adrian Hastings, was amazed to find in this country two such majestic Cathedrals as St Patrick’s in Melbourne and St Mary’s in Sydney.

His reaction to these ‘down under’ Gothic Revival masterpieces was typical of that of other first-time travellers to Australia for whom I have acted as a guide. Among them were several Cardinals and Bishops.

When I told Adrian that the architect for both buildings was William Wilkinson Wardell (1823-99), like himself an Englishman, the distinguished theologian and historian was pleased. If the two Cathedrals were the only surviving examples in this country of Wardell’s genius, that alone would justify the publishing of the architect’s first full biography, written with style and passion by A G (Anthony) Evans.

But they are far from being isolated examples of their designer’s art. During his 41 years as an Australian immigrant, half of them spent in Melbourne and half in Sydney, Wardell designed wholly or in part around a dozen churches and close to 20 other buildings, most of which still stand and are much admired.

FULL REVIEW William Wardell: Building with Conviction (The Record, from Catholic Weekly)

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