Digital Archive Reunites 160 Years Of Church Plans
An archive spanning 160 years and containing more than 12,500 images of plans and architectural drawings of churches in England and Wales has been made available online, enabling architects, historians or people simply interested in the history of their parish church access to a vast collection of fascinating historical records.
The Church Plans Online project (http://www.churchplansonline.org/) has been created by Lambeth Palace Library and Newcastle University's Structural Images of the North East (SINE) Project, funded by the New Opportunities Fund.
Melanie Barber, former Deputy Archivist and Librarian at Lambeth and head of the management team for Church Plans On-Line until June 2002, said the project was one of the most exciting and important collaborative projects she helped to initiate at Lambeth. She said: 'The plans of churches were an obvious choice for digitisation: they are part of the nation's heritage, being evidence of church building since the Middle Ages. It has been said that it is by its churches that the architecture of a period is judged'.
The ICBS archive contains plans of churches built or restored by most of the leading architects of the day, such as G E Street, William Butterfield, A W N Pugin and Ninian Comper. Some of the records contain insights into the working practices of the time: among the oldest records in the archive is a pencil-drawn elevation for the church of St Augustine, Rugeley, dated 1818, on which the architect, Charles Heywood, has added a footnote that reads: 'This little drawing was taken from the working place. The Tower appears much higher and better in the original Drawings, which are unfortunately at Cheltenham.'
The Church Plans Online digitisation project is the culmination of a decade of research and work to make the ICBS archive more widely accessible. The plans were photographed at Lambeth Palace Library and forwarded to Newcastle University's SINE project, which was responsible for the web-searching mechanism as well as the overall design and layout of the Church Plans Online project.
The plans in the archive have been stored in a database which has both simple and advanced search mechanisms. The database records the name of the church applying for a grant; its county and diocese at the time of application; the reasons for applying; the covering dates of the records in the archive relating to that church; details of plans and photographs in the files with links to digital images of plans; names of architects and other professionals involved with the work; the outcome of the grant application; and references to entries in the Society's minute books where the size of grant and progress is recorded.