Monday, 30 October 2017

Rockin' In The Crypt



As a child I could never quite get my head round how Dad travelled the world on business but claimed never to see much of the places he visited. After several years of trading at vintage fairs up and down the country I'm beginning to understand. We travel to fantastic cities most weekends but, other than a glimpse from the van window, we rarely see more than the room the fair is held in, the loading bay and car park.


It was the fourth time we'd taken our wares to Liverpool and as usual were set up in super quick time, the advantage of setting a day aside during the week leading up to a fair and having a dummy run in the garden.


 With half an hour to spare before opening time we set off to explore the venue, Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ the King.


The fair itself was held in the crypt and below is where you'd have found us at 8am on Saturday morning, humping twenty-nine sacks of vintage through that doorway.


In 1930 Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 - 1944) was tasked with designing an appropriate response Neo-Gothic Anglican Cathedral on the newly acquired grounds of a former Victorian workhouse opposite. His plans were ambitious, a massive structure with a dome larger than that at St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, to be funded by donations from Liverpool's working class Catholic population. Work started in 1933 but with the building restrictions imposed by WWII and costs spiraling from £3 million to £27 million, construction was forced to stop eight years later. Work recommenced in 1956 but Lutyens' original plans were considered too costly and were abandoned once the crypt was completed in 1958. 


Accessed by a spiral staircase from a glazed chapel in the cathedral above, Lutyens Crypt is wonderfully atmospheric. Built to withstand the weight of what was originally intended to be the second largest church in the world, the crypt is constructed from six million purple bricks and granite dressings hewn from Cornish quarries. The vaulted passageways lead to numerous side rooms and make for a fabulously dramatic backdrop to showcase the equally fabulous vintage wares on offer.


Following the abandonment of Lutyens plans, in 1953 architect Adrian Gilbert Scott (brother of the architect of the nearby Anglican cathedral) was given a budget of £4 million and tasked with creating an alternative cathedral. His suggestion was for a scaled-down version of Lutyens' but the idea was widely criticised and the plan was shelved.


In 1959 a competition to design the cathedral was launched with just two requirements, the design should allow a congregation of 2,000 to be able to view the altar and that Lutyens Crypt was incorporated into that structure. 


The winner was Sir Frederick Gibberd (1908 - 1984), construction began in 1962 and was completed in 1967. Shortly afterwards the building started to display architectural flaws including leaks in the aluminium roof and defects in the mosaic tiles, leading to the cathedral authorities suing Gibberd for £1.3 million. 



The jury's still out as to whether the cathedral was a success. When we tell people that we're trading at Liverpool's cathedral we often get asked if its the ugly one or the other one. Widely nicknamed Paddy's Wigwam, the American broadcaster CNN placed it at number seven in their top ten of the world's ugliest buildings.


When The Antiques Roadshow was broadcast from there a few years ago I was riveted, it looked unlike any church I'd ever seen and I loved it. 


It's even more breathtaking in real life, Mid-Century design on a huge scale, packed with vibrant colour and stark, modernist details.




Isn't this concrete panel incredible?




Beautiful, awe-inspiring and still causing controversy at 50 years old? Amen to that!


We didn't have a religious experience on our whistle-stop tour (or were we looking for one) but went back to the fair feeling uplifted and refreshed. We agreed that it had been far too long since we'd had the time to do anything cultural but with only two fairs left until the end of the year it's high time we dusted off those NT membership cards and took a trip. Discovery is good for the soul.

JON: Tartan skinnies (charity shop), Doc Marten monkey boots (50th birthday present from me), 1970s lilac dress shirt (nicked from the stockroom), Diesel Black Gold waistcoat (charity shop), 1970s leather jacket (car boot sale)
ME: Vintage Sandine Originals, New York maxi dress (Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair, Bath)
The fair? It was school half-term and fairly quiet but, if we'd never taken the risk and had stayed close to home trading at local fairs in community centres & church halls it would have been a record breaker takings-wise (and we'd have never got to see such a cool cathedral). Next stop, Art Deco splendour at Walthamstow Assembly Hall.


See you soon!

60 comments:

  1. I love, love, love this building. I love both of the Liverpool cathedrals for the amazing art, but concrete, William Mitchell, Elisabeth Frink and John Piper, what a delight!

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    1. Funnily enough I thought of you when we visited! It really is incredible, isn't it? The sculptures were utterly wonderful. xxx

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  2. Walthamstow is something else! You will love it! Also William Morris’s birthplace is 5 mins away.

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    1. The Assembly Hall looks gorgeous. I'm sad that William Morris's house is so close and we won't have time to see it! xxx

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  3. two very chic explorers - a beauty of a dress! - of that cool building! hooray for real modern architecture!
    and please dust of your NT cards - your posts about your trips around england are very welcome!
    xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate! I saw that dress on another trader's rail last weekend and had to have it - luckily it wasn't too expensive!
      I can't believe people think the cathedral is ugly, no accounting for taste! xxx

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  4. so neat you got to see it in real life. I saw the program it was featured on in Antiques Roadshow and it is definitely on my must see list if I ever cross the pond again.

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    1. It was hard to photograph the beauty of the interior as I didn't use a flash but it really was fabulous. xxx

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  5. such an elegant couple you are!, Jon is looking so cool in his fab leather jacket and tartan skinnies!, and your dress is particularly fabulous and colorful!, I love that print and colors!
    Your stall always look pretty appealing, even more in a so atmospheric background!. I think it's not strange that you like a so typically 60's building in all its amazing style!. Lovely that you could enjoy it!
    besos

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    1. Thanks, Monica! Brick backgrounds are wonderful for showing off vintage clothes.
      The Metropolitan Cathedral is the coolest religious building I've ever visited. xxx

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  6. What a wonderful place! So interesting. You and Jon look great too Vix!

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  7. You guys do get to visit so many unique venues. Shame it wasn't busier. I always used to feel a bit let down after a show like that, what will all the work that the set up and break down requires.

    I'm glad you had the opportunity to see a unique building.

    My husband travels all the time and rarely sees much of the cities he visits.

    LOVE your dress! You both look so 60's/70's fab!

    Suzanne

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    1. Vintage fairs, they're such a gamble. Will anyone turn up, will those who come like our stuff and if they do will it fit them? No wonder we both can't sleep the night before.
      Robert travels to some wonderful places, you need to fly out and visit him more then he gets to be a tourist.
      I fell for that dress as soon as I saw it, thank goodness it wasn't too expensive! xxx

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  8. I think it’s quite beautiful too! Modern church’s around here look like warehouses:( Beautiful dress by the way! :)

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    1. Warehouses! So many modern buildings these days are just ugly breeze block boxes. isn't it wonderful when somebody is brave enough to break the boundaries and do something wild? xxx

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  9. I had no idea such a place existed!! Gosh it's imposing. I love discovering new places. Thank you for sharing all these photos! Xx

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    1. Its fantastic in real life, well worth a trip! xxx

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  10. It looks like an amazing building. It's sad that some people take a disliking to things just because they are out of the ordinary. Wouldn't it have been fabulous if Lutyen's original design had been built? Imagine that!

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    1. It is quite sad that so many people dislike it. I think it's wonderful that the architect created something so different and groundbreaking rather than designing something that was a rehash of the past. You're right though, I'd have loved to have seen Lutyens' original cathedral in all it's massive glory! xxx

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  11. Going to church are ya??? I visited a ton when I went to England & France!! So stunning & impressive!

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    1. I'm surprised I didn't get struck down for my heathen ways! xxx

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  12. I'll go on record as being one that loves the building. There's something so space-age about it, looking like a capsule that's just splashed down in the ocean (of concrete). The altar and artwork are great examples of the era. Both your outfits look right in line with the vibe of the place.

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    1. Hooray! Me, too. Much as I love ancient architecture, the Metropolitan Cathedral really is a thing of beauty. Those clean, sharp lines of the exterior are just fabulous. xxx

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  13. I loved the church! I always think ugly and beautiful are subjective. I think things are beautiful, even if different. I love different. Makes life exciting. Exciting makes me happy.

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    1. You're right. For something to get such a strong reaction then I think the architect achieved what he intended. I loved it. xxx

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  14. not a fan of modern buildings, but I do love the stained glass. And the crypt.

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    1. As modern buildings go it's a good one! xxx

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  15. It is beautiful inside. I was lucky enough to have a friend who gave me a guided tour.

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    1. It really is. How lovely to get a tour, I'd love to have one next time. xxx

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  16. What a turbulant history the cathedral's had in its relatively short life! Although obviously I can understand the wigwam reference, I quite like the building and it is especially magnificent inside. The stained glass dome is stunning and that concrete panel is fabulous too. And how wonderful to be able to trade inside Lutyens Crypt! xxx

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    1. I really liked it! I hoped my photos would do The Metropolitan Cathedral justice. It's definitely worth a visit if you ever get to Liverpool. I think that concrete panel is St George - I didn't notice the dragon until I uploaded my photos to the PC this morning! xxx

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  17. Definitely mid-century modernist, reminds me of modernist jewellery. What an odd place to have a vintage fair but very interesting!

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    1. I've seen a modernist tiara just like the metal structure above the altar.
      Isn't it a great place to hold a fair? They do gin festivals and concerts there as well. xxx

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  18. An interesting tour of a place I had not heard of. Certainly an unusual venue for a fair.All those sacks of clothes.that is really hard work. Love your blogs. Never can guess what you will show us next. Was Jon wearing black watch tartan?looks like the kilts that was our school uniform in Dunedin New Zealand 60 years ago. Dunedin is named as Edinburgh of th South.

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    1. Thank, Sally! It really is an incredible building. Everyone always associates Liverpool with The Beatles but there's so much more.
      I never know what I'm going to blog about either. I took these photos just for me but was quite pleased with how they turned out and thought I'd share them! xxx

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    2. PS My brother travelled to NZ a few years ago, he loved Dunedin!

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  19. How fascinating, I love the way you bring your photos alive in your posts by giving them a background history and this one was no exception.
    You both looked great and I love the dress you're wearing, it's absolutely beautiful. xxx

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    1. Thanks, Sally! I do like doing my homework after I've been somewhere new.
      I even googled the label on my dress after I'd bought it and ended up falling in love with every design they'd ever created! xxx

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  20. As venues go this was a good 'un. How fab to be trading from a crypt. I'm not a fan of the cathedral externally, but from what we've seen inside it, it appears striking. Interesting to learn the history behind it. Love your frock! X

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    1. The first time we traded in the crypt I thought it was going to be icy cold and damp and nearly melted away wearing a marabou feather trimmed velvet dress and full-on thermals!
      The more I look at the third-from-the-bottom photo the more I love the exterior of the cathedral, it definitely makes a statement. xxx

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  22. I have been there once briefly when I was in my early 20s. However, our son is now up at uni not far from there so definitely looking forward to spending more than a single afternoon in Liverpool. He recently went to the slavery museum so I've also added that to the list. Know what you mean about not seeing anything...I'm at the NEC twice a year but have never been into Birmingham! Arilx

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    1. I'm intrigued by the slavery museum. I've heard that the Walker Gallery is fantastic. too.
      If you ever find the time to visit Brum the city art gallery is a must. xxx

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  23. This is fantastic! It reminds me of our National Library with its brutalist panels and stained glass. Here are some links https://www.nla.gov.au/venue-hire, https://www.nla.gov.au/about-us/our-building/art
    xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. That's a fabulous building, thanks for the link! x

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  24. I think both Mid-Century Modern and the Brutalist style which followed are under-appreciated. It's easy to forget the era, influences and styles they followed. I am an art history junky (I actually majored in it) and seem to be alone in my fascination with it. I love to see the places you travel and appreciate your take on it -- and how much you value different aesthetics.

    People are too addicted to "pretty" things to appreciate that there is beauty in starkness or sharp edges. Thanks for sharing this and the history!

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    1. You're definitely not alone in your fascination with Brutalism and Mid-century architecture although you're right, they are so often unappreciated.
      I'd love to see some of your favourite buildings. xxx

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  25. I like the unusual details of the church, and the fabulous art - too bad about the building flaws though. The crypt is a cool venue for a vintage fair, it's unfortunate that didn't translate into more business. We have such boring buildings in the city where I live!

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    1. The disadvantages of building on a tight budget, I expect!
      The fair wasn't terrible, just slower than we hoped. The season's been pretty good to us so far. xxx

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  26. AH! Good for you! Discovery IS good for the soul! Fantastic photos!

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! Lovely to hear from you. xxx

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  27. I'm fortunate enough to live just over the water in Wirral and visit this cathedral every few months. What treats you saw there in the bright , bold colours and some amazing architecture from the 60's. If I'd known you were going to be there I'd have popped over to say hello. Come to Liverpool again soon !

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    1. Hello Cath! You are very lucky. I'd be popping in all the time if I lived nearer. We'll definitely be back in the Spring, it would be lovely to meet you. xxx

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  28. When I ended up in Liverpool on my cruise last year, this cathedral was singularly the thing that captivated my heart in Liverpool! I was so awed by the utter exquisite beauty of it that I cried when I was in there! I really loved it in a way that the Anglican cathedral didn't touch my heart! I would love to visit there again!
    Ahhh, shame, I would have come to Walthamstow for this if it wasn't that I was already going to Kent this weekend to stay with myDad. Sad!x

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    1. It is a wonderful thing. I know most cathedrals were built to inspire awe but to be honest, most look the same inside and we tend to feel complacent towards all that gold and opulence. the clean lines and bright colours really do uplift and inspire, don't they? xxx

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  29. Oooooooh, this is spectacular! What a stunning building! xxx

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    1. Well worth a trip to Liverpool! xxx

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  30. My mother-in-law (Catholic, did her nursing training in Liverpool in the 60s) always referred to the RC cathedral as 'Paddy's Wigwam'. Now I'm intrigued to know what the original designs were like.

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    1. I bet Lutyens' original designs were amazing, the crypt is breath-taking! xxx

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Love from Vix
xxx