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100 Places - Art, Architecture & Sculpture

Our Art, Architecture & Sculpture category judge, BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, has chosen his top ten from a long list of public nominations.

A History of England in 100 Places is sponsored by Ecclesiastical

The powerful Angel of the North, the 'transportive' Barbara Hepworth Museum and the iconic St Paul's Cathedral are among the places selected.

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33. The Angel of the North, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Barbara Hepworth’s home

 

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34. St Paul’s Cathedral and Coventry Cathedral

 

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35. Chatsworth and Kelmscott

 

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St Paul’s Cathedral, London

The jewel in the crown of London's iconic skyline, St Paul's Cathedral remains one of the country's most cherished architectural icons. As the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London, the Anglican cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. The Christopher Wren masterpiece is deemed so important that it is a protected view, which ensures that Londoners from certain viewpoints around the city can still catch a glimpse of its magnificent dome.

Although the site had a church from 604 AD, the present Wren creation was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. Wren was inspired by the architecture of Paris, and by Michelangelo's dome at St Peter's Cathedral in Rome, to introduce something truly ground-breaking to London. It shocked some and angered others, who feared it was "too popish", but it wasn't long before it became an integral element of the city's landscape.

Testament to the close connection Londoners feel for the cathedral, it was loyally defended by civilians during the Blitz of the Second World War and seen as a symbol of hope throughout the conflict: as long as it stood unharmed, all was not lost.

See the List entry for St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral, general view from south east
St Paul's Cathedral, City of London © Historic England

Angel of the North, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

Antony Gormley's vast contemporary sculpture stands at more than 60 feet high on a hillside overlooking the A1, just south of Gateshead. It was commissioned by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council, constructed between 1994 and 1998, and is a national landmark.

According to the artist, the significance of the angel was three-fold: to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners worked for two centuries; to grasp the transition from an industrial to an information age; and to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears.

More than its artistic intent, the Angel of the North has become a poster child for public art. The project has faced criticism from many angles, including initially from Gormley himself, but the Angel has worked its way into people's hearts. It is a national icon: a tribute to the north and to the awe-inspiring quality of art.

Angel of the North sculpture with people standing at the bottom of it
Angel of the North, Antony Gormley © Historic England AA035865

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Spread over 500 acres of fields, hills, woodland, lakes and formal gardens, this open air gallery has featured the who's who of renowned sculptors from Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, to Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor. Yorkshire Sculpture Park owes its origins to Peter Murray (a lecturer who worked on the site which was then used as Bretton Hall College) who proposed siting sculpture in the Estate, and opening the landscape to the public for the first time, as well as providing artists with the opportunity to explore sculptural issues in the open-air.  This daring decision saw the creation of the UK's first sculpture park, and one which continues to champion modern and contemporary art over 40 years later.

Iron tree sculpture next to stone building
Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013. Private Collection. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park © Jonty Wilde

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, Cornwall

Barbara Hepworth first came to live in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. She lived and worked in Trewyn studios - now the Barbara Hepworth Museum - from 1949 until her death in 1975.

It was her wish that Trewyn Studio was kept as a museum of her work, much of which was given to the nation and placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980.

Most of the bronzes are in the positions in which Hepworth placed them. Her works were among the earliest abstract sculptures in England. Her lyrical forms and feeling for material made her one of the most influential sculptors of the mid-20th century.

See the List entry for Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Barbara Hepworth standing between two tall stone pillars using a hammar and chisel to carve one of them
Barbara Hepworth at Trewyn studios © Historic England AA023502

Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott, Oxfordshire

Kelmscott Manor was the inspirational Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family, friends and colleagues. When Morris first saw the Manor in 1871, he was delighted by this "loveliest haunt of ancient peace". Not long after, he signed a joint lease for the property with his friend and colleague Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist.

Rosetti lived in the house before the Morrises took full ownership and it appears in the background of his painting Water Willow, which depicts Morris' wife Jane, who was in a romantic relationship with Rosetti.

William Morris loved the house as a work of true craftsmanship, totally unspoilt and unaltered, and in harmony with the village and the surrounding countryside. He considered it so natural in its setting as to be almost organic, it looked to him as if it had "grown up out of the soil".

Kelmscott's beautiful gardens, with barns, dovecote, a meadow and stream, provided a constant source of inspiration for Morris's designs and writings until his death in 1896. Images drawn from Kelmscott appear frequently in his poetry, prose and designs for textiles and wallpapers, making the house an important part of the Arts & Crafts movement, driven by Morris. The building and its surroundings also influenced Morris' ideas on conservation for both the built and natural environments, which led to his founding of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings.

See the List entry for Kelmscott Manor

Kelmscott Manor
Kelmscott Manor © Society of Antiquaries of London / Kelmscott Manor

Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Chatsworth House is one of the grandest country houses in England. It had been in the Cavendish family since the Tudor period before it was extensively remodelled during the time of the 1st Duke of Devonshire by the architect William Talman. He created one of the most important buildings in the development of English Baroque architecture, within the Elizabethan footprint.

The gardens at Chatsworth have also been shaped by some of England's greatest gardeners, including "Capability" Brown and Joseph Paxton.

The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are passionate about art and sculpture: the grounds are often used as a grand setting for contemporary works of art and within the house is a large sculpture gallery. Today the house contains works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash. The site is a startling combination of stunning architecture, art and sculpture.

See the List entry for Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House and surrounding parkland
Chatsworth House © Chatsworth House Trust

Tate Modern, London

For many visitors, the Tate Modern encapsulates the dynamism of England's art scene - in the sheer scale of the Turbine Hall, the freedom of access and the sweep of the river location within the capital. It also embodies that shift from an industrial river frontage to an energetic cultural one.

The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station, originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built in the 1940s and 1960s. After the power station closed in 1981, the building was at risk of being demolished. But after a campaign for it to be saved, the Tate Gallery announced it would be converted for their new gallery.

Architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron designed the £134 million conversion which was completed in 2000. The 2016 extension was again the work of Herzog & de Meuron. The Tate Modern is now the second most-visited attraction in the country and is a stunning adornment to the Thames.

The Tate Modern, formerly Bankside Power Station alongside the River Thames
The Tate Modern, formerly Bankside Power Station designed by Giles Gilbert Scott © Historic England DP177683

Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge, Suffolk

In 1939, a cluster of odd-looking mounds in Suffolk were excavated, leading to perhaps England's most exciting archaeological discovery: a 27 metre long wooden ship, probably dating from the early 7th century, buried with a treasure trove of beautiful objects.

Among the finds was the now-famous helmet, made of tin and copper alloy, with a frontal mask decorated like a face, with eyebrows, nose, mouth and moustache. Archaeologists also found, among other things, a sword with a gold pommel, which must have come from India or Sri Lanka, as well as a shield, spears, silverware, bowls and a wealth of beautifully made jewellery.

The beauty and quality craftsmanship of these items stunned the world and completely re-wrote our understanding of the Anglo-Saxons, who until then were considered to be barbarians. Now in the care of the National Trust, this site and the astounding collection of artefacts which are displayed for all to see in the British Museum, demonstrate that a vibrant culture was emerging in England out of the Dark Ages.

See the List entry for Sutton Hoo

Child leaning on glass of display cabinet to draw a picture of the Anglo Saxon helmet
Visitors in the exhibition room at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk © National Trust Images Rob Pattinson

Coventry Cathedral, West Midlands

Coventry suffered severe bomb damage during the Second World War. There was a massive Luftwaffe air raid on 14 November 1940 during which firebombing damaged large areas of the city centre and Coventry's historic cathedral, leaving only a shell and the spire. More than 4,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, along with around three quarters of the city's industrial plants. More than 800 people were killed, with thousands injured and homeless.

The decision was taken the very next day to rebuild the cathedral, not as an act of defiance but as an expression of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. The ruins of the old Cathedral were preserved as a reminder of the folly and waste of war but beside them rose a new, ground breaking Cathedral designed by Basil Spence to inspire the city and the world. In 1962 Spence's new Cathedral was consecrated and its prefabricated steel spire was lowered into place by helicopter.

The city of Coventry was largely rebuilt and the buildings of the city centre reflect the spirit of a re-born city. The generation that fought the Second World War lost a great many of their buildings and special places. They had to rebuild and reshape their England.

See the List entry for Coventry Cathedral

Entrance to Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral designed by Basil Spence © Historic England J890306

The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance

This unique open air theatre perched on the cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean was created by Rowena Cade, who moved to Cornwall after the First World War and built a house for herself and her mother on land at Minack Point. In 1929 she offered the garden to a local theatre group for a production of the Tempest. The rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea made it an ideal venue, and so began its career as a theatre. She built much of the initial theatre with her own hands, helped by some gardener friends. Over the past 80 years, the theatre has evolved into today's professionally-equipped venue which brings the very best amateur and professional theatre to the far west of Cornwall. Rowena Cade's unique vision is thriving and today's audiences continue to experience the magic of live theatre in this amazing place.

Terraced seating set within cliff face looking out to sea
Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance © Phil Jackson
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