Gloucester Cathedral


Gloucester Cathedral Painting by Wm. J. Carpenter

Unknown Cathedral Wm. J. Carpenter

Gloucester Cathedral
Wm. J. Carpenter

Posted    April 22, 2016

Revised   August 11, 2016

This painting which was found among his artifacts was signed by W. J. Carpenter (no date). The painting, a watercolor  on mat board, is of an impressive Gothic style cathedral with the oval measuring  14  x 10 1/2 inches.

Nothing further was known about it, other than what the picture itself tells us. so it was named “Unknown Cathedral”.   It was believed to have been painted during the 1920s while he was practicing architecture in DeLand, Florida, but there were no similar churches in that area.  It was thought it was possibly a copy of another painting, a copy of a photograph, or a creative rendering of his own design.  It greatly exceeded in stature the several Episcopal churches he designed in Pittsburgh.  If an actual building it could have been in the US,  Mexico, or  England, or he may have encountered it elsewhere during his travels.  There are  similarities to Westminster Abbey, but comparison with internet  coverage of the Abbey”s changes  over the years  did not substantiate the claim.

BUT, thanks to Phil Draper, , a very knowledgeable and cooperative English “church-crawler” the “Unknown Cathedral” has now been identified. Phil responded to the posting with  information that the subject is the GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL in Gloucester, a city in southwest England about 100 miles to the west of London, WJC’s birthplace. It is not likely that he ever saw the cathedral in person, since he left London for America at the age of 13:

“This is no dream cathedral, it is in fact some 35 miles from my home! (Bristol) This is Gloucester Cathedral  (This site  is a lot of photos, but only the first four are related to the cathedral.)

However the surroundings (foreground) are a little more romanticised, especially if this was done in the 1920s! Maybe it was done from an earlier photograph.”

In further correspondence he provided several very interesting links.   One is a 1905 photo that is almost identical to,  but at a slightly different angle than Mr. Carpenter’s painting:

The exact photo that was copied has not been identified, but it probably  shows details much clearer.  Another link by Phil:

to an 1806 painting, although from a different view, shows some of the intricate structural details which Mr. Carpenter’s painting shows.

When I asked Phil to recommend a web site for our readers to pursue he responded

“…Google Street View has a virtual 360 degree tour of the building-the one to choose is by Maia Stengard Green.  You can walk around the outside or go inside via the west door and walk all around the buildings.  Click the link below and then click the picture top left.  There is also a link to the cathedral website from this page.

Thank you, Phil, for sharing your information with us.

This is the only known church painting by Mr. Carpenter, even though he designed several churches during his career. They included St. Andrews Episcopal Church, St. James Episcopal Church, and the Trinity Cathedral Parish House in Pittsburgh and the United Church of Christ in New Smyrna, Florida.





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  1. I’m betting that it’s a creative rendering of his own design. It is both beautiful and unworldly … perhaps a dream cathedral.

  2. This is no dream Betty, but in fact Gloucester Cathedral

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