Ninian Comper: Reimagining the Modern Gothic Church


This day school brings together leading scholars to discuss the work of Ninian Comper, an influential architect and designer who reshaped ecclesiastical design for the twentieth century.

Hailed as the last great Gothic Revivalist, he was celebrated by taste-makers such as John Summerson and John Betjeman despite his rejection of International Modernism. He believed instead that churches should be timeless, welcoming every kind of created beauty.

A designer of textiles, stained glass and decorative schemes alongside architectural design, his liturgical reimaginings of existing buildings such as Wymondham Abbey and Pusey House completely transformed these churches into gilded visions of Pre-Reformation splendour. New buildings designed by Comper, including St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough and St John’s Home, Cowley, reflect his own unique architectural and liturgical philosophies.

His church fittings and textiles, are still produced today and continue to shape the aesthetic form of both Anglican and Roman Catholic worship in Britain, appearing in national ceremonies such as Royal Weddings and Coronations.

Speakers will explore topics including his early work, his textiles, his patrons, his design philosophy and his legacy.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 28 February 2024.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception

Introduction and welcome 

Comper: the Scottish background
Prof Peter Davidson (Campion Hall)

Comper’s early patrons
Dr Allan Barton (Independent)

Tea/coffee break

Comper textiles
Rev Dr Ayla Lepine (St James, Piccadilly)

Lunch break

Lecture title TBC
John Bucknall (Independent) 

Comper’s conversion to ‘unity by inclusion’
Harry Spain (Pusey House) 

Tea/coffee break

Comper’s architecture between the wars
Dr David Lewis (Kellogg) 

Reception and legacy
Prof Alan Powers (New York University) 

Drinks at Pusey House and viewing of exhibition of Comper sketchbook and textiles 



Description Costs
Course Fee (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Baguette Lunch £6.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Prof Peter Davidson


Peter Davidson is senior research fellow of Campion Hall, University of Oxford. He was formerly Professor and Scholar-Keeper of the University’s Collections in the University of Aberdeen.

Allan Barton


Dr Ayla Lepine


Ayla Lepine’s research explores connections beteween theology and art history in modern Britain. Following her PhD on the Gothic Revival at the Courtauld, she held positions at Yale, Nottingham and Essex. She is also an Anglican priest, and is Associate Rector at St James’s Piccadilly in London. She has lectured and published widely on Comper, including journal articles in Visual Resources and the Journal of Theology and Sexuality.

John Bucknall


Harry Spain


Harry Spain is an architectural historian based at Pusey House in Oxford where he is overseeing restoration work to the Chapel. His research interest focuses on the Gothic Revival, and in particular nineteenth and early twentieth century church-building. He is currently working on a biography of the architect Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880), which is set for commercial publication in 2024.

Dr David Lewis


Dr David Frazer Lewis is an architectural historian whose interests include the architecture of modern Britain and the United States, the design of sacred architecture, and the Gothic Revival. Prior to joining Oxford's Department for Continuing Education, he was an Assistant Professor at the Notre Dame School of Architecture. He has experience in museums and heritage, as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for British Art, and has worked for architecture firms in San Francisco and London that specialise in historic conservation. Dr Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, an MPhil from Cambridge, and a doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Dr Alan Powers


NYU London


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form. 


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.