James Wyatt's restorations of medieval churches are placed within their late 18th-century context and considered on the basis of those contemporary values, which underwent a crucial change during his lifetime. Richard Gough, Director of the London Society of Antiquaries, is a key figure in this regard. In the late 1780s, he publicly exhorted the Society to preserve and protect, as well as to study, medieval church architecture. Shortly thereafter, James Wyatt undertook restoration projects on Lichfield, Salisbury, Hereford, and Durham cathedrals, as well as on a number of other churches. Wyatt's work consisted of two types of alterations: "necessary repairs" and "improvements." He was biased toward improvements, which were not necessary structural repairs and often involved destruction of existing work. Wyatt's restorations aroused considerable controversy, and were continuously criticized by Gough and other antiquarians who advocated the preservationist viewpoint. Wyatt's 1797 election to the Society prompted Gough's resignation. In spite of these circumstances, the preservationists continued to object to Wyatt's restoration technique, and their attitudes continued to gain support.

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