Saturday, 27 September 2014

Impromptu Celtic Revival/Souls Crossover Road Trip!

So it's the last Saturday in September and I had very little planned.  The next month will be very busy, so possibly it would be nice to have a weekend off.  Well, that was the plan.  Instead I ended up on an impromptu road trip to see a church...


In the heart of the New Forest, down on the south coast of England, is the little village of Thorney Hill.  Within that village is a nice Edwardian Baroque Church with the most amazing secret inside.  Built in 1906 by Detmar Blow, a follower of Ruskin and Morris, the Caen stone exterior is interspersed with plain glass windows that seem to promise a puritan interior.  However, as you'll see from the photo above, the semi-circular apse at one end has bricked up windows.  Step inside and you'll see why...


The rest of the church is painted in pale wash, but one end is a riot of colour and gold, all thanks to an incredible floor-to-ceiling mural by the artist Phoebe Traquair, an Irish-born artist allied to the Scottish Celtic Revival.  Painted in 1922, in memory of Lady Constance Manners, wife of Lord Manners who had commissioned the church in memory of their daughter almost 20 years previously.  The subject is Te Deum  and the figures depicted are somewhat familiar...


Starting with the left-hand side, we have Eric Gill, the sculptor (as St John the Baptist), Bishop Charles Gore (with a net, as St Peter), Constance Manners, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Blake...


Next to the Madonna and Child is a portrait of Raymond Asquith, who died in the Great War, like the Manners' son (more of that in a moment), next to him is St George and the Dragon, then Lord Lister and Louis Pasteur (in red gowns), on the right-hand side...


Above the scene, Jesus and all the children of Thorney Hill look down on the great and the good in a golden dome...


And below, a tangle of plants and beasts provides a luxurious border...


To say that the effect is amazing feels like an understatement; it is truly spellbinding.  In a gallery you would pause and admire the glittering majesty of the image, but to find it inside a small church on the edge of a New Forest Village is breath-taking.  It is a testament to the patronage of families in the early years of the twentieth century and like Mells (which you may remember from this post) it has a bittersweetness.  I suppose it started with a loss, that of the young daughter of the Manners family, but being of a certain age, they had a son who was old enough to go off to the First World War...


John Manners is majestically reclined like a knight cut down in the beauty of his youth.  On the wall next to him is a description of his death in combat.  Two angels weep over his name and dates. Not quite as mind blowing as the man on a horse which was Edward Horner's massive memorial at Mells, but his friend still is an imposing and moving presence in the tiny church, right next to the congregation.

View from the wooden gallery, next to the organ
The church is open from Easter, every Saturday afternoon until the last weekend in September (last weekend was this weekend), but you can phone to book an appointment to see it outside of this time.  Look on this lovely site to find details of who to contact (here).  Like all beautiful od buildings, this one is in constant need of maintenance and care, so this site has a link for donations, if you feel so inclined.  I thoroughly encourage a visit, it is an utter gem.

For a fairly comprehensive list of who is in the mural, look at this splendid blog (here).

1 comment:

  1. Just like my mother said... Manners are dead! Is dead, actually, but whatever.

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx