Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

St Margaret's Barking

George Jack (1855-1931) architect, furniture-designer, wood carver, stained glass artist, and teacher, was an important contributor to the Arts and Crafts Movement. He trained as an architect in Scotland, and became a full-time assistant to Philip Webb in 1882. Through Webb, Jack was introduced to William Morris and from 1885 began to design furniture for Morris & Co. Subsequently he took up wood carving and plaster moulding.

From 1929-1936, the architect Charles Canning Winmill involved Jack in the repair and renovation of St Margaret’s Barking. By the time he worked on St Margaret’s, Jack was in his 70s and was quite ill. Despite this fact, his work for the church was admirable and included: the memorial window to the Hewitt family in the Lady Chapel, a pair of tall candelabra, decoration of the Chancel roof, a carved memorial tablet, eight carved figures on the Youth Chapel screen (Captain Cook, Elisabeth Fry, St Ethelburga, two Barking fishermen, Saint James, Saint John and Saint Nicholas), and the Fisherman’s window in the Youth Chapel.

Jack also enlisted the help of his daughter Jessie in painting the font cover at St Margaret’s. Jessie painted the existing wooden cover to a design by her father. The lettering around the rim says, ‘God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his son’. Each segment is painted with a bird or butterfly on a mid-blue ground with gilding. This is the only known example of Jack’s daughter helping him with his decorative schemes. Sadly, his work at St Margaret’s was one of Jack’s last commissions, he died in December 1931.

From 29th April to 29th July 2006, the William Morris Gallery held the first exhibition solely devoted to George Jack. His name is familiar to many who are interested in Morris but most are not fully aware of the extent of his output. The exhibition aimed to bring this important artist to greater prominence and explored all aspects of his work. Exhibits were drawn from the archive held at the Gallery, which contains designs for work in plaster, furniture, woodcarvings, embroidery, letters and photographs, and from other collections. It is also brought to light the contribution of his wife and daughters.

St Margaret’s loaned three key works for the exhibition – two of the carved wooden figures from the Youth Chapel screen (Captain Cook and Elizabeth Fry) and the Font cover. As curate at St Margaret’s at that time, I liaised with the William Morris Gallery over these loans and said that: “George Jack’s work at St Margaret’s has been much loved since Charles Winmill’s renovation at the turn of the last century which introduced many artefacts from the Arts and Crafts movement into the church. Jack’s work here demonstrates his versatility and skill as a craftsman and has great local significance as memorials to Barking’s fishing industry and links with Captain Cook and Elizabeth Fry. This exhibition will highlight an under-appreciated aspect of the significant history that can be found at St Margaret’s.”

I also arranged that, during the Barking Festival, Amy Clarke (Curator, William Morris Gallery) gave a short illustrated talk on George Jack and tour of the church showing Jack’s work at St Margaret’s.

2005/06 was a year at St Margaret's where there was a particular focus on the arts. The year began with a Christmas gift from a local artist. For some years George Emmerson had been painting the church, churchyard and the ruins of Barking Abbey and, as he left the borough, presented the church with a book of these paintings. The book is filled with watercolours set in intricately painted borders and complemented by historical information and personal reflections. It is a beautiful reminder of the history of the Abbey Green site in which St Margaret’s is located and a record of one person’s response to that history.

Lent 2005 saw the unveiling of an original painting commissioned for the Youth Chapel at St Margaret’s. Early in the morning was unveiled by the artist Alan Stewart and dedicated by the Bishop of Barking. The painting depicts Christ cooking breakfast for his disciples by Lake Galilee after his resurrection, as told in John's Gospel chapter 21. Stewart has painted a black Christ surrounded by disciples of every ethnic origin to reflect the diverse congregation that currently worships at St Margaret's. Through its lakeside setting the pastel painting also links to the stained glass window in the Youth Chapel commemorating the fishing industry in Barking.

Early in the morning was joined in the Youth Chapel by the second artistic gift St Margaret’s received in 2005/06. During a study visit to their link parish of Kristinehamn in Sweden the Church was presented with an icon of Christ blessing the children by the Norwegian painter Kjellaug Nordsjö, who is widely considered the best contemporary icon painter in Scandinavia. This icon is a window into Christ’s inclusivity and gentleness and a sign of the welcome that the Church seeks to give to all who come to St Margaret’s.


Arvo Pärt - Silentium.

No comments: