Friday, 13 March 2009
Te Deum ceiling
The chancel of All Saints in South Elkington, Lincolnshire, had been constructed by the local architect James Fowler in 1874 in a rather plain and pedestrian 'middle pointed' style. In 1904 the rector of Elkington Canon Smyth retired and his parting gift to the parish was a sum of money to enable the redecoration of Fowler's chancel ceiling and the presentation of a new organ. The work was overseen by Smyth's son-in-law and successor C. W. Stanford.
Fowler's plain roof was transformed with a decorative scheme based on the Te Deum. It has painted texts and gilded medallions filled with figures appropriate to the text. The whole is set against a ground of red ochre, stencilled with sacred mongrams. When I first saw the ceiling it screamed Bodley at me. Then I looked more carefully at the figurative work, which doesn't have the quality of finish you might associate with Bodley, in fact it is all rather crude (see St Helen below). The church guide book, which is my only authority until I dig a bit deeper, says that the work was executed by Bernard Smith of Woking, a friend of the family. Do any readers know anything about him? The work was completed in July 1904 and blessed by Edward King, the saintly bishop of Lincoln.
The organ case is also lavish, the coving decorated with a firmament filled with cherubim. Sadly the later wooden screens at the base of the organ case have destroyed the visual integrity of the case and those carpets! Well perhaps enough said about those.