SEE US IN A NEW LIGHT
The things we notice when they are no longer there
Rachael Rickwood, the Cathedral’s Learning and Activities Officer, writes…
This week I’ve been thinking about workspaces a lot. My current workspace is a little uncomfortable, and I’m starting to miss my comfortable office chair and ergonomic desk, along with the regular cups of tea and chats with colleagues (all work related of course!). I do however feel incredibly grateful and privileged that I am able to work from home, and indeed that I have a safe and warm home to work from and live in. Places of work are incredibly diverse in many ways but after a certain amount of time in a job there is a tendency to stop noticing the details around you and to start to take things for granted. This can be the case even when working in buildings of great beauty and history, such as the Cathedral.
Newcastle Cathedral is full of amazing artworks and artefacts and when our capital works are complete, and we return to being fully opened we will be able to highlight more of these hidden treasures with a brand-new interpretation scheme. Some of my favourite works are the stained-glass windows, the Cathedral has a range of styles and ages, from medieval to 20th Century works. Depending on what time of day you visit or what the beautiful North East weather has in store for us can completely transform your experience of the windows.
One of our 20th Century works is by stained glass artist Caroline Townshend. Caroline Townshend was born in London in 1878. Her mother Emily was one of the first five students to attend The College for Women, now known as Girton College, Cambridge. Caroline was trained at Slade School of Fine Art under celebrated stained-glass artist Christopher Whall. She also acted as a studio assistant to Whall and attended his classes at The Central School of Arts and Crafts. Caroline soon became recognised as a talented stained-glass artist and produced works across the country. As well as Newcastle Cathedral, she also produced windows for the Exchange building on the Quayside.
The window in Newcastle Cathedral was created in 1907 and depicts Christ in the last days of his life. Towards the base of the window you will find five of the Northumbrian Saints and The Venerable Bede. The window was dedicated to Caroline’s Grandfather, Thomas Cummings Gibson, a North East businessman. In 1905 Caroline met Joan Howson who became her apprentice and then partner. In 1920 the couple set up a business together in Putney, ‘Townshend and Howson’. They were extremely successful and produced work for customers nationally and internationally. The couple settled in Wales and Caroline died at their home in Pwllheli in 1944. Joan continued to produce work under their partnership name until her death in 1964.
Not too far from Caroline’s window you can find another magnificent example of 20th Century artistry by Leonard Evetts. Leonard Evetts was an artist and conservationist born in Newport in 1909. He studied calligraphy and stained glass at the Royal College of Art, after which he lectured at the College of Art in Edinburgh from 1933 to 1937. He then joined the department of Fine Art at King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne (now Newcastle University). In 1938 he published his book Roman Lettering, this gained him a considerable amount of public attention and he became known as an authority on historic calligraphy. Examples of his font can be found in Newcastle Cathedral’s previous interpretation scheme which was handwritten by Leonard. During World War II he advised the War Office in camouflage techniques.
The Ascension Window in Newcastle Cathedral was installed in the 1960’s. It is inscribed ‘Thanks be to God for the preservation of this Cathedral in time of war 1939-1945’. Though the Cathedral did suffer bomb blast damage it did not receive a direct hit. The window depicts the shape of a Communion chalice (though it’s thought by many that this also looks like a WWII jet) at the centre of which is the figure of Christ rising up from his disciples. He is surrounded by angels and old testament prophets. The Greek letters of Alpha and Omega represent the beginning and the end. Underneath we can see a pelican with her young. This image references the pelican pecking her breast to feed her young, which in Christian symbolism recalls the sacrifice made by Jesus so that others may live. The altar frontal underneath the ascension window was also designed by Leonard. Leonard served for many years on the Newcastle Diocesan Advisory Committee and in 1996 he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate, a degree conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He completed his final window just ten days before his death. This can be found in St Peter the Fisherman in Craster.
I know that when the time comes, and we are able to safely return to work and start going back to our usual routines and habits I will be trying to stop more often, to rush around less, and take in and contemplate some of the amazing spaces that we have in the North East.