Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 3 October 2022

Good news from Nottingham Cathedral

The BBC News website has an article about funding being allocated by the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the uncovering and restoration of the Pugin decoration in the three eastern chapels of Nottingham Cathedral.

Nottingham Cathedral

Image Wikipedia

I have never visited the cathedral and only ever seen it once as a boy with my mother when being driven past by friends with whom we used to stay in the city. That was fifty odd years ago when it was still smoke blackened and before it was cleaned. I do recall the devout Anglican son of our friends being rather dismissive of it. That was the 1960s when Victorian architecture was very much at a discount.

St Barnabas was built to Pugin’s design in 1841-44, before the re-establishment of the hierarchy and is somewhat unusual amongst Pugin’s works in that it is Early English rather than Decorated in style. So it has a rather plain exterior to the nave and transepts with single lancet widows but is completed by a splendid tower and spire. It is perhsps, and this is obviously influenced by what has survived, closer in style to medieval Scottish and Irish great churches than those of medieval England.

It appears, like so many Catholic churches, to have suffered wrecknovation in the 1960s - this is chronicled in part in the Wikipedia history of the cathedral which can be seen at Nottingham Cathedral and also in the reminiscences of another Nottingham raised friend who once worshipped there. The article also indicates that moves have been made in recent years, as tastes have changed, to restore some of Pugin’s work and vision for the building.

What survives of the original Pugin decorative scheme is the splendid work in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel as shown below:

Image: Wikipedia 

This new and very positive project involves removing the overpainting of the eastern chapels to reveal the decorative scheme underneath. It looks as if it will also give the opportunity for young people to be trained in conservation work, which of itself is a very good thing.

Taken alongside the continuing restoration of Pugin work at Shrewsbury Cathedral and conservation work at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham this demonstrates a praiseworthy concern for great ecclesiastical art, and great Victorian art. A splendid turnaround to have seen in one’s lifetime.

The report about the work can be read at Cathedral work awarded £800,000 Lottery cash

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