The Future of 3D in Churches and Heritage

 

In a guest post, Jacob Scott, who is part of the Events and Services Team at Rochester Cathedral, writes about new ways of exploring the heritage of churches using 3D modelling.

Our churches, cathedrals and other heritage sites of all shapes and sizes are full of beauty and intrigue, yet it is often obvious even to the casual observer that either by design, destruction or due to the ravages of time the vast bulk of what could have been seen at these places has been lost. Virtual reconstruction has given our imaginations a limitless canvas allowing archaeologists to tell the stories of sites through centuries or even millennia.

Reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Cathedral at Rochester c. 700 AD (ctrl + mouse click to zoom).

Three-dimensional modelling of complex and unique buildings from scratch, however, remains time consuming and, thus, expensive. Photogrammetry, a process whereby a computer uses multiple two-dimensional photographs of an object taken from different angles to create a three-dimensional model, provides an opportunity for creating detailed models quickly and accurately. It has seen use in surveying for decades, but the formidable computing requirements have until recently limited its use to large commercial or academic outfits. Over the last few years however, photogrammetric software has been developed for ever improving consumer-end PCs and now even smartphones. This relatively simple process allows the creation of detailed models taking little more time than it takes the capture the photos required; which when uploaded to the internet can be viewed by a global audience. Models can also be viewed with newly released virtual-reality headsets, as well on visitor’s smartphones or tablets.

Tomb in north aisle, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

Heritage4D uses photogrammetry alongside ‘manual’ virtual modelling techniques to aid interpretation of historical sites and archaeological data, publishing models and media from around the UK and overseas. Being based at Rochester Cathedral in Kent has allowed the construction of several thousand models over the last year from dozens of sites and several archaeological excavations (heritage4d.org/peterborough-cathedral); where every minute detail of a trench could prove useful in future analysis yet is almost always re-covered or obliterated during the course of a dig.

Baptismal Font, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

All Saints in Ulcombe, Kent; a beautiful 12th century church containing a collection of fantastically preserved medieval wall paintings, misericords and many other features, provided a perfect opportunity to model Heritage4D’s first church. Churches offer the opportunity to create model databases across hundreds of buildings and thousands of collections. Publication of 3D models that are titled, tagged and described can greatly increase the exposure of the church online, with names of graves and tombs available for genealogy queries on search engines.

Carving of wooden misericord, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

We are still in the earliest of days, where almost everything that can be modelled has not been. As with the early days of two-dimensional photography in the 19th century, every model that is created can serve as a valuable reference for the future; sometimes the earliest visual record of an artefact or feature. Already we have modelled artefacts and features that have since been destroyed or covered, either through excavation or development. All too often in the heritage field it can feel that we’re in a race against time; photogrammetry offers us another tool with which to appreciate and conserve our heritage.

For more information visit www.heritage4d.org or contact Jacob Scott, email: jacob.scott@heritage4d.org

Contemporary Christian art in churches

In a guest blog, Revd Jonathan Evens,  Priest for Partnership Development  at St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Stephen Walbrook,  writes about commission4mission, which commissions contemporary Christian art in churches.

commission4mission was launched in March 2009 by our patron, The Rt Revd David Hawkins, then Bishop of Barking, to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches ‐ as a means of fundraising for charities and as a mission opportunity for churches.

To enable this, we have a growing pool of artist members working in a variety of media and styles. Through art, we support churches in their ongoing mission, and also charities, as each year part of the proceeds from commissions is donated. From 2014 we have made Oasis our charity of choice, meaning that our charitable giving will be exclusively to Oasis for the time being.

Completed commissions

Our 13 completed commissions provide marvellous examples of what can be achieved when artists and churches share a vision for creativity and mission. They have involved nine of our artists and include etched windows, fused glass windows, a holy water stoup in oak and brass, mosaics, paintings, textiles and wooden reliefs.

In the time that commission4mission has been in existence we have:

  • built up a significant pool of creative artists able to deliver a wide variety of work to fit a range of budgets, making the commissioning of contemporary art viable for churches of all sizes and contexts;
  • gained and completed 13 commissions (most recently a Trinity window at All Saints Goodmayes, pictured below) including works at All Saints Goodmayes, All Saints Hutton, Christ Church Thames View, Dagenham Park Church of England School, Queens Hospital Romford, St Edmunds Tyseley, St Johns Seven Kings, St Margaret of Antioch Ilford, St Pauls Goodmayes, and St Peter’s Harold Wood;

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  • organised a programme of exhibitions and events, including venues such as Chelmsford Cathedral, the Pentecost Festival, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Stephen Walbrook, and the Strand Gallery;
  • organised study days on commissioning and public art;
  • published several collections of images, meditations and prayers;
  • initiated an Annual Service celebrating the Arts;
  • set up Art Trail and Olympics-themed projects; and
  • developed a website profiling our artists (http://www.commission4mission.org/) and a blog giving news of our activities (http://www.commission4mission.org/blogs/).

Latest exhibition, September 2016

Our fourth group exhibition in the setting of St Stephen Walbrook (39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN) will be held from Tuesday 6 – Friday 16 September (Weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm, Weds 11.00am – 3.00pm). An exhibition reception (6.30pm) and commission4mission’s AGM (5.30pm) will be held on Tuesday 6 September.

The theme of the show will be ‘Reflection’ and, as in previous years, will feature a wide variety of work from longstanding and new members. ‘Reflection’ is intended as a broad theme open to wider interpretation. Our artists showcase their individual engagements with this theme and we hope that the range and variety of work, both in terms of content and media, will give pleasure and prompt reflection. Exhibiting artists include: Hayley Bowen, Christopher Clack, Valerie Dean, Jonathan Evens, Terry Ffyffe, Rob Floyd, Maurizio Galia, Michael Garaway, John Gentry, Clorinda Goodman, Tim Harrold, Anthony Hodgson, Janet Roberts  and Peter Webb, among others.

commission4mission’s Chair, Peter Webb, says: “We are very fortunate to be able to exhibit regularly at St Stephen Walbrook. The exhibition always attracts a great deal of attention in the City. As before, interpretation of the theme is up to individual artists, and no doubt we will have the usual amazing variety and originality in the work submitted.”

A gift of 10 per cent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the charity Oasis.

Become a member

Full membership of commission4mission is by annual subscription (currently £30.00 per annum) and is open to artists, of any discipline. Artist Members benefit from having a page and a presence on the website with the possibility of attracting commissions. Members are invited to exhibit work at commission4mission exhibitions, and have opportunities for other involvement as we develop. Through their support of commission4mission, Associate Members help to promote Christian art.  They may represent a church or join as an individual. Associate Members are kept in touch with all commission4mission activities, invited to exhibition receptions and our Annual Service celebrating the Arts, and to take part in other related events. All Artist Members and Associate Members receive regular news and updates, usually by email.

For more information, contact Revd Jonathan Evens, on tel: 02076269000 or email: jonathan.evens@btinternet.com.  

Churches and family history

Blog Pam Smith08In a guest posting, professional genealogist Pam Smith  writes about the importance of churches for family history.

Discovering your forebears, where they originated from and what they did for a living is a fascination held by many. The popular BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ in which celebrities trace their ancestry, has stimulated many people to research their family history, making it an extremely addictive and popular hobby.

Television programmes such as these give the impression that it is very easy to find your ancestors with a few clicks of the mouse on a computer, and indeed it can be a reasonably straightforward process to trace back to approximately 1770 and more using both free and subscription websites.

However, it is worth reflecting upon the important role churches and chapels have had and continue to play in keeping the information needed by anyone interested in discovering their family history.

Parish chests

The Anglican church kept parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials since 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General ordered parishes to keep these records in a triple locked parish chest such as this fine specimen currently resident in St John of Beverley at Salton.

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

The incumbent was responsible for keeping the records secure although these wooden chests were often prone to damp and vermin. Today, any of these registers or parish records such as vestry minutes, churchwardens’ accounts, in which the earliest entry is over 150 years old, must be deposited in the Diocesan Record Office. North Yorkshire is mostly covered by the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. If you are lucky it is possible to see a sexton’s book of burials which literally marks the spot. You can imagine the scope of name-rich sources contained within these documents, recording all the significant events in a person’s life, which had the parish church at the very core.

After 1837, the state took over responsibility for recording births, marriages and deaths both locally and centrally. However the practice of recording baptisms, marriages and some burials (where the churchyard is still in use) still continues to the present day. Some vicars and church wardens are amenable to these records being viewed and some charge a fee.

Churchyards

The churchyard and the interior of the church contain valuable information in the form of a memorial or monumental inscription. Most people were buried in their local parish and a headstone may be found there. Some graves were filled with unrelated people who could not afford a headstone so the occupants were not commemorated. A higher status ancestor may have a monument inside the church. Both internal and external memorial inscriptions (MIs) offer rich detail of the life of a family member. This MI in the St Andrew’s Church in Rillington (pictured below) gives not only the date of death and age of Laurence Stratford, but also his occupation and details about his father, helping the researcher back a further generation.

Many churches hold a roll of honour commemorating the local people who fought during the Great War and the Second World War. Often you can find a list of incumbents which is an ideal starting point for researching clerical ancestors.

 St Andrew's Church Rillington - MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch  (c) Pam Smith

St Andrew’s Church Rillington – MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch (c) Pam Smith

My main area of research is in North Yorkshire and the former North Riding of Yorkshire. We are very fortunate that most rural churches are left unlocked for visitors during the day. I find them an invaluable source of research. An interior photo can help bring life to a set of genealogical data when one can imagine where an ancestor was christened, married and had their funeral service.

I have a collection of leaflets from different churches which, for a small fee, have produced details of the history of the building and a guide to the churchyard. Parish magazines hold a depth of information about community life including names and significant dates of the inhabitants together with snippets of local life presuming that a churchwarden has kept a copy of each one.

Pam Smith is a professional genealogist and a family history tutor based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire who also manages the Rillington One-Place Study.  For further details please contact Pam Smith on 0790 485 6099 or email pam@pamsmithfamilyhistorian.co.uk

National Maintenance Week 2014

In a special post to mark the upcoming National Maintenance Week, guest author Kate Streeter Project Manager of SPAB Maintenance Cooperatives tells us about their plans for launching the week and encouraging ongoing maintenance.

SPABCOOP_logo-01

What do a ladle, rubber gloves and a pair of binoculars all have in common? They are all part of our cheap and cheerful essential maintenance kit, and this November we are going to show you how they can help you to take care of your place of worship at the very first Maintenance Co-operatives Project national conference: From Gutter to Spire. The conference is in York on Friday 21st November and tickets are free from www.spabmcp.org.uk

A stitch in time saves nine, and nowhere is this more true than for our places of worship, where we estimate that for every £1 not spent on planned preventative maintenance will likely cost £20 in emergency repairs.  This is where the Society for the protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Maintenance Co-operative Project steps in.

clearing gullies at sgrawley.jpg largeThe project team are working hard in four regions (Cumbria, The North East, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and Dorset and Somerset) to bring together places of worship with volunteers who would like to assist with their upkeep, to form Maintenance Co-operatives.

Each co-operative is supported by a dedicated SPAB member of staff, offered tailor-made training and access to an array of resources.  The training begins by taking participants through the process of carrying out a condition survey and using this information to write an annual maintenance plan.  It also covers topics such as working with architects, dealing with damp and when to bring in professional help.

A year into the project and we have co-operatives springing up all across the country busily working to ensure the long-term future of their historic buildings.  We are delighted that many of the volunteers involved, places of worship, and representatives from our hugely supportive project partners (who include The National Churches Trust, Caring for Gods Acre, Arthur Rank Centre, English Heritage, and major funders the Heritage Lottery Fund) are coming together in York this November for the very first Maintenance Co-operatives conference.

blocked gully.jpg largeThis is a wonderful opportunity for those already involved to share ideas, and for those new to the project to find out more.  A packed scheduled of speakers from SPAB and our partners will be followed by fascinating York walking tours, the opportunity to put your maintenance concerns directly to our dedicated technical advisor, and of course a sociable drink in the pub to finish the day.

We very much hope that you can join us, tickets are free and there are a limited number of travel bursaries of up to £100 available to volunteers, so book soon!

Kate Streeter

SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project Manager

Inspiring churches and Heritage Open Days

Sarah Holloway
Sarah Holloway

 

Our Guest Blogger Sarah Holloway, Heritage Open Days Co-ordinator, writes about Heritage Open Days events at churches.

Model making, morris dancers, bubble blowing and a punk rocker. Not things you would usually put together I suspect, but all connected as part of Heritage Open Days events at churches this year.

Once a year this annual festival of heritage and culture offers people an opportunity to see and experience something not normally available, and for the hundreds of faith sites taking part it’s a great chance to open doors to new audiences.

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days

From digging out and displaying your parish registers, to hosting exhibitions of wedding dresses , holding organ recitals or giving people the chance to experience speaking from a pulpit; there is so much that churches can offer visitors. By thinking creatively, involving music, arts and family history, sites can provide a new reason for people to come to the building. And once over the threshold visitors are often amazed at what they find inside – be it stunning architecture, fascinating history, a peaceful haven or a welcoming community – encouraging them to return.

Inspiring highlights

Here are just some of the many inspiring events being held at faith sites across England as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days…

Forever blowing bubbles… St Paul’s Parish Church, Sale, Greater Manchester have organised a wonderfully festive day for visitors. There will be music and dancing as well as tower tours and the parish registers on display. And lots of fun for children too, activities including a dressing up box, a storyteller, and bubble blowing!

Punk rocker turned window designer… Frettenham Church, Norfolk are offering the chance to meet the artist who created their Resurrection window. One of our blog team wrote about this last year (The punk behind the window) and is planning a follow up piece after this year’s event. So a good example, not just of a creative event, but also of using social media and different networks to promote it.

Reading, Heritage Open Days 2012Working on a theme… In Dorking, Surrey, events are taking inspiration from the anniversary of WWI. The Quaker Meeting House has a thought provoking exhibition of artefacts, letters and photographs, focusing on the story of one conscientious objector. They will be engaging children in the story with model making of refugee houses and a soundscape to match a slideshow. Whilst at St Martin’s Church, the local folk club and friends will be taking visitors through a selection of songs, prose and verse from the period.

Working together… Heritage Open Days is well established in Cheetham Hill, Greater Manchester and they use the festival as an opportunity to bring sites and communities together. This year there is a heritage coach tour taking in five different faith sites, a temple a synagogue, a mosque and two churches.

Unsung heroes

These are just a handful of the creative events taking place at faith sites this September. At the heart of all of them though are the brilliant teams of dedicated volunteers. These amazing people should never be underestimated, their passion and enthusiasm can turn the smallest event into the most special day. So a huge thank you to all who take part. And if you aren’t one of them this year, please do go out and support them, maybe you’ll be inspired for next year!

Heritage Open Days take place from 11 – 14 September 2014 .You can search for more events and find out how to get involved at the Heritage Open Days website

 

Willis Pipe Organ restoration_c2_Anna Page

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