Timothy Betjeman at All Saints, Margaret Street

In a guest post, artist Timothy Betjeman writes about his new paintings of All Saints Church, Margaret Street in London’ s West End.

I was born and lived most of my life in America, so I have come to know England, and especially London, where I now live, through painting parts of it over the last seven years. 

Timothy Betjeman All Saints Margaret Street

Timothy Betjeman All Saints Margaret Street

It is a frequent occurrence for me, as a primarily ‘plein air’ painter, to be working in a place that has caught my interest for whatever reason, and to discover that its history at some point entwined with that of my grandfather, Sir John Betjeman, especially if the place happens to be a church.  All Saints , Margaret Street was no exception.  When I began painting at All Saints, I was quickly informed by a parishioner who took note of my surname that he had enthused about the church in a series on Victorian Architecture for the BBC in 1970.

I somewhat wished I’d discovered it myself—and it really does feel like a discovery, hidden like a treasure between tall buildings, invisible save for its spire until one is practically in its courtyard.  But my jealousy soon gave way to a comforting thought, that this building, designed for a purpose by William Butterfield in 1850, and still used for that purpose today, could attract our mutual admiration.

I was very young when my grandfather died, so I never really knew him.  When I come upon buildings like All Saints, that I know he touched, or was touched by, and if I feel the same thing, there is a sense of knowing him through that.  I think that my engagement with these places develops in a different way than it did for him, but the initial attraction to great architecture and the atmosphere it affords is a major source for me as an artist as it was for him.

I liked the ritual of working in the church

My introduction to All Saints Margaret Street was in 2012 by my friend Alistair Fletcher who brought me to a service there, promising it had a very good choir (it did), and urged me to do a painting of its eccentric interior.  After the service I spoke to the vicar, Alan Moses, and he was enthusiastic about the idea, so I started showing up 3 or 4 times a week.  I would set up my easel in the morning near the back of the church and work through the 1:10 Mass, and pack up when the electric lights came on just before Evening Prayer.  I liked the ritual of working in the church so much that I ended up doing ten paintings instead of one, and a series of etchings as well; so I spoke to the vicar again at the end of it all, and we decided to do a show.

Timothy Betjeman, All Saints Margaret Street

Timothy Betjeman, All Saints Margaret Street

I’m accustomed to painting on the street, where people are moving about me very quickly and their movement must be integrated with the relative stillness of the architectural forms.  Painting at All Saints was unique in that the dynamic was reversed.  The people (and usually there were one or two, even between Masses) stayed perfectly still while the wild zigzags and gilded decoration on the walls and floor seemed to turn on and off and shift with the light as it came in sudden streaks through the high chancel windows.  I spent a long time studying the way natural light came in and competed with the invented light of the designs covering the inside of the church.  There was a kind of weather system to the place that related to but was wholly different from the one outside.  One feels this as soon as one enters the dark quiet of the church and inhales.

In the course of the 6 months or so that I spent painting at All Saints, and the time I have spent there since, I am very thankful for how kindly I was received by the priests, wardens and all of the parishioners.  It is a rare place, and truly a living church.

Timothy Betjeman At All Saints’  exhibition, will be open daily (12 – 6pm) from  22 – 27 October at 7 Margaret Street, London W1W 8JG.   A portion of the sales will benefit All Saints Church

More information about the exhibition 

More about All Saints,  Margaret Street

Discovering Silkstone using Google InsideView…

Recently Google introduced a new ‘product’… the ability to take StreetView INSIDE a building, allowing you to explore interiors as if you were there. In this article, Don Sisson from All Saints Silkstone, tells us all about the process of getting their church onto InsideView…

Silkstone All Saints

Originally Sarah Crossland, from the National Churches Trust, introduced us to the Churches Tourism Association. At their 2012 Convention there was a presentation by Chris Jones entitled ‘Open your Church to the world with Google Inside View ‘… and so it began.

We made contact with a Sheffield photographer Mike Bellwood, one of the network of 24 Google trained professional photographers who have agreed to reduced and standard pricing on a national scale for churches.

It turned out that he knew the church from previous wedding photography and  was able to picture our requirements without a site visit. He pointed out that we would need to have photographs from the road to the church door for a smooth integration with Google Street View. He asked if there was any area of the church that did not need to be included and anything specific we would like on our virtual tour. Security of our churches is important so we were also asked to tell him what should be omitted or blurred in this respect.

The InsideView was funded by ‘Silkstone Reflects on the Church Heritage’, a joint project between Silkstone PCC and Heritage Silkstone, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Therefore, we decided that we wanted to include the new Bramah Gallery provided as a learning resource by the project. We also emphasised two other aspects of the project, the Wentworth Monument and the church windows.

The photography was completed in a morning, and within a week the tour had been uploaded to Google and we were up and running. 

Included in the package was a QR code that we can use on our publicity so that anyone with a smart phone or tablet can go straight on the tour. Similarly included is a set of photographs which again can be used in any way we wish, These photographs are also on the Google+Local  page from which the tour can again be accessed.

Finally the tour can be seen on Google maps either through the street view feature or by dropping the ‘pegman’ onto the map-all places that have Google inside show up with an orange marker.

Why not Google  All Saints and St James Church Silkstone to see the above in action.

If you want a quick tour of the church try here.

Many thanks to Don for that first hand view of just how simple it is to use this new technology. Search  All Saints Silkstone to have a look for yourself just how easy it is to find and how amazingly crisp the view is.

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