There But Not There is the 2018 Armistice project for the charity Remembered.
In 2014 the major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. There But Not There is a nationwide installation for the fallen, timed to conclude on Armistice Day (11th November) 2018. It will mark the centenary of Armistice Day 1918.
Gradually, in public sites throughout the UK, Perspex or metal images of a ‘Tommy’ are appearing. ‘Tommy’ was the colloquial name for a foot soldier in the First World War (WW1). The new ‘Tommies’ are reminders of the people whose absence has had a lingering and profound effect on their home communities. We know, however, that the ‘Tommy’ also represents many more people than the millions of fathers, brothers, sons, friends and colleagues who served in the four years of the First World War. Westminster College’s chapel is a war memorial and we are contributing to the national commemoration by remembering those who were part of the college’s history; a story in which former students from England and Germany died in WW1 and WW2. Here are some of their stories.
I am William Black Noble. I am a Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. In the second Battle of Ypres I was killed on 26th April 1915 when we were defending the village of St Julien, Belgium. You’ll find my name is mentioned on the Menin Gate. My parents, Sir William and Lady Margaret Noble, commissioned this chapel in my memory. I am There But Not There.
I am Alexander F. Johnston. I am a Second Lieutenant in the London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles). I was killed on 10th September 1916. I wrote to a friend saying ‘To come back is to enter on the new heritage. To die will not have been in vain.’ You will find my name is on the Thiepval Memorial on The Somme. I am There But Not There.
I am Theodor Hesse. I am a Lance Corporal in the German Army and I died at Brest/Bug in Belarus on 5th February 1942. I am There But Not There.
I am Hermann Hartmann. I am a soldier on the Eastern front. I died on 27th August 1941, two kilometres outside Punewo on the Dunea/Divina (contemporary Latvia). I am There But Not There.
I am Arthur Bawtry. I am a Volunteer Reserve Chaplain (Squadron Leader) in the RAF. While serving in India I contracted enteric fever and died on 5TH July 1943. I am buried in the Bhowanipore Cemetery in Calcutta. I am There But Not There.
I am Geoffrey Vellacott. I am a Lance Corporal in the Australian Army Medical Corps (13th Medical Hospital). I died on 19th December 1943 and am buried at Kanchanburai, the Bridge on the River Kwai, Thailand. I am There But Not There.
I am Harold Rogan. I am an RAF pilot. When on secondment in Italy my plane crashed north of Foggia. I died on 15th April 1944 and am buried in the War Cemetery in Bari. I am There But Not There.
I am Thomas W.D. James. I am Secretary to the Foreign Missions Committee and am one of two people who died on 9th February 1945 when a V2 rocket hit our offices at Church House in London. I am There But Not There.
I am William T. Elmslie. I am the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of England where I have been serving since 1935. I also died as a result of the bombing on 9th February 1945. I am There But Not There.
…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8. 38,39)
Not much is known about the provenance or history of this portrait, belonging to the Cheshunt Foundation at Westminster College. The painting – by a painter of the English School, but unsigned and undated – is known as ‘Girl in a Blue Dress’, and is of Lady Selina Shirley, wearing a blue dress with a pink rose in the bodice, with flowing lace cuffs and pearls in her hair, and holding a book.
311 years ago today, on the 24th August, Selina Shirley was born in 1707 at Astwell House in Northamptonshire. The second daughter of Lord Shirley, Earl Ferrers, in 1728 she married Theophilus Hastings, the ninth Earl of Huntingdon, and became the Countess of Huntingdon. Rather amazingly for a woman of the time, the Countess of Huntingdon went on to found her own College for the training of ministers at Trevecca, in Wales, in 1768; and it is the descendant body of that college – Cheshunt College – which joined together with Westminster College in 1967 and which owns this portrait today.
But isthis a portrait of the Selina the Foundress? There’s a question raised by the book she is holding.
If you look closely, you can just see the title on the spine: it reads “Hervey Medita…”, or (presumably) “Hervey’s Meditations”. (The colours in this smaller image have been adjusted to make the writing clearer.) James Hervey, author and clergyman, was a member of ‘the Holy Club’, a nickname for a small group of students in Oxford in the 1730s, led by John and Charles Wesley (and including, amongst others, George Whitefield and James Hervey) who met to talk and pray. Hervey’s Meditations Among the Tombs was published in 1745.
By 1745, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791) was nearly 40 years old – far older than the subject of this portrait! – and had had seven children. Moreover, if this portrait was painted after the publication of Meditations in 1745, she had been married to Theophilus for a good seventeen years and was now, of course, Lady Selina Hastings, rather than Lady Selina Shirley.
Is it a portrait from the 1720s, with the title of the book perhaps added later? The Countess was much influenced by the Wesleys and corresponded with John and Charles; George Whitefield was her personal chaplain; could “Hervey’s Meditations”, written by a fourth member of the Holy Club, have been painted in as a suitable title for her to be holding?
Or might it be a portrait of one of the Countess’s daughters, and be ‘Lady Selina Hastings’ rather than ‘Lady Selina Shirley’? Selina’s second daughter was called Selina, too (1737-1767). Perhaps it is her elder daughter, Lady Elizabeth Hastings (1731-1808), later Countess of Moira?
Or maybe it is a painting of a completely different sitter… and if so, who might she be?
–To see more of our paintings, visit the College page on the fantastic ArtUK website, which aims to make images available online of all art in public ownership in the UK (and art in the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges too).
–To read more about Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and her life,
In this, the centenary year of women’s suffrage, the Cheshunt Foundation has been asked to join in with a fascinating celebration of influential women from the 1720s and 1730s- the 21 ‘ladies of quality and distinction” who helped philanthropist Thomas Coram set up his Foundling Hospital in London. Long before women were given the right to vote, these ladies were influential in helping Coram secure a Royal Charter for his Foundling Hospital, which was set up to support and care for some of London’s abandoned ‘foundling children’.
One of the ladies was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who also founded Trevecca College for young men to train for ministry- which later moved to Hertfordshire and became Cheshunt College.
These marvellous ladies are being celebrated this Autumn with a remarkable exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London. The Collections Manager, Alison Duke, came to visit the College recently to look at the painting in situ, and to discuss how best to transport it to London for the exhibition. Alison has written about her visit for Art Funding here .
We look forward to seeing the Countess surrounded by her peers- or, strictly speaking, her Peeresses- on September! The exhibition opens to the public in September and will run through into January 2019.
To find out more about the exhibition at the Foundling Museum, have a look at the Foundling Museum website
…And to find out more about the 21 Ladies, and about Thomas Coram, visit the website of Coram, the charity which continues their work today.
I recently happened upon an interesting image from 1877 entitled “Shark Attacking A Boatman”, in our series of The Children’s Messenger in the library here. It’s an illustration from one of a series of articles by Rev. Archibald Hewan, describing the journey to the Old Calabar Mission, and this one is specifically about “the sharks at Lagos”.
The Children’s Messenger was a monthly magazine produced by the Presbyterian Church of England for young members, and, as well as moral stories and Bible studies, it included many letters from missionaries describing life in far parts of the world – and the Messenger tried to accompany its articles with illustrations. Nowadays, television and photography and zoos and the internet mean that we are familiar with wildlife from around the world; but it seems pretty clear, looking at this picture from 140 years ago, that it was drawn by someone who had never actually seen a real shark.
This shark has a pointed snout and (rather strangely placed) gills, but the eyes and head are more like those of a seal. Its fins are reminiscent both of the fins of a bony fish, and of the flippers like a sea lion or a walrus- but are nothing like the smooth cartilage fins of a shark. It has a leaf-shaped tail straight out of a Mediaeval bestiary, and strangest of all, it has fur!
Archibald Hewan (1832-1883) was a Jamaican medical missionary to Calabar in Nigeria, appointed in 1854; but the artist is unknown.
The anatomical descriptions in Hewan’s text are very vague, if you don’t already know what a shark looks like: it only says “Look at his flat head. You can’t see his mouth; that is quite under” and later refers to his “great eyes”, “great fins” and “great tail”…though if you look closely, you can see that someone has also told the artist that sharks have more than one row of teeth.
However, if the artist had only heard or read descriptions of sharks before beginning his illustration, then he’s not alone in the task of trying to draw an animal he’s never laid eyes on. Albrecht Durer’s woodcut of an enthusiastically-armoured rhinoceros from 1515 is one of the best known pictures of an animal by an artist who has never seen his subject. Another famous example is George Stubbs’s portrait of a kangaroo, with a very long tail and no pouch, held at the Royal Museums Greenwich, which was based on descriptions given to the artist by Joseph Banks on his return from voyaging with Captain Cook in 1771, and painted soon afterwards. So our shark is in illustrious company!
Douglas Strachan (1875-1950) was a Scottish artist who designed the stained glass windows in the chapel at Westminster College. Our chapel was commissioned by Sir William and Lady Black Noble in memory of their son William Black Noble, 2nd Lieutenant in the Northumberland Fusilliers, who died in World War One at Ypres in 1917. They asked Douglas Strachan to design the stained glass windows on the theme of the Benedicite- ‘O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’- and Strachan’s windows are full of strong, beautiful colour, and dynamic movement: dancers, worshippers, the heavenly fire descending on Mount Carmel, the swell of the stormy sea.
If you’re visiting All Saints Church on Jesus Lane, Cambridge, then while you’re there, take a moment to admire another Douglas Strachan window- this one on Womanhood (it’s immediately to your left as you come).
The Womanhood window at All Saints is a work from 1944, some twenty years later than the Westminster windows, the gift of John Murrish. Blue, green and purple tones dominate, with silvery opaque highlights. The central panel shows the Virgin and the Child as a mother with a baby, standing benignly behind a young boy dressed as a Scout; he’s just taking his first step down from the rock on which she stands, out into the wider world. Though she is still, the landscape around her is full of movement in the form of curves: the path, the tree, the leaves, her gown. She is flanked by women caring for strangers and for the sick, and by four portraits of famous women of compassion, charity, and bravery: Elizabeth Fry, Josephine Butler, Cecile Isherwood, and Edith Cavell.
As well as the Strachan window, take time to admire this incredible building, full of colour and craftsmanship. Designed by GF Bodley and built in 1863-1871, the decoration of the church was finished in the 1920s and includes work by key Arts & Crafts names: Bodley himself, Morris & Co, Kempe, and Leach. All Saints is now managed by the Churches Conservation Trust.
Westminster College has taken temporary possession of a wonderful artwork display by artist Lizzie Madder. Lizzie paints the rivers and flooded meadows of the Fens. She takes inspiration from autumn and winter light, from the sound of the reeds in the wind, from gathering clouds, and the silence and solitude to be found walking along the great river banks. Lizzie works mainly in watercolours and this beautiful artwork is available for sale, so do come and take a look and purchase a piece for your wall.
Lizzie studied at Loughborough College of Art and went on to be trained in botanical art whilst living in Leicester, becoming a member of the Leicestershire Society of Botanical Artists and exhibiting throughout the United Kingdom.
When, in 2002, Lizzie moved to Cambridgeshire, there began a significant transformation in her style and approach to art generally. The discovery of the inspiring flat landscapes combined with the breath-taking skies of the Fens jolted her into responding in kind; she moved from the controlled, careful depiction of the botanical to the broader canvas of the landscape.
And yet – whilst there is a loosening up of the control demanded by the discipline of botanical art, there remains within these sometimes ethereal fenscapes, echoes of that back-story, such as that revealed by the observational detail of the subject, the attempt to communicate its essence.
For information about her work and forthcoming exhibitions:
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