03 April 2023

Rugby’s sculptures celebrate
poets, writers, inventors and
many great rugby players

‘The Writer’s Rest’ by Michael Scheuermann focuses on writers with links to Rugby (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The statue of William Webb Ellis by Graham Ibbeson is one of the most visited sites in Rugby. But the world’s greatest rugby players are also celebrated in small sculptures and plaques throughout the town, placed on the footpaths and pavements and in open ground.

But Rugby celebrates not only the rugby players of the world but also the its own writers, poets and inventors in statues and sculptures dotted around the town.

Close to the statue of Webb Ellis, Michael Scheuermann’s stone carvings in the Percival Guildhouse celebrate Rugby’s rich literary history. ‘The Writer’s Rest’ focuses on works by authors with links to the town, including many old boys of Rugby School.

A chaise longue in the gardens of Percival Guildhouse is surrounded by books and carved paving stones. Scheuermann, who is based in Birmingham, carved all the pieces from sandstone and chose Chinese granite for the paving.

A public consultation helped choose the authors celebrated in the carvings. Lewis Carroll, Rupert Brooke, Salman Rushdie, Thomas Hughes, Anthony Horowitz, Arthur Ransome and Gillian Cross are among the many writers featured in the finished pieces.

‘Stands the Church clock at ten to three? / And is there honey still for tea?’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scheuermann incorporated many literary references in his works, such as his carving of a church clock in the paving displaying the time of ten-to-three – inspired by Rupert Brooke’s poem, ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ which includes the line:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

‘The Writer’s Rest’ was commissioned by Rugby Borough Council and supported by Rugby First and Warwickshire County Council. It was unveiled in 2009.

The Percival Guildhouse is an independent adult education centre beside the Rugby Art Gallery, Museum and Library. The building on Saint Matthew Street dates from the mid-19th century, and was once the home of the antiquarian Matthew Bloxam (1805-1888).

The Percival Guild was founded in 1925 to promote adult education in Rugby, and is named after Bishop John Percival (1834-1918), a former headmaster of Rugby School, godfather of Archbishop William Temple, and the first chair of the Workers’ Educational Association. Some old boys of Rugby School bought Bloxam’s old home and created the Guildhouse. It offers a variety of adult education classes throughout the week, and its cafĂ© and gardens are open to the public.

The statue of Rupert Brooke by Ivor Roberts-Jones at Regent Place, Rugby (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones was commissioned in 1988 to produce the statue of Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) in the Jubilee Gardens, a small triangular open space at Regent Place. The statue was unveiled by Mary Archer.

Rupert Brooke, who was born at 5 Hillmorton Road, Rugby. His father, William Parker Brooke, was Housemaster of School Field House at Rugby School. As a pupil, Brooke was a boarder at his father’s house. He was happy and successful at school, gifted both as an athlete and academically. He was a member of the cricket XI and also played for the School XV.

Writing of the game that started on the Close, Brooke wrote tongue-in-cheek, as from a new boy:

When first I played I nearly died;
The bitter memory still rankles.
They formed a scrum with me inside.
Some kicked the ball and some my ankles
I did not like the game at all …

Rupert Brooke began writing poetry at an early age and won two prizes at school for ‘The Pyramids’ (1904) and ‘The Bastille’ (1905). At King’s College Cambridge, he was deeply involved in literature, art and drama, and he eventually gained a Fellowship at King’s.

The time he period spent at the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, was fruitful for Brooke, and the many friends he made there included Edward Marsh, Winston Churchill’s Private Secretary, the writer Virginia Woolf and the poets John Masefield and Edward Thomas.

He is probably best known for his Sonnets (1914), for the poems ‘The Great Lover’ and ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.’

Brooke responded to the outbreak of World War I with enthusiastic patriotism: ‘Blow out you bugles over the rich dead.’ He died from blood poisoning at the age of 27 in the Aegean on the way to join the Gallipoli campaign, and is buried on the Greek island of Skyros:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England …

Stephen Broadbent’s sculpture celebrating the work of Sir Frank Whittle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Those far corners and foreign fields are possible for so many to visit because of the work of Sir Frank Whittle, the ‘Father of the Jet Engine.’ A bronze sculpture by Stephen Broadbent, unveiled in Chestnut Field in 2005, reflects Whittle’s spirit and energy and his determination to succeed. He led a team of engineers and technicians who developed and tested the world’s first jet engine at the British Thomson Houston factory in Rugby.

The shape of Broadbent’s sculpture is reminiscent of an airscrew, with the aircraft propeller being transformed into the shape of an turbine, reflecting the new technology of power jets. The open window is symbolic of Whittle the visionary, who could see the potential of jet power. This image is inspired by a painting that shows Whittle at the testing of his first engine with its exhaust pipe projecting through the factory window.

A world map indicating international flight paths recognises Whittle’s vision in the 1930s for travel by air jet. His determination to succeed helped realise the possibility of travel across continents, something many of us now take for granted.

Ireland’s Mike Gibson is among Rugby’s greats celebrated in plaques and works dotted around the town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2023: 3 April 2023 (Station 9)

‘Jesus Falls the Third Time’ … Station 9 in the Stations of the Cross in Saint Dunstan and All Saints’ Church, Stepney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

This final week in Lent is known as Holy Week, and this is Monday in Holy Week. In these two weeks of Passiontide this year, Passion Week and Holy Week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the Stations of the Cross, illustrated by images in Saint Dunstan’s and All Saints’ Church, the Church of England parish church in Stepney, in the East End of London, and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Francis de Sales in Wolverton, which I visited for the first time last month;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the lectionary adapted in the Church of England;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Station 9, Jesus falls for the Third Time:

The Ninth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus falls for the Third Time.’

In this station, Christ has stumbled and has fallen for a third time. In the Ninth Station in Stepney, five men whip and push and pull at Jesus in their efforts to make him stand up again and continue the journey to Calvary.

The words below read: ‘Jesus Falls the Third Time.’

In Station IX in Wolverton, Christ touches or even embraces the jagged rock that has broken his fall and that must be bruising his already much-bruised body.

Psalm 18 describes God as ‘my rock, my fortress and my deliverer’ (verse 2), and Psalm 95 speaks of God as ‘the rock of our salvation’ (verse 1). But this morning I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Habakkuk: ‘The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster] will respond from the woodwork’ (Habakkuk 2: 11).

These words of Habakkuk are recalled in Saint Luke’s account of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (Luke 19: 37-40).

The words below Station IX in Wolverton read: ‘Falls the Third Time’.

‘Falls the Third Time’ … Station 9 in the Stations of the Cross in Saint Francis de Sales Church, Wolverton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 12: 1-11 (NRSVA):

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Good Neighbours in Times of War: a View from Europe.’ This theme was introduced yesterday by the Ven Dr Leslie Nathaniel, Archdeacon of the East, Germany and Northern Europe, with an adaptation of his contribution to USPG’s Lent Course ‘Who is our neighbour,’ which I have edited for USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (Monday 3 April 2023, Monday in Holy Week) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for refugees fleeing war and terror. May they receive care, understanding and hospitality in the countries to which they flee.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Stations of the Cross in Stepney, Wolverton and Stony Stratford (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org