09 July 2023

The Knife Angel visits
Lichfield to highlight knife
violence and killings

The Knife Angel is visiting Lichfield throughout the month of July (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The Knife Angel – the 27 ft tall sculpture consisting of 100,000 knives confiscated by police across the country – is in Lichfield throughout July.

I visited this contemporary and stunning piece of contemporary artwork in the centre of Lichfield at the end of last week. It stands on open space beside District Council House on Frog Lane, where it is the focus of a month-long campaign in Lichfield to raise awareness of the dangers of knife crime.

The ‘Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife’ campaign was born in 2014 when Clive Knowles of the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire was struck by the large amount of violent crimes being reported in the media.

The Knife Angel sculpture was the brainchild of Clive Knowles and was brought to life by the sculptor Alfie Bradley in 2018. It was made in the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry and is on a tour of towns and cities throughout Britain to raise awareness of knife crime, the negative effects of violent behaviour, and the need for social change.

The Knife Angel is a poignant memorial and has the potential for being a catalyst in turning the tide against violent and aggressive behaviour. But it is also as a beautiful memorial to remember the lives of people lost through knife violence.

The Knife Angel arrived in Lichfield last weekend (Saturday 1 July) and the visit to Lichfield has been funded by Staffordshire’s Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue. As part of the programme, Knife Bins - where blades can be deposited – are sited at four locations: Tesco Extra and Morrisons in Lichfield, Morrisons in Burntwood and Burntwood Leisure Centre.

School parties are visiting the sculpture in Lichfield throughout July. There are daily services on site to welcome people, and there is a full programme of outreach days, with multiple services representatives at the Knife Angel site in Frog Lane (4 July, 12 July, 19 July and 29 July).

There is fun club hub, where children can come along and enjoy a day of crafts and fun activities on 24 July. Other parts of the programme include and a CPR awareness day with West Midlands Ambulance Service (25 July), the Fire Service (26 July), the Air Ambulance team (27-28 July) and an outreach day with multiple service (29 July).

The Knife Angel is a 27 ft sculpture made of 100,000 knives confiscated by police across Britain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

At another level, the visit of the Knife Angel to Lichfield is also appropriate because, through the work of the sculptor Peter Walker some years ago, Lichfield was promoted as the ‘City of Sculpture’, with a sculpture trail throughout the city.

Yvonne James, Lichfield District Council’s Principal Community Safety Officer, said: ‘Lichfield District is one of the safest places to live in Staffordshire in terms of incidents of knife crime and violence. However, we cannot ignore the fact that they are increasing nationally with the Office for National Statistics stating that in 2021/22 the neighbouring West Midlands Police Force recorded the highest rate of 152 offences involving a knife per 100,000 of population.’

‘We need to do everything we can to alert people to the dangers,’ she added.

Councillor Richard Cox of Lichfield District Council said: ‘The Knife Angel is visually extremely striking and thought-provoking. Our aim is to prevent people from carrying knives through education, by explaining how lives can be destroyed and I hope many residents from across Lichfield District, neighbouring boroughs and districts throughout the Midlands will come and see it and help raise awareness.’

The Knife Angel is on site on Frog Lane in Lichfield until Sunday 30 July, when a ‘Civic Departure Event’ includes speakers, dancers, rappers and a procession through the city.

More information about the Knife Angel is available HERE

Share your story on social media by using these hashtags: #britishironworkcentre #knifeangel #savealifesurrenderyourknife

The Knife Angel is on site on Frog Lane in Lichfield until Sunday 30 July (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint John the Baptist Church in
Coventry is ‘one of the most
beautiful churches in England’

The Church of Saint John the Baptist at the entrance to Spon Street, an enclave of mediaeval architecture in Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The Collegiate and Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist is in the Spon Street area in the centre of Coventry. The church is at the entrance to Spon Street, an enclave of mediaeval architecture in Coventry’s mostly post-war city centre.

Because Saint John’s is on the fringe of city’s heart, it seems to get less attention than it deserves. Yet, Sir George Gilbert Scott, who restored the church in 1875-1877, considered it ‘one of the most beautiful churches in England.’

The church is a Grade I listed building and stands on a relatively small site. But what it lacks in length and width it gains in height. Its tapering and unusually narrow clerestory windows and central tower give the impression of a cathedral in miniature. The tower has oddly corbelled-out turrets at its corners, an over-exaggeration of the original design by Scott.

The church consists of a nave, aisles, central tower, chancel, and north and south chapels. There is a clerestory to nave and chancel. Scott added flying buttresses and battlemented parapets, a new pulpit and a reredos.

Inside, the church is a delight, filled with stained glass, carvings, altarpieces, green men and grotesques, and it has been described as the ‘jewel in Coventry’s mediaeval crown.’

The Church of Saint John the Baptist was founded in 1344 by Edward II’s widow, Queen Isabella (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The church was founded in 1344 following the death of Edward II by his widow, Queen Isabella. She had been exiled from public life by her son, Edward III, and when she settled at Cheylesmore Manor in Coventry she began to involve herself in local affairs. She granted the Guild of Saint John a piece of land called Babbelak (Bablake) for building a chapel in honour of God and Saint John the Baptist.

The chapel was used for the guild’s own services, and included a chantry of two priests to sing daily Mass for the royal family. The east part of the church was ready for consecration on 2 May 1350 and it was dedicated on 6 May 1350.

Edward, the Black Prince, Isabella’s grandson, continued the royal patronage of Saint John’s, and the church was enlarged as Coventry flourished in the late mediaeval period. In 1393 the college of priests was increased to nine members, and in the early 16th century this was raised to 12.

With various enlargements and endowments, the chapel became a collegiate church. It remained a guild chapel until the religious guilds were dissolved during the Tudor Reformation. The college was dissolved in 1548 and the priests were pensioned with sums varying from £5 6s. 8d. to £2 13s. 4d. Five of these pensioners were still living in 1555.

Saint John’s was restored and became a parish church in 1734 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The church ceased to be used for worship around 1590, but was restored in 1608. However, during the English Civil War, the church was desecrated in 1648 and used as a prison for royalist Scots soldiers captured at the Battle of Preston. The people of Coventry were Parliamentarians and treated the soldiers coldly, giving rise to the saying ‘sent to Coventry’.

Later, the church was used as stables, then as a dyer’s stretch yard and a market place.

The church was finally restored as a place of worship in 1734 and was created a parish church on 24 July 1734.

The carved rood screen is in the late mediaeval style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The second, Victorian restoration by Scott was instigated by the Irish-born Revd George Cuffe, Rector of Saint John’s in 1874-1896, who worked closely with Scott during the restoration.

The foundation of a wall running north and south through the middle of the chancel was discovered in 1875. Scott thought this was the east wall of the first guild chapel, and that the bases of two piers near the east tower belonged to that earlier chapel.

Almost all the furnishings are Victorian or early 20th century, although most are in the mediaeval style, heavily influence by the Anglo-Catholic Movement. They include a carved rood screen in late mediaeval style.

The reredos above the High Altar has a central figure of Christ in Gethsemane flanked by apostles and angels (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The reredos above the High Altar was given after the restoration in 1875-1877 by the children of the Revd Thomas Sheepshanks (1796-1875), who had been the rector for 50 years. His children included John Sheepshanks (1834-1912), Bishop of Norwich in 1893-1910.

This late Victorian reredos is an alabaster bas relief with an unusual central figure of Christ in Gethsemane flanked by panels of apostles and angels. It was originally plain and copied from a fresco in Florence under the direction of Scott’s son, John Oldred Scott.

The introduction of rich colourings and gilding in 1908 came with a bequest from Miss EM Powles. Each figure is individually crafted, with many of the apostles identified by their traditional motifs on their garments.

In 2011 the then rector, Father Paul Such, challenged the origin of the work, claiming that the reredos was based on the Ascension fresco by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua.

The north chapel or Lady Chapel and its triptych (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The north chapel or Lady Chapel has a triptych with panels copied from works by Raphael, including the Madonna and Christ Child with Saint John the Baptist, known as the ‘Madonna of the Goldfinch,’ now in the Uffizi in Florence.

The south chapel has a characteristic reredos by Sir Ninian Comper (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The south chapel has a fine and very characteristic reredos by Sir Ninian Comper with a central Crucifixion group. He also gave the chapel a reliquary for a relic of Saint Valentine, which gained the admiration of Sir John Betjeman. The reliquary with the saint’s finger has been displayed on the altar during Mass on Saint Valentine’s Day, 14 February.

The carved oak lectern designed by Sir Gilbert Scott was given in 1887 in memory of the Revd Algernon Courie Child, a former curate, who died in 1886 at the age of 23. The brass inscription is by a prominent Coventry based brass metalworker, Francis Alfred Skidmore, who worked closely with Scott on many projects.

A profusion of 14th-century carved figures decorates the nave and aisle pillars and the arcade arches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A profusion of 14th-century carved figures decorates the nave and aisle pillars and the arcade arches. Some are grotesque, grinning beasts, others are human figures.

A piece of alabaster carving set on a north aisle pillar shows the Three Wise Men. It was carved at Nottingham in the first half of the 15th century, and originally formed part of a screen, or reredos.

A brass plate under the west window recalls the depth to which the church was flooded on 31 December 1900. Rapidly thawing snow and heavy rain caused the River Sherbourne and the Swanswell Pool to overflow their banks. Hales Street took the brunt of the floods.

The rector, the Revd Augustus Gossage Robinson, started work immediately as the floods subsided, but the fittings and furnishings and the organ were damaged beyond repair. The church was closed for seven weeks and services were held in double shifts at the new Mission Church of Saint Saviour’s.

It is an irony that PCC pressed for the church to be raised 4 ft during the 1870s restoration, but Scott advised them to save their money as the chances of a flood, in his view, were minimal.

The east window is one of the last works by Margaret Aldrich Rope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint John’s has an interesting mixture of stained glass, from Victorian and Edwardian pieces that survived the Blitz, to more prominent and colourful windows installed in the 1950s.

The post-war glass predates the windows in nearby Coventry Cathedral by only a few years, but is highly figurative and traditional in approach, and a far cry from the revolutionary new works for which Coventry Cathedral became famous within a decade.

The east window, with its vibrant hues, is the one of the last works of Margaret Aldrich Rope, the younger member of a celebrated pair of artists who were cousins, both named Margaret Rope. It depicts the Annunciation above, flanked by Saint John and Saint Luke, balanced by the Expulsion of Adam and Eve below, flanked by Isaiah and Saint John the Baptist.

The War Memorial window with Saint George, Saint Patrick, Saint David and Saint Andrew (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The War Memorial window on the south wall is by Burlison and Grylls (1922) and lists 98 men of the parish who died in World War I. The window depicts the four nation patron saints, Saint George of England, Saint Patrick of Ireland, Saint David of Wales and Saint Andrew of Scotland.

At the top of the window is a depiction of the Crucifixion; the four figures beneath represent Faith, Hope, Justice and Fortitude. The positioning of the saints is explained by the fact that Lord Montgomery of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was Irish-born.

The window survived the Coventry Blitz, but was damaged in a fire in 1945; it was restored after World War II.

The window in the north aisle commemorating Queen Isabella and the Black Prince (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A window by Burlison and Grylls (1910) in the north aisle commemorates Queen Isabella, the Black Prince, and of the founders of the church, with her coats of arms flanked by banners representing the Guild of the Assumption and the Guild of Saint Catherine.

The window in the north aisle commemorating the Black Prince (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A paired window by Burlison and Grylls (1910) commemorates Edward the Black Prince, with his coat of arms flanked by banners representing the Guild of Saint John and the Guild of the Holy Trinity.

The Cuffe Window by Charles Eamer Kempe depicts Saint John the Baptist at the River Jordan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Cuffe Window by Charles Eamer Kempe depicts Saint John the Baptist pointing to the arrival of Christ at the River Jordan. It was given in 1897 as a parish memorial to the Revd George Cuffe (1843-1896), who was Rector for 22 years from 1874 to 1895. It survived the Blitz, but had to be repaired in 1988 having been vandalised.

The Robinson Window depicts the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Robinson Window by George Cooper Abbs of Exeter in the North Chapel was installed in 1959 in memory of the Revd Augustus Gossage Robinson, Rector in 1896-1918, who died in 1956 aged 92.

The window depicts the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation and the Visitation (left), the Nativity (centre), and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and Finding Christ in the Temple (right).

The Madelaine Rollinson Window by the Harry Clarke Studios depicts Christ the High Priest and the Seven Sacraments (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Madelaine Rollinson Window is dated 1961 and is by the Harry Clarke Studios of Dublin, over 20 years after the death of Harry Clarke.

The window depicts Christ the High Priest superimposed on the Tree of Life whose branches are the Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Penance, Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Holy Unction and Holy Communion. The Hand of God is seen above pointing to the Risen Christ, while an image based on a photograph of Madelaine Rollinson is placed discreetly in the bottom left-hand corner.

The east window in the south chapel depicts Saint John the Baptist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The east window in the south chapel depicting Saint John the Baptist is by Arthur E Buss of Goddard & Gibbs (1951). It is in memory of Barbara Ann Weaver, a parishioner.

Saint John the Baptist Church is in the Anglo-Catholic tradition (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint John the Baptist Church escaped major damage in the November 1940 Blitz that destroyed much of Coventry, beyond the loss of much – but not all – of its Victorian stained glass.

Saint John’s is in the Anglo-Catholic tradition and has passed a resolution to receive alternative episcopal oversight, which it receives from Bishop Paul Thomas of Oswestry. The Rector of Saint John’s, Father Dexter Bracey, who is also the Bishop’s representative of The Society in the Diocese of Coventry.

Saint John the Baptist Church is open from 10 am to 12 noon every Saturday, and on occasion during exhibitions. The Eucharist is celebrated on Sundays at 11 am and 6 pm.

A statue of Saint John the Baptist at the south-west corner of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (42) 9 July 2023

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Templeglantine, Co Limerick, was built almost 200 years ago in 1829 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (9 July 2023). Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Templeglantine, Co Limerick:

The Church of the Holy Trinity in Templeglantine, Co Limerick, is across the street from the community centre and the local school.

The name Templeglantine (Teampall an Ghleanntáin) means ‘the church of the little glen,’ although it is also known locally as Inchebaun or An Inse Bhán, meaning the ‘White River meadow.’ The village is on the N21 from Limerick to Tralee, five miles south-west of Newcastlewest.

Templeglantine is a chapel village that grew up around the church built almost 200 years ago in 1829 by Father James Cleary, who was Parish Priest of Monagea. Templeglantine parish was created in 1864 following the transfer of Father James O’Shea to Rathkeale. He had been parish priest of Monagea, and Templeglantine was a part of Monagea parish until this change.

The O’Macasa family ruled the area until the 12th century, when they were replaced by the FitzGerald family, Earls of Desmond. After the defeat of the Desmond FitzGeralds in 1583, this part of West Limerick passed to Sir William Courtenay and the Earls of Devon.

Westropp describes an old church ruin in Templeglantine. The site of this church is now surrounded by Templeglantine graveyard. The east end of the church was levelled before 1840. The remainder of the church was defaced and overgrown with ash and thorn.

The walls of the church were about 6 or 7 feet in height, according to Westropp. While the ruins of the church no longer exist, a small wall has been built to show the site of the west gable of the church. The church was originally about 70 ft by 30 ft.

According to Tadhg O’Maolcatha, there was a thatched Mass House at Roche’s Cross in Meenoline before 1829. Earlier still there was an Abbey in Templeglantine West.

Holy Trinity Church in Templeglantine is one of the oldest churches still in use today in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick. An inscription on the wall says the church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity in 1829. The baptismal font and the holy water fonts in the porch are presumed to date from 1829, the year that also marked the passing of legislation on Catholic Emancipation.

This is double-height, gable-fronted church, with a three-bay nave and a later porch, built in the 1930s, a single-bay chancel, a two-bay single-storey sacristy, and a single-bay lean-to and flat-roofed extensions.

The church retains many attractive architectural features, including the dressed rubble stone walls with limestone quoins, and the numerous window styles, including unusual bipartite windows. The use of tooled limestone to the window surrounds and hood mouldings enhance the appearance of the church.

Inside the church, the well-maintained interior has a finely carved marble reredos. Behind the High Altar, the stained-glass window depicts the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ.

There are stained-glass windows of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid at the back of the church, and a stained-glass window in the gallery of Christ gathering or minding his flock.

The wooden medallion of the Holy Trinity on the north side of the nave was commissioned in 1999 to mark the millennium in 2000. The medallion is the work of the liturgical artist Fergus Costello at his studios in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.

At the centre of the medallion, a motif from the Book of Kells shows unending circles, without beginning or end, as a symbol of Divinity. The Father is represented by the all-seeing eye; the Son is represented by the Cross of Redemption; the Holy Spirit is represented by the Dove.

The Dove is carved in pine; the all-seeing eye and the cross are carved in bog oak and bog yew wood that is probably thousands of years old.

The Stations of the Cross date from around 1946, when they replaced the original Stations of the Cross. The church also has a silver chalice from 1796, predating the church.

The porch was built in the 1930s through a donation from parishioners who had emigrated to America.

Bridget (Sexton) Kiely of Glenshesk donated a bell to the church in the early 20th century, and it was mounted on the west gable. By the mid-1950s, the bell was taken down for safety reasons, a new free-standing belfry was built in the church grounds, and the old bell was sent to the missions in Africa.

A large stone statue of the Virgin Mary was erected in front of the church in 1995. It was sculpted from limestone and is the work of the sculptor Annette McCormack from Newbridge, Co Kildare.

A new graveyard behind the church opened in September 1983. Before that, the only graveyard in the parish had been in the grounds of the old church in Templeglantine West. That graveyard is said to have been in use for around 800 years, but the oldest headstone is from 1866, in memory of Michael Gallwey RM.

The community centre across the road was officially opened by Bishop Jeremiah Newman in 1977.

Today, Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine, forms a pastoral unit with Tournafulla and Mountcollins.

The gallery and west end of Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,

17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

The wooden medallion of the Holy Trinity by Fergus Costello (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Fighting Climate Change Appeal – Hermani’s story’. This theme is introduced today:

Climate change looms across the globe. In India, where 268 million people live in poverty, the crisis is hitting their communities the hardest. Communities like Hermani’s. Walking to school each morning, she passes her neighbour’s vegetable plots wilting in the harsh sun. She spots animals who have died because there is no water for them to drink.

For Hermani, the future feels frightening and uncertain. It’s a heavy burden for her to carry. But you can share this burden, so she knows she is not alone. The Church of South India runs an eco-learning programme teaching school classes about what they can do to tackle climate change.

USPG is launching the Fighting Climate Change Appeal so that with your support, Hermani will learn how to save water and create fertilisers out of waste. She’ll understand more about preserving water and planting trees, offering shade for years to come. Your compassion can support India’s young climate warriors today.

Find out more HERE.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (9 July 2023) invites us to pray:

‘The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’.
O God,
We have profoundly damaged Creation.
Give us the strength to recover what we have tainted,
Amplify the voices calling for renewal.


Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The stained-glass window of Saint Patrick in Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The free-standing belfry in the church grounds (Photograph: 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

Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine, is one of the oldest churches in use in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)