31 August 2023

A pilgrim’s visit
to Keble College
and Butterfield’s
chapel in Oxford

Keble College, Oxford, was established in 1870 as a tribute to John Keble, a founding figure in the Oxford Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I have often spoken and written in the past ‘The Light of the World’ by the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Holt (1827-1910) is the first image of Christ I remember seeing as a child. A print of it was first shown to me by my grandmother in her house in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, and it is an image that has remained with me ever since.

The original painting is in Keble College, Oxford. It became so popular that Hunt was asked to paint a larger copy. This second version was sold on condition that it toured the world to preach the Gospel and that the purchaser provided cheap colour reproductions. After travelling the world, the second version was presented to Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1904. It remains ‘a painted text, a sermon on canvas.’

‘The Light of the World’ has been reproduced in books, prints and stained-glass windows around the world, and I seem to see it in vestries, rectories and vicarages everywhere. I have seen the version in Saint Paul’s on many occasions, but I did not see the original until last week, when I visited Keble College, Oxford.

Keble College is distinctive for its neo-Gothic red-brick buildings designed by William Butterfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Keble College was established in 1870, and was built as a tribute to John Keble (1792-1866), a founding figure in the Oxford Movement. This is one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford, and its main buildings are on Parks Road, opposite the University Museum and the University Parks.

Keble is distinctive for its once-controversial neo-Gothic red-brick buildings designed by the London architect William Butterfield (1814-1900), who is associated with the Oxford Movement and known for his use of polychromy.

Butterfield synthesised Pugin’s Gothic Revival with the insights of John Ruskin, author of The Stones of Venice, who had an enormous influence on Anglo-Catholic architecture. Butterfield took Ruskin’s ideals to heart in Keble College and All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London. His other works include Saint Andrew’s Church, Rugby; Saint Mark’s Church, Dundela, Belfast; and the chapel of Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, Dublin.

The Chapel and Liddon Quadrangle in Keble College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John Keble died in 1866, four years before the college was founded in 1870. It was decided immediately after Keble’s funeral that his memorial would be a new Oxford college bearing his name. The best-known of Keble’s founders was the Revd Professor Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), after whom the Pusey Quad and Pusey Room are named.

The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop John Bird Sumner of Canterbury on Saint Mark’s Day, 25 April 1868, John Keble’s birthday. The college opened in 1870, taking in 30 students. The chapel was opened on Saint Mark’s Day 1876, and the college continues to celebrate Saint Mark’s Day each year.

Keble is one of Butterfield’s few secular buildings, and a notable example of Victorian Gothic architecture. The architectural historian Sir Niklaus Pevsner says it is ‘actively ugly,’ Charles Eastlake says it defies criticism, the social historian GM Trevelyan said: ‘the monstrosities of architecture erected by order of the dons of Oxford and Cambridge colleges in the days of William Butterfield and Alfred Waterhouse give daily pain to posterity.’ Sir Kenneth Clark says that during his Oxford years it was generally believed that Keble College was ‘the ugliest building in the world.’

Butterfield’s buildings at Keble College broke from Oxbridge architectural traditions by using brick instead of stone (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Butterfield’s buildings at Keble College broke from Oxbridge architectural traditions by using brick instead of stone and by arranging rooms along corridors rather than around staircases.

The college is built of red, blue, and white bricks; the main structure is of red brick, with white and blue patterned banding. The builders were Parnell & Son of Rugby.

The main site of Keble contains five quads: Liddon, the largest, named after the Revd Professor Henry Parry Liddon (1829-1890), another key figure in the Oxford Movement; Pusey, named after Edward Bouverie Pusey; Hayward, named after Charles Hayward; De Breyne, named after Andre de Breyne; and Newman, previously the Fellows’ Garden, named after John Henry Newman.

The first parts of the college to be built were the east and west sides of Liddon Quad to house undergraduate and tutors’ rooms. These residential ranges have a horizontal emphasis contrasted with tall chimneys and gables with a chequered decoration of brick and stone. Edward Bouverie Pusey paid for the entrance gateway and tower.

Edward Bouverie Pusey paid for the entrance gateway and tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The dominant building is the chapel with its bold buttresses and pinnacles. It soars above the sunken quadrangle with windows that start high up above the first storey. The south range facing the chapel contains the Hall and Library on the first floor. The grand oriel window in the middle of this range lights the internal staircase.

The best-known portion of Keble’s buildings is the distinctive main brick complex, designed by Butterfield. The design remained incomplete due to shortage of funds. The Chapel and Hall were built later than the accommodation blocks to the east and west of the two original quadrangles and the warden’s house at the south-east corner. The chapel and hall, also designed by Butterfield, were funded by William Gibbs.

The original college focus was on teaching theology, but it now offers subjects across the range of degrees that Oxford offers. In the years after World War II, the trend was towards science degrees, reflecting Keble’s proximity to the university science area east of the University Museum. Keble admitted its first female students in 1979.

The original focus at Keble College was on teaching theology, but it now offers subjects across the range of degrees that Oxford offers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A section west of the chapel was built in a different style in the 1950s with funding from Antonin Besse. Later significant additions include the modern, brick Hayward and de Breyne extensions by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (ABK), made possible by a donations from the businessmen Charles Hayward and André de Breyne and other fundraising efforts. The ABK buildings included the college’s futuristic ‘goldfish bowl’ bar, opened in 1977.

The ARCO building was completed in 1995 by the US-born architect Rick Mather. This was followed in 2002 by the Sloane-Robinson Building, also designed by Mather, with additional student bedrooms, the O’Reilly Theatre, a dedicated room for musical practice, a number of seminar rooms and a café and social space. The original fellows’ garden was lost in the programme of extension, as well as a range of houses on Blackhall Road.

Keble bought the former Acland Hospital for £10.75 million in 2004 and the site was redeveloped to double the number of graduate rooms.

There is another Pre-Raphaelite link here, for the Acland Hospital was named after Henry Wentworth Acland, Regius Professor of Medicine in Oxford, and a friend of John Ruskin. In 1871, Ruskin gave Acland a gift of Ruskin’s portrait by John Everett Millais, which now hangs in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Keble College Boat Club competes annually in Torpids and Summer Eights (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today, Keble is one of the larger colleges in Oxford, with 460 undergraduates and 525 graduate students. The name of the college magazine The Brick is a reminder of the brick given to each graduate along with their degree diploma.

Keble College Sports Ground is on Woodstock Road. Keble fields a number of sports teams, particularly in rugby, football and cricket.

Keble College Boat Club competes annually in Torpids and Summer Eights.

Inside Keble College Chapel, one of the major achievements of Victorian church architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Keble College Chapel is one of the major achievements of Victorian church architecture. Butterfield intended the chapel to speak in its order and decoration of the principles of the Oxford Movement, with its emphasis on the corporate life of the Church and sacramental worship. The stained glass and mosaics are by Alexander Gibbs.

In 1873, Butterfield wrote to HP Liddon: ‘I wish the Chapel to speak chiefly of public worship … to illustrate in its order the whole Christian Creed in type and anti-type as far as possible … The Christian Year [Keble’s book of poems on the Sundays and Holy Days of the Church's year] is in its way what I am asking this Chapel to be.’

In the mosaic decoration, he wished to represent the ‘successive dealings of God with His Church, Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian,’ culminating in the vision of the Lord in glory according to the imagery of the Book of Revelation, which was placed above the altar at the east end.

The chapel was the gift of William Gibbs, but he did not live to see it completed (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The chapel was the gift of William Gibbs (1790-1875), reputedly ‘the richest non-noble man in England.’ But he did not live to see it completed. It was opened on Saint Mark’s Day 1876, but it was never consecrated as the College Council feared this might interfere with its authority over the chapel and its worship.

According to Paul Thomson in his thesis ‘William Butterfield, Victorian Architect’ (1971), Butterfield’s many hours studying Saint Marks’s Basilica, Venice, made him emphasise the mosaics that ‘dominate the interior of Keble College Chapel.’ The painted decoration of the chapel, and the emphatic horizontal thickening of the lower wall, make Butterfield’s debt to the upper church of Saint Francis in Assist much clearer than in All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street.

The stained glass and mosaics in Keble Chapel, including the East Window depicting the Ascension, are by Alexander Gibbs (1832-1886) of Bedford Square in Bloomsbury.

The side chapel was built as a memorial to HP Liddon and as a home for William Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The side chapel was built 20 years later partly as a memorial to HP Liddon, partly to provide a fitting home for William Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World,’ originally housed in the College Library. Butterfield disapproved of building the side chapel, which blocked the light from the transept window into the chapel.

Hunt originally wanted the painting to hang in the main chapel, and when Bloomfield rejected this Holman Hunt responded by painting the second version now in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London.

The side chapel was designed by JT Micklethwaithe. It was re-ordered and ‘The Light of the World’ was moved to its present position in 1976.

The East Window in Keble Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

There are services in Keble Chapel throughout the week in term time, and all are welcome regardless of background or belief. Keble Choir sings at the three main chapel services each week.

The Sung Eucharist (Sundays 5:30 pm) is the main service of the week, with hymns, choral music and a thought-provoking talk, followed by pre-dinner drinks. The two other main chapel services each week are Choral Evensong (Wednesdays 6 pm) and Candlelit Compline (Thursdays 9 pm), followed by port and hot chocolate.

Other chapel services include: Morning Prayer (8:15, Monday-Friday), Evening Prayer (6:30, Mondays), Said Eucharist (6:30, Tuesdays and Thursdays), and Evensong (6 pm, Wednesdays).

The West Window in Keble Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Chaplain is Father Max Kramer, who studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford, trained for the priesthood at Westcott House, Cambridge, and completed an MPhil in Old Testament studies at Saint John’s College, Cambridge.

He has taught Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Classical and Biblical Literature at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent. He is interested in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and Classical literature. Before coming to Keble he was Precentor of Canterbury Cathedral.

The Assistant Chaplain since 2012 is Father Darren McFarland, Vicar of Saint Andrew’s, Old Headington. He trained for priesthood in the Church of Ireland and then served in parishes in Co Wicklow and Dublin.

Looking towards the west end of Keble Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Keble College is the patron of 69 parishes across England, including Saint Barnabas, Oxford, which I visited the same day as visiting Keble College.

Along with Saint Barnabas, Saint Paul’s, All Saints’ and Tom Quad in Christ Church, Keble is mentioned by John Betjeman in his poem ‘Myfanwy at Oxford’:

Her Myfanwy? My Myfanwy.
Bicycle bells in a Boar’s Hill Pine,
Stedman Triple from All Saints’ steeple,
Tom and his hundred and one at nine,
Bells of Butterfield, caught in Keble,
Sally and backstroke answer “Mine!”

Keble is also named in the writings of John Ruskin and in Monty Python’s ‘Travel Agent’ sketch. Horace Rumpole, the barrister in John Mortimer’s books, is a law graduate of Keble.

Looking out on Liddon Quad and Keble from Keble Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (95) 31 August 2023

Saint Clare’s at the Cathedral is the pioneer church community of Coventry Cathedral, tucked between the old and new cathedrals (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XII, 27 August 2023). Today, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Saint Aidan (657), Bishop of Lindisfarne and Missionary.

Before the day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on the churches in Tamworth and Lichfield. This week, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at a church in Coventry;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Clare’s is a small and friendly inclusive community offering a home to the spiritually seeking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Clare’s at the Cathedral, Coventry:

Tucked between the old and new Cathedrals in the heart of Coventry, Saint Clare’s at the Cathedral is a place of community, of worship and of resource. It is the pioneer church community of Coventry Cathedral, and also a Christian Resource Centre for the city and beyond.

The Saint Clare’s Community meets for worship every Sunday at 12 noon. The service is a simple 45-60 minute Communion service. Bread and wine are shared, people look at the Bible together and they think about what God is doing in their lives. There are opportunities for everyone to participate if they want to, but nobody has to.

After the service, they stay to chat and lunch together. Drinks and snacks are provided, and all are invited to bring a sandwich or the like to go with it.

Over summer and into early autumn, they are exploring the Acts of the Apostles, following their adventures and reflecting on what their story means for people as individuals and as a church community.

Although Saint Clare’s Day was celebrated earlier this month (13 August), there were no Sunday services for the past two Sundays (20 and 27 August). However, these resume next Sunday (3 September), when the study of the Acts of the Apostles resumes where Paul and Barnabas argue, and Timothy joins Paul and Silas (Acts 15: 36-41, 16: 1-5).

Saint Clare’s is a small and friendly inclusive church community that offers a home to the spiritually seeking, to those who have wandered away from God, to those who never knew God and to those who have lost faith in the church.

About 25 people see themselves as part of Saint Clare’s community, but there is no formal membership though – people just come along on a Sunday and are welcome to get to know and be part of the community.

Saint Clare’s is part of Coventry Cathedral and the Church of England. But the community includes people from other Churches, and anyone is welcome to come and join the journey, from any faith background or none.

Saint Clare’s community includes people from a wide range of ethic and social backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and neurodiversity. There are people of every age, but the majority are under 40. Children are an important part of the community and are welcome at all the services, and some Sunday services have a particular appeal to younger members.

The two priests at Saint Clare’s at the Cathedral are the Revd Charlotte Gale and the Revd Naomi Nixon. Between them they share over 40 years of experience in ministry.

The Revd Charlotte Gale, the shopkeeper priest, has been at Saint Clare’s since 2017. Before that she spent 16 years in parish ministry. She has been a member of the General Synod since 2013, chair of the House of Clergy of the Diocesan Synod in Coventry Diocese. She is the author of a novel The Hunt for the Rhinestone Cowboy. She is in the shop at Saint Clare’s most days (Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm).

The Revd Naomi Nixon is the CEO of the Student Christian Movement. She has a background of working in education, led a chaplaincy in further education, taught youth work and later ran staff development for the clergy of the Diocese of Coventry.

The Saint Clare’s Community profile photograph on Facebook

Matthew 24: 42-51 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 42 ‘Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

45 ‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, 49 and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

After church in the Saint Clare’s Community at Coventry Cathedral

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 the ‘República de Jovens Home in Brazil.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (31 August 2023, International Day for people of African Descent) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for the people of Africa and all who have links to the continent.

The Collect:

Everlasting God,
you sent the gentle bishop Aidan
to proclaim the gospel in this land:
grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility and love for the poor;
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.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal
the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share with Aidan and all your saints
in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Saint Clare’s Community meets for worship every Sunday at 12 noon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

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

The Chapel of Unity in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

30 August 2023

The Strict Baptist Chapel
in Jericho, Oxford,
has no welcome sign,
but is it closed?

The ‘Strict Baptist Chapel’ in Albert Street, Jericho, Oxford, was built in 1881 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Jericho has become a gentrified part of Oxford in recent years and is one of the trendiest areas, with its fashionable wine bars, cafés, restaurants, shops and night clubs.

I was in Jericho last week, visiting Saint Barnabas Church and the former Saint Paul’s Church, and found myself wandering through the narrow streets and terraced houses between the Oxford University Press and the Canal.

Squeezed between the houses that face onto the front of Albert Street is the small building that was once Albert Street Chapel or Oxford Baptist Chapel, also known as the Strict Baptist Chapel. Until it closed, this was the only non-conformist chapel in Jericho that had remained in use.

A carved stone above the porch or entrance reads: ‘Strict Baptist Chapel 1881.’ There is a sign board on either side of the porch. One has recently been filled with a poster that reads: ‘Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

On the other hand, the signboard to the right of the porch has been left blank. I mused how it offered no indication to the wary and heavy-laden on how they might take up that invitation to come in and be given rest.

But I ought not to jest. I have long given up on trying to inject any sense of fun into fundamentalism.

If the chapel is closed, why was there a fresh poster in one noticeboard? If the chapel is open, why are there no words of welcome or indication of when or where to find services?

Oxford has at least seven Baptist churches or chapels, including New Road Baptist Church, Bonn Square; Headington Baptist Church; Botley Baptist Church; John Bunyan Baptist Church, Crowell Road; Oxford Baptist Chapel, Albert Street, Jericho; Woodstock Road Baptist Church; People’s Baptist Church or International Baptist Church, Crowell Road; and Oxford Baptist Chapel.

The New Road Baptist chapel dates back to a Presbyterian chapel in 1721, which was almost entirely rebuilt in 1798. A Baptist chapel was founded in George Street in 1821 with JH Hinton as minister, but it closed in 1836. A small chapel built in Middle Way, Summertown, in 1824 may have closed by 1829 when one of its founders, William Carter, registered another meeting house at his ironworks in Walton Street. There may have been a Baptist meeting in a private house in Summertown in 1831.

The first major new Baptist chapel in Oxford, the Adullam chapel on Commercial Road, Saint Ebbe’s, was built in 1832 for and largely at the expense of HB Bulteel, a former curate of Saint Ebbe’s Church. It was designed by William Fisher and for many years it was the largest nonconformist chapel in Oxford, seating 800 people.

Bulteel’s preaching attracted large numbers, but the precise religious affiliations of the chapel are uncertain, since his own views fluctuated. Bulteel left Oxford in 1846 and his successors were unable to hold together the congregation. The chapel was described as Particular Baptist in 1851, and its congregation was said to be 500-600. However, it was ‘dissolved’ in 1858, and it was taken over by the Methodist Reformers in 1862.

Then, in 1868, the remnants of the ‘Bulteelers,’ under Alexander Macfarlane of Spurgeon’s College, bought back the chapel. and the renovated chapel was opened by Charles Spurgeon in 1869. The group was at first known as the Tabernacle Baptist Society, but the chapel was later described as Particular Baptist. When it closed in 1937, the remaining members joined with a Baptist congregation from South Hinksey to open a chapel in New Hinksey.

Other Baptist chapels and meetings in Oxford were found in Caroline Street (1869-1887), Pusey Lane (1883-1891), and Bridge Street, Oseney (1883-1921). The New Road chapel also sponsored the formation of the North Oxford church and the John Bunyan church was built in 1941 and rebuilt in 1964.

Meanwhile, the earliest records of Baptists in the Jericho area are in 1843, when William Higgins registered a meeting of Particular Baptists in his house in Clarendon Place, Jericho. Higgins may have been their pastor, and by 1851 the congregation averaged 60.

The address of ‘Higgins’s Room’ was given as King Street, Jericho, in 1869. Whether Higgins moved or whether Clarendon Place was an earlier name for King Street is not clear but there is no Clarendon Place on the 1850 map.

The King Street Baptists were derisively called ‘Hypers’ in the 1870s, and they may have been connected with the earlier group of Bulteelers known by that name. In 1881, they built a chapel in Albert Street, Jericho, described as the ‘Strict Baptist Chapel’. The term ‘strict’ refers to the strict or closed position held with regard to membership and communion, and their strict understanding of Calvinist theology. These Baptists are referred to as Strict and Particular Baptists.

By the time the chapel was built, most of Albert Street had been developed piecemeal in the 1860s and the 1870s. The chapel itself incorporates an interesting if not curious hints of the influence of Gothic architecture, and is embedded in rows of Victorian terraced houses facing onto the narrow streets of Jericho.

However, within a decade of the chapel opening, numbers had declined to a core membership of about a dozen. Throughout most of the 20th century it was even smaller than that.

As Jericho changed and developed in the 1970s and was transformed, the remaining members of the congregation moved to live outside Jericho, only coming in on Sundays and at times of special observance. They seem to have shared little identification with the local residents although, at times, the congregation contributed financially to local causes

Without a pastor, the chapel relied on visiting ministers from all over the country until 1992 when David Cooke was appointed pastor. Shortly afterwards, the church formally adopted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, written by English Baptists who subscribed to strict Calvinistic views.

The 1990s saw a period of growth in the chapel, largely due to a small group of students, some of whom remained in Oxford after graduation. Around 150 students passed through Albert Street Chapel during this period, including a large number of Americans, many on short-term exchange courses. Church membership eventually peaked at 18.

From 2003 on, there was a steady outflow of young couples moving to other parts. The church never recovered from that loss, and the small Sunday school closed in 2005. The pastor’s impending resignation brought matters to a conclusion.

The congregation of Albert Street Chapel met for the last time on 28 December 2008. The pastor, David Cooke, had announced his resignation following his appointment to Banbury Evangelical Free Church.

The church decided to disband at the end of 2008. After the closing service, the chapel building remained in the hands of trustees. But, since then, it seems, the building passed into the hands of the Oxford Baptist Chapel, which dates from March 2010.

Oxford Baptist Chapel is an independent Baptist church in Oxford, the pastor is Derrick Morlan, and it has a fundamentalist approach to preaching, teaching and doctrine. It is the one of the six Baptist chapels involved in the Crown Christian Heritage Trust, formed in 2011. There are similar congregations in Blackheath, Brighton, Liverpool, Tyseley (East Birmingham), and Welshpool.

It seems Oxford Baptist Chapel no longer meets in the former Strict Baptist Chapel on Albert Road, Jericho. All services are currently held at ‘The Field’ on Southern By-Pass Road. They include Sunday services at 11 am and 6 pm, and Wednesday Prayer Meetings at 7 pm.

Jericho has been gentrified in recent years and is one of the trendiest areas in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (94) 30 August 2023

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

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XII, 27 August 2023). Today, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the life and witness of John Bunyan, Spiritual Writer (1688).

Before the day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on the churches in Tamworth and Lichfield. This week, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at a church in Coventry;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

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

Saint John the Baptist Church, Coventry:

The Collegiate and Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, which I visited earlier this summer, 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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. 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

Matthew 23: 27-32 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 27 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.’

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

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 the ‘República de Jovens Home in Brazil.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (30 August 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for children around the world who are orphaned. May they be surrounded by family love however that may look. We pray too for all who step up to parent orphans.

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

The Collect:

God of peace,
who called your servant John Bunyan
to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims
we may at the last rejoice with all Christian people
in your heavenly city;
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.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with John Bunyan to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

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

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

29 August 2023

Saint Barnabas Jericho,
a Pre-Raphaelite church
in Oxford with literary and
Anglo-Catholic traditions

Saint Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford, has inspired writers from Thomas Hardy to John Betjeman (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Barnabas Church is the Church of England parish church in Jericho, Oxford, close to the Oxford Canal and the old Jericho boatyard, and a 15-minute walk from the centre of Oxford. The church features in a wide range of literature, from Thomas Hardy and Gerald Manley Hopkins to PD James and AN Wilson. The poet John Betjeman wrote a poem about the church.

Saint Barnabas Jericho, which I visited last week, is affectionately known as ‘Jericho Basilica.’ I was struck by how vast, broad, tall and spacious the church is, with large arches, a majestic sanctuary and altar and a striking Venetian bell tower or campanile.

Saint Barnabas was built in the Victorian era to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of the workforce of the nearby Clarendon Press, later the Oxford University Press, on Great Clarendon Street, as well as the poor and working class people living in the growing west Oxford suburb of Jericho.

The new parish was carved out of Saint Paul’s parish in Oxford in 1869; Saint Paul’s, in turn, had been formed 30 years earlier from parts of the parishes of Saint Thomas and Saint Giles.

Saint Paul’s Church was renowned for its elaborate ritual and processions, and it was drawing so many worshippers in the 1850s that another church was needed for Jericho.

The campanile or bell tower of Saint Barnabas Church was completed in 1872 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Barnabas Church was founded by Thomas Combe (1796-1872), Superintendent of the Clarendon Press, and his wife Martha (1806-1893), who are now commemorated by a blue plaque installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board. They were supporters of the Oxford Movement and good friends of John Henry Newman, and he was a churchwarden at Saint Paul’s.

Combe was also a patron of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. William Holman Hunt came to live at his home, the Printer’s House in Jericho, where he painted ‘The Light of the World’ for the chapel in Keble College.

The church was built on land donated by George Ward, a local landowner and member of the Ward family of coal merchants and boatbuilders. George Ward’s brother William Ward was Mayor of Oxford on two occasions, 1851-1852 and 1861-1862.

Inside Saint Barnabas Church, Jericho, designed by Sir Arthur William Blomfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The new church reflected Tractarian values both in liturgy, by promoting ritual and the high doctrine of the Sacraments, and in mission, by promoting education, health reform and social justice.

The architect was Sir Arthur William Blomfield (1829-1899), a son of Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London. He had previously designed Saint Luke’s Chapel for the Radcliffe Infirmary.

Blomfield decided on an Italian Romanesque basilica-style design but, in accordance with Thomas Combe’s wishes, built the walls out of cement-rendered builders’ rubble.

Blomfield possibly modelled Saint Barnabas on either the San Clemente in Rome or the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello in the Venetian lagoon. Saint Barnabas has a distinctive square tower, in the form of an Italianate campanile, that is visible from the surrounding area.

The church was consecrated by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and opened for worship on 19 October 1869.

The majestic mosaic of Christ the King rests above a dramatic gilded canopy or baldacchino over the High Altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The campanile or bell tower was completed in 1872, and has a ring of ten, distinctive, tubular bells, and the hours and quarters are sounded on them. The bells and clock were installed in 1890 and are a remarkable example of Victorian engineering. However, the current appearance of the campanile, with a slightly flatter roof, is the result of a structural alteration in 1965.

On entering Saint Barnabas Church, one is struck at the breadth, and height of the interior space, by the majestic mosaic of Christ the King resting above a dramatic gilded canopy or baldacchino over the High Altar and by the great openwork iron cross suspended above the nave, based on Fr Montague Noel’s SSC cross and memorably borrowed by Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure.

The church has an ornate and gilded sanctuary, a High Altar, flanked with symbols of the four Gospel writers, and above the High Altar a canopy or gilt baldachino.

The choir is several feet above the main floor of the church, and the high altar is reached by five or more steps. The seven sanctuary lamps hanging before the altar lamps were donated in 1874-1875 by the then Duke of Newcastle and some of his undergraduate contemporaries from Christ Church Oxford. The Duke of Newcastle inherited by marriage Hope Castle, formerly Blayney Castle, a late 18th century house in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

The pulpit by Heaton, Butler and Bayne has panels depicting patristic figures painted by Charles Stephen Floyce (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The pulpit was added in 1887 by Heaton, Butler and Bayne with the panels depicting patristic figures painted by Charles Stephen Floyce (1857-1895).

This pulpit replaced an earlier, cylindrical timber pulpit with columns and a moulded cornice that is now at Saint Peter’s, London Docks, the parish church of Wapping established in 1856 as an Anglo-Catholic mission.

The mural by James Powell and Sons on the north wall illustrates the canticle Te Deum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The beautiful cut-glass or opus secule mural by James Powell and Sons on the north side of the nave was installed in stages between 1905 and 1911. It depicts apostles, saints, martyrs and angels, with the words of the canticle Te Deum Laudamus below.

However, when funds ran dry, it was impossible to complete the project, and this fine work only exists on one side of the church.

The reredos and altar in the Lady Chapel were commissioned by Martha Combe in memory of Thomas Combe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Lady Chapel on the north-east side of the church was completed in 1888. The reredos and altar are earlier, dating from 1873. They were commissioned by Martha Combe in memory of her husband Thomas Combe, who died in 1872, were designed by Blomfield, and are the work of Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The reredos was extended in 1906 with 11 additional panels by Heaton, Butler and Bayne in memory of Martha Combe. The figures painted by may have been the artist Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927).

The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in Saint George’s Chapel, designed by the architects Bodley and Hare in 1919-1920.

The church’s first permanent organ was installed in 1872 and the present organ was installed in 1975.

The memorial in the choir to Father Montague Henry Noel, the first parish priest (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The first Parish Priest, Father Montague Henry Noel, SSC (1840-1929), was the Vicar of Jericho in 1869-1899. He was a first cousin of Charles Noel (1818-1881), second Earl of Gainsborough, whose family weddings are discussed in my chapterer ‘Four Victorian weddings and a funeral’ in Marriage and the Irish: A miscellany, edited by Salvador Ryan (Wordwell: Dublin, 2019, 283 pp), pp 163-165.

When the church opened in 1869, Lord Gainsborough donated a rare silver Russian chalice and paten dating from 1639, from Pryluky, now in north-central Ukraine.

Subsequent vicars were CH Bickerton-Hudson (1899-1901), C Hallett (1902-1911), HC Frith (1911-1916), AG Bisdee (1917-1947), D Nicholson (1947-1955), LG Janes (1956-1960), HN Nash (1960-1967), JE Overton (1967-1980), EM Wright (1980-2007), JW Beswick (2008-2018) and CM Woods (since 2019).

Saint Barnabas maintains the Anglo-Catholic liturgical traditions dating from its foundation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The church maintains the Anglo-Catholic liturgical traditions dating from its foundation. The parish says the mission at Saint Barnabas is to be place of timeless beauty, encouragement and compassion.

The parish was united with the neighbouring parish of Saint Thomas the Martyr in 2015 to form the new parish of Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul, with Saint Thomas the Martyr, Oxford. The first vicar of the new parish was Father Jonathan Beswick SSC.

The present Vicar of Saint Barnabas is the Revd Christopher Woods, one of my former students and a former Chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, a former chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and a former Vicar of Saint Anne’s, Hoxton, in the Diocese of London.

The Revd Canon Prof Sue Gillingham is the Permanent Deacon of Saint Barnabas. She recently retired as Professor of the Hebrew Bible in the University of Oxford. She is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College and Canon Theologian of Exeter Cathedral.

Father Matthew Salisbury, a self-supporting curate, lectures in music in the University of Oxford and is Assistant Chaplain at Worcester College. He is also National Liturgical Adviser of the Church of England.

The honorary assistant priests include Father Robin Ward, Principal of Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford, and Father Zachary Guiliano, chaplain of Saint Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, a Research Fellow in Early Mediaeval History, and recently Acting Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral.

The Revd Professor Sarah Coakley, who now lives in retirement in Washington DC, is an Honorary Assistant Priest during the summer months. She lived in Jericho when she was a Lecturer and Fellow in Oriel College in the 1990s. She has been a professor in both Cambridge, where she was the Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity (2007-2018), and Harvard, where she was the Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity (1995-2007). She presided at the Sunday High Mass this week (27 August 2023).

Earlier this year (January 2023), the parish voted to welcome the ministry of women priests and bishops. The Revd Dr Melanie Marshall, acting chaplain in Balliol College, was the first woman to preside at the Parish Mass (14 May 2023).

The liturgy at the Sunday High Mass in Saint Barnabas is formal but the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The main act of worship is on Sundays at 10:30 am, when the Sunday High Mass is marked by traditional ceremonial, beautiful ritual, uplifting music and preaching and teaching that is engaged and powerful. The liturgy is formal but the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.

The Daily Office and Mass are throughout the week, although the Daily Mass times vary from day to day. The church is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.

The church and parish celebrated the 150th anniversary in 2019-2020 with a series of services, concerts and events. The church hosts many events throughout the year, including concerts, lectures and exhibitions.

Saint Barnabas Church features in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The church was chosen by Thomas Hardy, who had worked as an assistant to Blomfield, for a scene in Jude the Obscure (1895), where he describes the church’s levitating cross – seemingly suspended in mid-air by barely visible wires and swaying gently – beneath which lay the crumpled, prostrate figure of Sue Bridehead, forlornly covered in a pile of black clothes.

Robert Martin, the biographer of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, records a university friend of Hopkins as saying ‘When I want a spiritual fling I go to St Barnabas.’ It was here too that PD James imagined the bodies in A Taste for Death, although she transposes the church to London in the book.

Saint Barnabas’s lofty Byzantine tower was described by AN Wilson in his novel The Healing Art as ‘the most impressive architectural monument in sight.’ The first Morse novel, The Dead of Jericho, is set by the canal and boatyard and the railway shunting yards close to the church.

The church was acclaimed by John Betjeman in his poem ‘St Barnabas, Oxford.’

Mary Trevelyan was the organist and choir trainer at Saint Barnabas Church for many years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Mary Trevelyan (1897-1983), who was born in Stony Stratford, was the organist and choir trainer at Saint Barnabas Church for many years. She was the eldest child of the Revd George Philip Trevelyan (1858-1937), Vicar of Saint Mary’s, Wolverton (1885-1897).

Mary Trevelyan is remembered for her work as the warden of Student Movement House in London. But two recent books also discuss how for many years she was the close companion and long-time friend of the poet TS Eliot. She believed they were romantically committed to one another and she had expected to marry him after the death of his first wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood.

The icons and Baptistry in the west apse of Saint Barnabas, Jericho (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘St Barnabas, Oxford’ by John Betjeman

How long was the peril, how breathless the day,
In topaz and beryl, the sun dies away,
His rays lying static at quarter to six
On polychromatical lacing of bricks.
Good Lord, as the angelus floats down the road
Byzantine St Barnabas, be Thine Abode.

Where once the fritillaries hung in the grass
A baldachin pillar is guarding the Mass.
Farewell to blue meadows we loved not enough,
And elms in whose shadows were Glanville and Clough
Not poets but clergymen hastened to meet
Thy redden’d remorselessness, Cardigan Street.

The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in Saint George’s Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)