30 September 2023

The Orchestra of Child
Musicians and the Three
Graces are discreet delights
off Cavendish Square

The Orchestra of Child Musicians by the sculptor Gilbert William Bayes on the corner of Wigmore Street and Cavendish Square, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The sculptures of the Orchestra of Child Musicians and of the Three Graces, depicting Science, Music and Art, are amusing decorations on the Wigmore Street fa├žade at 17 Cavendish Square, London.

You might miss these figures as you walk around Cavendish Square or if you focussed on making your way from the busy corner with Wigmore Street to the Wigmore Hall. When I first saw the Three Graces and the Child Musicians, I imagined the figurative sculptural reliefs were in stucco and that they date from the Georgian development of these streets close to Oxford Street.

To my surprise, I learned that the putti orchestra and three female figures are, in fact, a 100-year-old 20th century pastiche in a Georgian style. They date from 1923-1924 and are the work of the sculptor Gilbert William Bayes (1872-1953), who used his usual concrete and not the stucco I expected.

The orchestra and female figures were created when John Brinsmead & Co converted 1 Wigmore Street into a showroom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Cavendish Square was planned in 1717 as the centrepiece of the new Marylebone estate of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford. The square is named after his wife, Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles; they were married in 1713, and she inherited the Manor of Marylebone. Wigmore Street, which extends from Duke Street, Manchester Square, to the north-west corner of Cavendish Square, takes its name from Wigmore in Herefordshire, also owned by the Harley family.

Most of this area dates from the 18th century, and No 17 Cavendish Square dates from 1771. This three-storey over basement house, with a mansard and dormers, was altered ca 1800, when the windows were lengthened, and again in the early 20th century. Brown brick slate roof, on corner with Wigmore Street.

The blind return to Wigmore Street has a neo-Adam style pilaster treatment on the ground floor, with shallow relief modelled ‘graces’ between pairs of pilasters under an entablature, all in stucco or concrete.

The piano manufacturers John Brinsmead & Sons had been founded in 1837. When they went out of business around 1920-1922 after an acrimonious strike, they were bought out by their rivals Cramer and were re-established at 17 Cavendish Square in 1924.

The orchestra and three female figures date from that time, when the relocated John Brinsmead & Co converted the ground floor into a showroom and decided to make what had been the side of the house at 1 Wigmore Street into something grander.

The figurative sculptural reliefs facing Wigmore Street are concrete by Gilbert Bayes, who was almost a contemporary of Sir Jacob Epstein. His putti orchestra is, in fact, a 20th century pastiche of the Georgian style. Bayes used his usual concrete and not the stucco that many assume.

The lively cherubic musicians and the three rather solid allegorical graces representing Science, Music and Art, have been much whitewashed over during the past 100 years, resulting in the loss of some details of the work.

Gilbert William Bayes (1872-1953) was a sculptor whose works varied in scale from medals to large architectural clocks, monuments and equestrian statues. He was also a designer of some note, creating chess pieces, mirrors and cabinets.

He was associated with the New Sculpture movement and his work spans the Arts and Crafts movement, World War I, the Art Deco movement, World War II and beyond. His statues of the 1900s include slender-bodied nudes, often with turning, twisting poses and tending to the Art Nouveau rather than Arts and Crafts. His more statuesque female figures of the 1920s and 1930s often have a hard edged Art Deco look with a highly sculptured surface.

Much of his work is architectural sculpture, such as fountains, garden ornaments and smaller pieces with an element of decoration. Some of his works, especially his architectural friezes, have a story-book pictorial look, such as plump cherub or animals on the side of a building.

One of the Three Graces by Gilbert Bayes, who designed bold and colourful exterior decorations (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Bayes was born in Camden Town on 4 April 1872 into a family of artists. His father Alfred Walter Bayes was an established artist; he was a brother of the artist and critic Walter Bayes, and of the Arts and Crafts designer Jessie Bayes (1890-1970).

He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1889 at the age of 17. He studied at the City and Guilds of London Art School and then at the Royal Academy Schools (1896-1899), where he won a gold medal and a travelling scholarship to Paris. He received an honourable mention at the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris and several medals at the Paris Salon.

He won a gold medal and diploma of honour at the Exhibition of Decorative Art in 1925. His work was part of the sculpture event in the art competition at the 1928 Summer Olympics.

His best-known work is the richly ornamented Queen of Time (1928), a statue that supports the clock above the main entrance of Selfridge’s in Oxford Street.

Bayes also designed bold and colourful exterior decorations for the Sidney Street Estate by the St Pancras Housing Association, set up by Father Basil Jellicoe (1899-1935). Bayes decorated the courtyards and gardens with works of art and Doultonware ceramics, including ceramic finials to top the washing-line posts in a number of courtyards. Many of his finials symbolised episodes in the lives of saints, after whom buildings on the estates were named. The finials survived World War II undamaged, but many were stolen and the remaining 100 were put into storage.

His other works include decorative relief panels on the Fire Brigade building on the Albert Embankment, two figures on the front of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Aesculapius and Hebe steles at the Royal Masonic Hospital, Ravenscroft Park, and a long frieze above the entrance to the cinema on Shaftsbury Avenue, close to Cambridge Circus.

Outside London, important allegorical groups by Bayes showing humanity through the ages are on the exterior of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, and an Assyrian-style frieze is on the wall of the Masonic temple in Birmingham.

Bayes is best remembered for his interest in colour, his association with the Royal Doulton Company, and his work in polychrome ceramics and enamelled bronze. His 1939 major polychrome stonework frieze, ‘Pottery through the Ages’, at the Doulton Headquarters in Lambeth was removed in the 1960s when the building was razed. The 50 ft long work is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bayes was president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 1939-1944. He died in hospital in Marylebone 70 years ago on 10 July 1953.

Gilbert Bayes was associated with the New Sculpture movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (125) 30 September 2023

Saint Michael le Belfrey Church in York stands in the shadow of York Minster … yesterday was the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and tomorrow is the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVII, 1 October 2023). The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today celebrates the life and work of Saint Jerome (420), Translator of the Scriptures, Teacher of the Faith.

Two of us travelled to York overnight, and we are spending a few days here this weekend. I hope to be at the Choral Eucharist in York Minister tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels yesterday (29 September). So my reflections each morning this week and next are taking this format:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside Saint Michael le Belfrey Church, York, facing east (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael le Belfrey Church, York:

Saint Michael le Belfrey Church stands in the shadow of York Minster, at the junction of High Petergate and Minster Yard in the city centre, and is known as a centre of the charismatic revival. The church takes its name from the Minster Belfrey that stood on the site before the church was built.

The church is near the place where Constantine was proclaimed the Roman Emperor. An early church on the site dated back to at least 1294. But this earlier mediaeval church was so badly maintained that parishioners were afraid to enter the building for services.

The present church was built between 1525 and 1537, under the direction of the master mason to the Minster, John Forman. Saint Michael-le-Belfrey is the only church in York to have been built in the 16th century and it is the largest pre-Reformation parish church in the city.

Saint Michael’s has one of the most notable collections of mid-16th century glass in any English parish church. The east window contains a large collection of glass from about 1330, that came from the demolished predecessor of this church.

The east window includes a depiction of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket and there are four panels depicting the life of Gilbert, Thomas Becket’s father. This is a rare survival as Henry VIII ordered all images of Saint Thomas to be destroyed in 1538, and Thomas’s name to be removed from the English church calendar.

Guy Fawkes was baptised in the church on 16 April 1570. He later became a Roman Catholic, and was part of the failed Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

The reredos and altar rails were designed by John Etty and completed by his son, William, in 1712. The gallery was added in 1785.

The stained glass panels on the front of the building were restored by John Knowles in the early 19th century. The west front and bellcote date from 1867 and were supervised by the architect George Fowler Jones.

In the early 1970s, the parish of Saint Michael le Belfrey was joined with nearby Saint Cuthbert’s, which had experienced revival in the late 1960s under the leadership of David Watson and could no longer be accommodated in the building. Growth continued in the 1970s and the church became known as a centre for charismatic renewal.

• The Revd Matthew Porter is the incumbent of Saint Michael le Belfrey. The church continues to reflect the legacy of David Watson. There are usually three Sunday services: a more formal morning service at 9 am; the XI, a family service at 11 am; and ‘The6’, an evening service with an informal style. The ‘Faith in the City’ service is at 12:30 on Wednesday lunch-times. A daughter church, G2, meets twice on Sundays at Central Methodist Church, York.

Inside Saint Michael le Belfrey Church, York, facing west (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 43b-45 (NRSVA):

49 While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ 45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

The reredos and altar rails in Saint Michael le Belfrey Church, York, were designed by John Etty and completed by his son, William, in 1712 (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), has been ‘Flinging open the doors.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Anthony Gyu-Yong Shim, Diocese of Daejeon, Korea.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (30 September 2023, International Translation Day) invites us to pray:

We give thanks to all who facilitate translation. Opening dialogues and building relationships between people and churches of different languages.

The Collect:

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers
of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
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:

Almighty God,
you have taught us through your Son
that love is the fulfilling of the law:
grant that we may love you with our whole heart
and our neighbours as ourselves;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Michael le Belfrey has a notable collections of stained-glass windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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 church was built between 1525 and 1537, under the direction of the master mason to the Minster, John Forman (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)