Friday 5 February 2010

Old Deptford

Grinling Gibbons

The most famous English woodcarver of all time was born, oddly enough, not in England at all but in Rotterdam, in what is now Holland, in 1648. Grinling Gibbons did not set foot in the British Isles until sometime around 1670 or 1671.In those days a craftsman needed to be recognized and promoted by patrons to make his work widely known.
Gibbons was fortunate in that he was blessed with extraordinary talent in woodworking, and that his talent was recognized and promoted by a succession of patrons until he eventually came to the notice of Charles II.
Charles gave Gibbons commissions, as did William III and George I. Gibbons was also a favourite of the premier architect of the age, Christopher Wren. Wren called upon Gibbon to supply decorative carving for many of his country house commissions. The genius of Gibbons is not simply that he had a remarkable ability to mold and shape wood, but that he evolved a distinct style that was all his own. Working mostly in limewood, Gibbons' trademark was the cascade of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish, and birds. Such cascades could be applied to paneling, furniture, walls, or even chimneys. Perhaps to prove that he was not limited in his ability to the cascades, Gibbons produced a cravat made of limewood in a perfect imitation of Venetian needlepoint. The "cravat" was so lifelike that a foreign visitor was fooled into thinking it the standard dress of the English country gentleman! Horace Walpole, who is known to have later worn the cravat on at least one occasion, remarked in 1763, "There is no instance of man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers". The cravat is now on display in the Chapel at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Much of Gibbons work survives in isolated country houses, but Hampton Court Palace near London is blessed with an abundance of fine carvings by the Dutch-born master.
William III commissioned Gibbons to redecorate his State Apartments, and was so impressed by the result that in 1693 he gave Gibbons permission to use the title "Master Carver". Such carvings as the ones at Hampton Court are filled with symbolism which would have been apparent to an educated observer of the day, but which would escape most modern observers. Very often each object in the carving would have a particular meaning or reference to a classical Greek or Roman ideal or story. Some of Gibbons best work outside Hampton Court survives at Petworth House in Sussex, in particular a ceiling he designed for the Duke of Devonshire, and at Lyme Park and Dunham Massey in Cheshire, Belton House in Lincolnshire and Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire. Other fine examples of his work can be seen at Windsor, St Paul's, London. Also in London,, the font at All Hallows by the Tower church has a wooden cover carved by Gibbons in 1682. Grinling Gibbons work had an enormous influence of interior design and decor during the Golden Age of the English country house. Later craftsmen such as Thomas Chippendale are known to have been heavily influenced by his work. Grinling Gibbons died in 1720.

Information from Britain Express

St Nicholas Church, Deptford and a Ghost Story.

I recently visited the church of St Nicholas in Deptford. The first time I visited was somewhat unnerving as it was late, dark and a feeling of foreboding. This time, in daylight I was warmly greeted by the assistant curate who was very helpful to my request to take photos and learn a little more unknown history of this ancient monument. I was surprised to learn the church was completely destroyed by an incendiary bomb during World War 2 and remained derelict for some years becoming a dump and play area for children until it’s rebuilding in the late 1950’s. Many of its grave stones , plots, plaques and artefacts were destroyed or taken during those years with only fragments of architecture being recovered from the ruin. It also became a target of the V1 rockets one of which landed very close in the Royal Dock area. I believe this may be the one mentioned in  The Shipwrights
Whilst taking pictures and talking to various people I approached a lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, and asked her about church’s history. It was then she told me a story which was quite unexpected. She told me of a witch who was homeless and was granted permission by the church to stay in a room in the tower, the oldest part of the church still standing. She then started to relate a very unnerving ghost story which she experienced and had never disclosed to anybody other than her partner and now me. Whilst carrying out her duties it was her responsibility to secure the church when her work was finished. This invariably took place when she was alone to lock up the church. She recounts that one evening she distinctly heard rapping’s coming from the tower area. This happened several times dispelling thoughts that it could be floorboards, doors creeking or some other rational explanation.. She experienced an  intense feeling of being watched. So intense was the feeling she stopped working and fled the building. It affected her so badly over the coming weeks that she did not want to return. When she did return she made sure it was always during daylight hours and since that date she always paces her work so she can leave when everyone else departs.the building. I could see that the experience unnerved her and still to this day stays with her .
Can anyone shed light on the witch in the tower story??  
Grinling Gibbons the master carver and his renowned  work "The Valley of Dry Bones" God breaths air into the bones of the departed to give them everlasting life.


Stone carving fragment fron the church interior.                                                                                                 

Balcony leading to the room in the tower.

Carving representing St Peter.

St Luke

Bell Tower.

A facinating place to visit.