Monday, 11 March 2013

St Michael's c 1925

This is what St Michael's looked like soon after the major extension to the church built in 1913-15.

The painting is by Herbert Rollett and probably dates from the 1920s (which is when the single estate of farmland which made up most of the parish was auctioned in separate lots, after which housing development began).

It was loaned to us by a private collection for the centenary events last month marking the laying of the foundation stone of the tower. At first I’d hoped that it would turn out to be the painting of the church (‘A roadside church’) which was Rollett’s first painting exhibited at the Royal Academy, but it turns out not to be.

The photograph was taken with permission on private land (Grimsby Golf Course today) at about the point on which Rollett would have been painting.  The church tower is just visible in line with where it appears in the painting.

Rollett’s representation of the church looked strange to me on first sight. However, a careful look at the building from the correct angle revealed that the tower does actually have the profile he gives it. But he seems to have taken the imaginative liberty of eliminating the older, smaller, lower part of the church on this side of the new, larger, taller building.

Taking the photograph on the Golf Course, I also discovered that the curve in the treeline which marks Great Coates Road turns out to be more accurate than I first suspected.

The Bishop’s sermon at the laying of the foundation stone defended major expenditure on such building away from any significant population, and the context for this includes the substantial work which the Grimsby Church Extension Society in particular had had to do to provide new churches in the fast growing town over the previous twenty years.

Joseph Chapman’s legacies, which funded the work on St Michael’s, actually also included funding for the Grimsby Church Extension Society, but one can see why many people might have seen this work on St Michael’s as an unnecessary indulgence at the time.

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