Te Deum ceiling

South Elkington, Lincolnshire

The chancel of All Saints in South Elkington, Lincolnshire, had been constructed by the local architect James Fowler in 1874 in a rather plain and pedestrian ‘middle pointed’ style. In 1904 the rector of Elkington Canon Smyth retired and his parting gift to the parish was a sum of money to enable the redecoration of Fowler’s chancel ceiling and the presentation of a new organ. The work was overseen by Smyth’s son-in-law and successor C. W. Stanford.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire

Fowler’s plain roof was transformed with a decorative scheme based on the Te Deum. It has painted texts and gilded medallions filled with figures appropriate to the text. The whole is set against a ground of red ochre, stencilled with sacred mongrams. When I first saw the ceiling it screamed Bodley at me. Then I looked more carefully at the figurative work, which doesn’t have the quality of finish you might associate with Bodley, in fact it is all rather crude (see St Helen below). The church guide book, which is my only authority until I dig a bit deeper, says that the work was executed by Bernard Smith of Woking, a friend of the family. Do any readers know anything about him? The work was completed in July 1904 and blessed by Edward King, the saintly bishop of Lincoln.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
St Michael

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
St Helena.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
The organ case is also lavish, the coving decorated with a firmament filled with cherubim. Sadly the later wooden screens at the base of the organ case have destroyed the visual integrity of the case and those carpets! Well perhaps enough said about those.

2 thoughts on “Te Deum ceiling

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  1. Bernard Smith, referred to in the parish history, is H. A. Bernard Smith, a pupil of Bodley & Garner and a contemporary in their drawing office of Sir Ninian Comper. This is one of the rare examples of him working independently. He is better known as one of the leading church decorators of the first half of the c20 and for founding an atelier in Staples Inn, Holborn, and later in Walworth, which executed Comper's and F. C. Eden's painted decoration. He was rarely given opportunities to execute his own design because of the volume of work but you can clearly see Comper's influence in the figure painting. His last significant work was the partial decoration of the altar screen of Wymondham Abbey, later completed by another hand. He retired in the early 1930s and died soon after, by which time most of his workmen had also retired, with the exception of William Butchart (one of his last pupils) who continued to work exclusively for Comper and, after his death, for S. E. Dykes Bower. Smith's painters were E. Gibbs, E. Hughes, A. Barney and A. Henderson, of whom Gibbs was the principle. It is likely that Gibbs and Henderson executed this work under Smith's direction as he rarely worked alone.


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