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  • Writer's pictureMrs Helen Hughes (May 1941)

1931: The Chapel decorations

Early in 1931 Mr Harold Speed was commissioned by Mr Lamplough to decorate the walls of the Chapel. The Apse painting, with the central figure of Christ, was completed at the end of the Easter Term. Only those who saw Mr Speed there realised how much of himself he put into his work.

Though lovely in itself, that picture is only fully understood when seen with the wall frescoes, which were finished in 1933. They are painted on canvas and each helps to illustrate the artist's idea of "the sunshine of the Presence of God in daily life". Rays of light from the golden orb in the apse, which typifies God the Father ("without beginning or end") are carried through the ploughman's and shepherd's pictures on the left and those showing the fisherman's work and home-life on the right. The stream, flowing from the golden orb and suggested in the fresco represents the fertilising influcence of the Holy Spirit in the world.

A Davy lamp stands high above the Reader's Desk. It was given to Mr Lamplough by a Methodist Minister, the Rev George Kendall who worked for many years among miners. Though a great part of their lives is spent away from the sunshine, they have, in the lamp, the symbol of the Word which is Light. This lamp had actually belonged to a miner and had been used by him in his work.

Each fresco suggests a different aspect of the work of the ministry and was painted by Mr Speed as appropriate for a Theological College. Though the shepherd and land-girl care for their flock among the Cumbrian hills, the artist would have us think of One who said to His disciple, "Feed my lambs". The fishermen, who carry their creels on the Cornish coast, remind us of His purpose for those who should be "fishers of men". The ploughshare strikes into the soil of Wales, but it symbolises the preparation which the stony evil of the heart needs before it can receive "the seed which is the Word of God". The home-life shown on the lower slope of an Italian mountain reminds us that the simplest home is a symbol of the world as the Father's House, where the sunshine of His Presence may always be found.

The group of figures in the lower part of the Apse reveals the nearness of the Master to us all. But, while many are absorbed in daily tasks and struggle with sin, He is discovered only by those of the child-like heart, who see and respond to His outstretched Hands.


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