Follow the Art Trail in Oundle

john-piper-window-2Stained Glass Windows – John Piper and Mark Angus
St Andrew’s Chapel, the Oundle School chapel, features an incredible set of unique stained glass windows. The most significant windows are those in the apse overlooking the congregation. Designed by the artist, John Piper, they are his first and perhaps most admired stained glass window designs. Piper was introduced to the school through his good friend, the poet Sir John Betjeman. Crafted by Patrick Reyntiens over the course of three years, the windows portray Christ in nine different forms, each with a golden crown. Above each figure are tendrils leading to the crown of thorns. In the 1950s their installation was groundbreaking. The windows were the first to depart from the prevalent traditional medieval themes to embrace a modern sensibility. They depict an extraordinarily subtle combination of a medieval feeling and a substance for modern art. Reyntiens said they ‘look as though Picasso has visited the angels of Bourges and they both got on very well together’. Alongside Piper’s windows are Mark Angus’ windows running along the nave, installed in 2001 and 2005. Commissioned to create a scheme of 36 windows with the theme ‘order’, Angus begins his series with the Creation, and leads all the way to the seven trumpets announcing the Apocalypse. His windows on the north side are inspired by the story of Man and Salvation from the Old Testament, and progress to the New Testament and Jesus, his death and resurrection.

‘Here am I, Send Me’ – Kathleen Scott
Opposite Oundle School’s Yarrow Gallery stands Kathleen Scott’s renowned bronze sculpture titled ‘Here am I, Send Me’. Kathleen Scott attended the Slade School of Art, and studied in Paris where she befriended Auguste Rodin. She married the explorer, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, and their son, Sir Peter Scott, who attended Oundle School, has often mistakenly been identified as the young boy of the sculpture. The actual model was the son of Giovanni Fiorini, Scott’s bronze caster. The title is the quotation of Isaiah’s response to God’s search for a messenger. Alone in an exposed area, the boy stands with his right arm raised, vulnerable yet determined. The historian Vyvyen Brendon said Scott had ‘perfectly captured the sacrificial spirit of the time’.

The Dolby Art Gallery
Located on West Street and open every day, the Dolby Gallery offers a broad selection of contemporary artworks, appealing to a variety of tastes. The gallery exhibits ceramics, fused glass, pottery, furniture and original paintings. The owner Simon Dolby is well known for his watercolours, especially of architectural sites in the area, and has recently successfully branched into small oils. The gallery’s current winter exhibition runs until the end of March. Later in 2017 they will be hosting a number of solo exhibitions including woodcut engravings by Geri Waddington, and landscapes in pastels and pencil by Robert Hunter. Mr Dolby’s new landscapes in oils and watercolours made from travels at home and abroad will also feature in an exhibition called Travel Notes.

Bas Relief Sculptures – George Kennethson
The sculptor George Kennethson was an art teacher at Oundle School for 20 years and lived at the Old Anchor Brewery on Mill Road from the mid-1950s until his death in 1994 at the age of 84. Considered by critics to be one of the finest carver-sculptors of the last century, his work has been collected by the Scottish National Gallery and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. Nevertheless, he remains largely overlooked by the art establishment, and unknown to the public. Kennethson studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools in the late 1920s, but moved over to sculpture in 1937, influenced by the modernist work of Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore and Eric Gill. There are a number of Oundle residents who collected his work privately, and Oundle School commissioned two bas-reliefs that are now on public view. One relief is on the facade of the SciTec block, facing Glapthorn Road, depicting a stylized caduceus of two snakes embracing. The other relief in The Cloisters on New Street depicts a camel, a motif associated with The Worshipful Company of Grocers and that forms part of the school’s crest.

Bronze Lectern – St Peter’s Church

St Peter’s Church houses a pre-reformation 15th century bronze eagle lectern with an eventful history. Under Oliver Cromwell’s command, his Puritan iconoclasts stole St Peter’s lectern in the early 17th century, but before disposing of it they cut off the eagle’s silver claws, leaving marks that are believed to be from a sword. They then threw the lectern into the River Nene where it remained until the 19th century. When the river was dredged in the 19th century the lectern was found and returned to St Peter’s where it is still in use today. While today it is used as a book rest, historically it doubled as a point of collection for donations. The eagle’s mouth is an opening through which members of the parish would feed their coins. To collect the money the priest would open a small compartment at the bottom of the eagle. Unfortunately, there was no treasure in the eagle when it was retrieved from the River Nene.

By Minna Coke
December 2016