When I arrived for 7.30am Mass this morning, I found Gerry Judah's fibreglass sculpture The Crusader is now installed at the back of my parish church. The version is different from the larger version shown here (and originally commissioned for the Imperial War Museum North). This version is smaller and in a ferric red which tones in well with the Victorian brickwork of William Butterfield.
As well as Butterfield another strong influence on St Mary, Brookfield is that of Sir John Ninian Comper who designed the Calvary Rood and several other features (not all of which are catalogued)
It was not an immediately obvious decision to introduce a 21st Century artwork into a Victorian interior. As one of those responsible for coming to that decison, I believed The Crusader was not at all out of character with rest of the art in the church. Butterfield and Ninian Comper are classed as gothic revivalists but neither were pastiche artists. As Sir John Betjeman was among the first recognise, both architects were precursors of modernism. Butterfield, who worked in Bakelite towards the end of his career, and believed in the truth of materials, could surely have had no objection to fibreglass.
There is also a personal connection, which is to my mind an integral rather than a purely sentimental in the art of a parish church. Gerry Judah is a local artist, his workshop is in King's Cross and he wished to see The Crusader in St Mary Brookfield in memory of his friendship with James Brolan. It was at a early morning Mass on a summer morning that I first learned that James had been killed in Iraq.