▪Orchard comes back as Cafe

The opening of a new professional cafe on the same site as seven of Margaret Rope’s finest windows moves them into the category of a fully-fledged ‘Shrewsbury tourist attraction’…
The Orchard Cafe is Shrewsbury’s newest eaterie, open seven days a week – and is just a one-minute stroll away from Marga’s glass.

Redevelopment

The £500,000 redevelopment of the Shrewsbury Cathedral site has seen the creation of new visitor facilities (including a car park), meeting rooms, and a ‘piazza’ open-space – as well as the cafe.

The Orchard Cafe is a professional operation run by Clive Szczepanek and his team. Although it is based on the cathedral site, it is open to all; and hoping to attract tourists and residents from across the region.
As such its menu includes gluten-free specialities and hand crafted coffees; and Sunday lunch items are all gluten-free!

The cathedral includes seven stained-glass windows by Marga, including the giant West Window, which is among her finest achievements.

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With Shrewsbury Cathedral being open in the 2017 summer months 1pm-4pm each weekday (10am-4pm Saturdays), it’s hoped that more stained-glass enthusiasts will feel more drawn to visit, knowing that quality refreshments are on hand. And vice-versa of course: it’s hoped that the curious gourmets who come to visit the cafe will take the time to visit the cathedral too.

And here’s a little fun-fact: the Orchard Cafe is so-called because the cathedral was built on the site of a pear orchard. When the orchard was cut down to make way for the church, the wood was used to create art-pieces for the church, thus preserving a sense of continuity.

Facilities

All the details of the cafe are to be found on its Facebook site. However, it’s as well not to rely on finding a parking space in the car-park, which is very small.
Outside tables are provided – and the view of the flower-beds is free!

A small shop, selling mostly religious gifts and items associated with the cathedral, is inside the cafe confines.

▪Shrewsbury Cathedral evolves

It is a pure coincidence – but a serendipitous one – that the site of some of Margaret Rope’s greatest works, Shrewsbury Cathedral, has been undergoing major alterations in this same year when  Marga’s achievements are really getting the wider exposure they deserve.
As a result of the changes, the cathedral is now a more attractive proposition to both heritage-visitors and worshippers alike.

The cathedral’s frontage has been re-designed and re-ordered – moving the entrance to a more open and central position, and enabling much easier disabled access.
The new approach also means there is now a professional cafe on site (called The Orchard Cafe, and open seven days a week) and a small car-park.
See “Cathedral opens new facilities”

Over the summer of this year (i.e. until October), the cathedral will be open to visitors from 1pm-3pm weekdays, and 10am-4pm on Saturdays. Volunteers staff these hours, and it’s thanks to them that so many visitors who come to Shrewsbury can get in to the church at all to see the great seven windows by Margaret Rope.

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History

It is interesting to consider the changes that the cathedral has gone through down the years, some of which are outlined in a fascinating booklet, ‘Sacrament In Stone’ by Judith Hall.  Judith is the head of music at the cathedral, so she has a professional interest in the ‘shape’ of the cathedral’s interior as well as a simple love of the cathedral’s very being.

It was the great architect of nineteenth-century Neo-Gothic, Augustus Pugin, who created the original outline design for the cathedral.  However he died before the project really got off the ground, and his son Edward took over the work and adapted his father’s designs.
As Judith points out in her booklet, Augustus Pugin’s design had called for a large tower and spire (which would have been 300 feet high), but it transpired that the foundations simply wouldn’t have supported such ambition, and idea had to be abandoned. (Judith Hall, pg 23).  Shrewsbury town lies on a bed of soft sandstone & clay, with any sturdy rock far deep down below, so the ground would simply have not been hard enough for such a tall structure.
If the large spire had been built, the cathedral would simply have slid down into the river…

English: Photograph of Shrewsbury Roman Cathol...
Shrewsbury Roman Catholic Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, this lack of a spire means (to my eyes at least) that the cathedral is rather unimpressive from the outside. If one sees it from a distance, i.e. from across the river, it does look rather squeezed into its own space … and even squat.

Within

Of course, the true glory of the cathedral is within anyway.  Notwithstanding the Margaret Rope windows, it has a quiet repose, and feels uplifting (almost literally, as its long narrow dimensions emphasise the height).

What is disappointing to a modern church-crawler is that, as Judith remarks in her history, the cathedral was re-painted in 1950s, and the turn-of-the-century stencilled figures on the chancel walls (designed by Gabriel Pippit) painted out.  I’m told that they were fading anyway, but it’s a shame that no decent colour photos remain to tell us what it all looked like. (Judith Hall, 29)

Far-sighted thinking also seems to have been missing in 1975… when Canon Welch had a new organ installed, which “seems to have been badly sited” (Judith Hall, 31). The thumping great instrument is so placed that it (partly) obscures part of Marga’s magnificent West Window.

Fortunately, the current alterations will not create similar issues. I’m happy to say that no hasty decisions haves been made in the current re-design, so expect no howlers of the sorts of fifty years ago.  In fact, the whole process of refurbishment over the last twelve months was much slower than expected – because of the concerns of conservationists.
The former porch/entry (to the right of the body of the cathedral) has been closed off, and now converted onto a memorial chapel.  Thus, the current war memorial in there (designed by Margaret Rope) will be able to stay where it is.
And the Hardman windows are unaffected also.

Today

Canon Jonathan Mitchell, the Dean of the Cathedral, is to be congratulated on seeing the work through to this stage of fruition.

The ‘visitor-experience’ at the cathedral is now much enhanced (and more is to come): so it’s now even more worth a visit…   Let us know in the comments section below if you agree!

References
Historical Profile of Shrewsbury Cathedral
Judith Hall:  Sacrament in Stone (out of print)

▪The Geraldton windows

As pointed out in our previous post, you’d have to travel to the other side of the world to see the furthest away of Margaret Agnes Rope’s windows. They are in Geraldton Cathedral in Western Australia.

Facts have become a little hazy over time, but archivists in Geraldton are pretty sure now that five of the cathedral’s windows are solely the creation of MA Rope, while a sixth is probably a collaboration (with her cousin Margaret Edith Rope). But… while Marga may have made them, is she their sole ‘author’?

Style

All the windows but the Bishop Kelly Memorial Window (i.e. five of them) appear to have been installed in 1919 – see The WA Record Newspaper for October that year.

As the cathedral had only just started to be built three years earlier (in 1916), as the 1914-18 World War had only just come to an end, and as one window was a memorial for a soldier who had died only two years before (in 1917), that’s a fast turn-round…
Admittedly, some of these five windows are very small – just lancets really – but they contain a lot of detail.

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Thus, as one looks more and more at the windows, it becomes fairly clear a second hand is at work: one that may have sketched out (at least) the designs, and even encouraged Marga to take up different stylistic approaches.
And there is now a strong assumption that Monsignor Hawes, the man who was building Geraldton Cathedral, and a man of some taste himself, may have ‘helped’ – and speeded – the process along.

Certainly, Geraldton’s archivists are pretty much convinced that it was Hawes who designed both the Le Caille and the Rebecchi Memorial window, and then had them painted & manufactured by Margaret Agnes.

There’s no doubt that sponsors could (and would) often request of the artist that they incorporate certain ways of looking at a subject; and Marga, admittedly, in these pieces, does seem to be taking quite new paths for her.
Was Hawes demanding from her a more visionary treatment than she normally would have contemplated?
According to those who have seen the windows, they glow with gorgeous, dense colouring … were they also partly designed by one who knew how best to use the strong Australian sun?

(Incidentally, it’s interesting to speculate on Marga’s first reactions to such a ‘hands-on’ stance. After all, Arts & Crafts Movement artists like her prided themselves on their artistic independence…)

It is only in the Bishop Kelly Memorial Window (installed later, probably 1922/23), that we see the Marga style we recognise once again.

Collaboration

Of the six windows ascribed to Margaret Agnes Rope, the one that is now thought by experts to be a collaboration with her cousin is the Virgin Mary/St Michael window. Experts still argue over who did the faces (my money is on the cousin – but that is a minority view!) while Marga’s handiwork is most recognisable in the edging.

If it is a collaboration, it must have been one created under some pressure as the cousin (MEA Rope) was in the Women’s Land Army during the 1914-18 War (…though research has yet to find out at what point she left it) and would barely have had time to change into her civvies in order to come and help!

Future

The good news is that Geraldton Diocese is one that fully appreciates its heritage, to the extent of preserving it as well as it can.
We’re told that, in recent years, the strong sun has finally worn down the lead lines in the windows, and the 100-year old works are in need of repair because the windows have bulged. However, we’re told that money has been made available for their repair, and restoration should be complete by the autumn.

As usual with Marga Rope, one leaves a subject with more questions than answers. We wish the Geraldton historians & archivists all the luck in finding those answers.
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Many thanks to Arthur Rope and Roger Hall whose amazingly dedicated researches helped fuel the thoughts in this article

Copyright of photos in this article is to Geraldton cathedral.
For those who like detail, the six windows are: The Rosa Mystica/Turris Davidica; Sacred Heart of The Risen Christ; Father Le Caille Memorial; Revelation/Our Lady/St Michael (collaboration); Patrick Rebecchi Memorial Window; and the Bishop Kelly Memorial Window (1922)

If you’d like to add your thoughts on this posting, please use the Comments box below

▪The Australian connection

Even though most of Margaret Rope’s windows can be found in the UK, you would have to travel 10,000 miles to see the ones furthest away.

Six of her works (including the fascinating Rebecchi Memorial window) are to be found in the splendid and idiosyncratic Catholic cathedral at Geraldton in Western Australia.  This church was built by a hugely energetic visionary architect/priest called John Hawes in an unusual Moorish style, replete with dome.

Monsignor Hawes must have been an extraordinary and forceful character: he was an Englishman, coming late to both the Catholic priesthood and to the coast of western Australia, yet his influence is widespread and still evident in the region,  culminating in the opening of the John Hawes Heritage Centre last year (2016).

As well as a man of serious belief (like Marga, he came to believe that he had to leave the Church Of England, and converted to Catholicism), Hawes appears to have been a man of the arts.
He is known to have encountered and appreciated contemporary Arts & Crafts Movement works; and as an architect himself, built over a dozen places of worship, all with his quite individual approach.

After what must have been an exhausting career, he chose to retire to become a hermit in the Bahamas where he died in 1956.

Rome

So how did Monsignor Hawes come to commission glass from Marga from so far away?
It’s fairly clear that the mediator between the two must have been Marga’s brother, Father Harry Rope.

Harry had a predilection for the world of belles-lettres and corresponded with many famous men of his day.
As Harry explains in later writings, he had met John Hawes in Rome, where they both attended the Venerable College, a seminary for Englishmen training for the priesthood, during the First World War.  The two hit it off and seem to have corresponded for the rest of their lives.

It appears to be beyond probable doubt that Harry must have suggested to John Hawes that a good artist to create a stained-glass series for the new cathedral would be his sister.  Marga was notoriously self-deprecating, despite her talent, and Harry seems to have taken on a sort of role of promoting her work to his friends in the wider Church.

Interestingly, Marga’s windows for Geraldton (1919-1922) are somewhat different to her output up to this point.  Her genius for portraiture hardly comes into play at all at Geraldton – though, admittedly, these windows are smaller than she usually made -, and the scenes in these six windows have none of her historical or pedagogical bent.

Geraldton Le Caille Memorial window detail
This Geraldton window shows a kangaroo, stars of the Southern Cross, and a flying wild turkey

If anything, the six windows seem to be meant to induce a spirit of introspection, not study.
The colours burn and fuse with a mystic import, and are other-worldly.  It’s tempting to wonder if this is because John Hawes specifically asked her to change her normal approach to suit his own more contemplative idea of religious faith.   (The only window with her usual ‘actual-life’ atmosphere is the Agony In The Garden window).

Other ‘evidence’ of Hawes’ input may be the Australian images that appear in some of Marga’s windows.

Hands across the sea

One pleasing aspect of the Margaret Rope Exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum in 2016 was that it attracted visitors from afar – both enthusiasts for the Arts & Crafts Movement, and for the stained-glass of Marga in particular.

Christine Holmes (Shropshire High Sheriff) and Fr Robert Cross
Christine Holmes (Shropshire High Sheriff) and Fr Robert Cross visited the Margaret Rope Exhibition at the same time

The visitor who travelled the furthest specifically to see the exhibition was surely Fr Robert Cross. He is Director of Heritage and the Archaeologist & Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage Consultant for the Geraldton Diocese.

As he told us, archivists in Australia have barely scratched the surface in attempting to work out just exactly how and why the six windows by Marga came to Geraldton.
But then, as we know (!), a dearth of facts, when it comes to the career of Margaret Rope, is not limited just to Australia!
So, research goes on… all over the world…

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If you wish to comment on this article, please leave your thoughts in the comments-box below

▪The mysterious Peg Poore comes to life

One of the most mysterious figures in the Margaret Rope life-story has, for some time now, escaped the clutches of the historian.  References to a ‘Peg Poore’, Marga’s supposed best friend, are scattered throughout Rope family anecdotes and stories – but look for actual evidence that she existed, and you will be disappointed.

Until now.
Researchers looking through an old family photo-album have found a photo of a young woman dressed in Land Army uniform. On the reverse of the photo, someone has scrawled ‘Peg Gradon Poore’.

Model

Peg Poore, whoever she was, is very unusual in the Margaret Rope story in that she is the only person, outside of her family and her family’s priests, whom Marga seems to have been close too.  (… that is… as far as we know; as we have said before, personal biographical details about Marga are very thin on the ground).

Lumen Christi caricatureFor example, Peg is given surprising prominence in Marga’s famous Lumen Christi panel.  This very personal scene shows almost all the members of Marga’s immediate family plus Father Carl Whitefoord.   Yet, there is a surprising ‘outsider’ in this roll-call – the serene woman kneeling, below and next to Marga herself, who has been identified as Peg (see pic right).

Dr Peter Phillips, the Shrewsbury Diocese archivist, goes even further in his monograph and asserts that “Peg Poore, a one-time Olympic swimmer and later hygiene teacher in the town, was the model for the figure of Our Lady in Shrewsbury Cathedral’s Visitation Window” (see below).  Mary, Visitation Window

One can presume from this depiction of Our Lady that Peg must have been a strikingly attractive woman.

Also, in a recording she made before she died, Dorothy Rope, Marga’s sister-in-law, remembers Peg very well: “…she lived with the Ropes in Shrewsbury and was secretly in love with Denys, Marga’s brother.  But she was disappointed in love; and later became a Sister of Charity nun. She died of TB.”  (Interestingly, Marga’s sister Monica was also a Sister of Charity).
Sadly, Dorothy did not elaborate further. Why did Peg live with the Ropes? Was she always a Catholic, or did she convert when the family did?

Evidence

So – an attractive woman, an “Olympic swimmer”, a teacher, later a nun – living at a known address in Shrewsbury. You’d think she’d be easy to trace in the records.
Nope.

The “Olympic swimmer” description of her seems to be part of family and then Shrewsbury lore.  However, Chris Cannon, archivist of the Wenlock Shropshire Olympian Society – the original of the Olympic Association – can find no reference to her, while the official lists of the sportswomen representing Britain at the first five ‘proper’ Olympic Games do not mention her.

Jane Morgan, one of the archives-researchers at Shrewsbury Museum, has tried sifting through newspapers of the time, censuses, town directories, and so on… only to draw an almost complete blank.  Jane did find one reference though: “I did find a Margaret Poore, born 1890, living in Wandsworth in London in 1911 working as a school teacher.”  For more of this Margaret Poore, see below.

It had been hoped that when the diaries of Harry Rope, Marga’s favourite brother, turned up, there might be some reference to Peg there – but no.

Photo

At this point, with so little to go on, some of us in the project were beginning to wonder if Peg was some sort of imaginary figure, a sort of psychological projection!
But then the photo turned up.

Some of the few family photographs from the time are kept in the small Rope Family Archive in Suffolk in old photo-albums.
Peg PooreBy sheer chance, this photo tumbled out of one when a researcher was glancing through it recently; there was no indication why it is there.
The only clues to its provenance are: the name of the photographic studio in Shrewsbury where the photo was taken; and, on the reverse, some handwriting, which says ‘Peg Gradon Poore’.

It’s an unusual photo in that it shows a woman in Land Army uniform. (This indicates that it must have been taken during the First World War, 1914-18).

Although it was very common for young male-soldiers to have a studio-photo taken when they joined up, it is much rarer to see the equivalent for a woman.
As the researcher who found it said: “So, when Peg Poore went to a photographer’s studio in Shrewsbury to have herself photographed in her land girl’s uniform (wearing gaiters/trousers) that was a sign of the new times, something novel. Women in uniform, women in trousers, single women having themselves photographed…”

Research

The presence of the photo in this album at least now establishes that Peg Poore was a real person; and gives heart to historians who will continue to try to trace her.

Why does it all matter though?  Well, apart from it being a fascinating thread in Margaret Rope’s own story, there is the tantalising hope that somewhere, kept by Peg Poore’s descendants, is a cache of letters between her and Marga.  Wouldn’t that be a find….!

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Can you help?  If you are experienced in tracing family histories, maybe you can help us find Peg Poore. Please contact us on rope2016@gmail.com if you have advice

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Addendum
There are some facts about the Margaret Poore discovered by Jane (see above) that do look more than coincidental.  As Jane says:
# The father of this Margaret Poore, born London in 1890, was Graydon Poore; and her siblings seemed also to have taken the name (Emily Graydon Poore and brother just Graydon Poore). Allowing for a slight misspelling, we can thus tie in the Gradon part of Peg’s name.
# According to the 1911 Census, Margaret Poore is then with her family in Wandsworth – and Fulham (where Margaret Rope had her studios) is quite close.  The coincidental fact here is that Marga made the Visitation Window, for which Peg was supposed to be a model, also in 1911 … at Fulham.
# Margaret Poore (and her two sisters Jessie Kathleen and Ruth) were school teachers. Interestingly, in Margaret’s Teacher’s Registration form (dated 1920), it states Margaret does have a certificate to teach physical training (as well as drawing).
# However, there is no indication of this Margaret becoming a nun. The 1939 register has her living in Chichester, and still a teacher. She died in 1976 in Wimbledon.
# There is also no official record of a Shrewsbury connection so far – apart from the address of the photographer’s studio written on to the photo of Peg

▪Correcting the art history of Marga’s windows

One of the disconcerting aspects of accepted history is how often it turns out to be wrong – and thus needs correcting. This idea has been proved right again, in the (new) interpretation of one of Margaret Rope’s most famous stained-glass windows.
Her so-called ‘Congress Window’ in Shrewsbury Cathedral turns out to be very wrongly labelled.

Roger Hall, an expert in the interpretation of Margaret Rope’s windows, shares his findings with us…

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When I began my researches into the Shrewsbury Cathedral windows ten years ago, it was an accepted ‘fact’ that the large window group to the left of the altar in the cathedral included a depiction of a ‘Eucharistic Congress’ in London, some time in the early twentieth century.
Congress WindowSuch gatherings were international events organised by the Catholic Church to promote devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Thus the window (see pic right) became known as ‘The Congress Window’ – and is still known as such in visitor guides (even in the one I wrote myself back then, called ‘Letting In The Light Of Christ’).

However, research always continues: one development that has helped the art-historian in recent years is undoubtedly the growth of the internet – there is far more available online now than ten years ago.

I decided to re-research the Congress Window, and concentrated on the two lights second from the top of the group – these two gave the window its title.
One obvious fact to re-check in them was the date: Marga has left us a clear indication of the date of the scenes she depicts… the window inscription says MAIUS MCMXXI (May 1921). She has also included a London bus in her scenes, thus pinning down the location.

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To my surprise, my further researches on this window revealed something rather alarming – there was no Eucharistic Congress in London in 1921!   There was one in London in 1908, but not in 1921.

Tyburn procession

So what was going on in London in May 1921 that had attracted Marga’s attention?
The archive of the Catholic journal ‘The Tablet’ contains a most illuminating issue (dated 7 May 1921). This points to a new, more accurate interpretation of the scenes in those two lights.

On the afternoon of 1st May 1921, The Tablet reports, London saw the annual procession in honour of all the Catholic martyrs who died for their faith in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially those who died on the Tyburn gallows then in the centre of the city.

The scene which Margaret Rope depicts, outside Tyburn Convent (built later, near the site of the old gallows) is that as described exactly in The Tablet- she has even shown the traffic being held up.

This also explains why there are two Benedictine nuns praying in one of the other lights, the one right in the centre of the window group; they are Tyburn Convent nuns.

Margaret Rope might well even have been there at this event. She was living in London at the time; and knew the convent at Tyburn very well, having been commissioned to do a series of small roundels for it some years previous.

Changing the name

The question thus arises: what should we call the window group now?

One might as well return to the window’s full meaning, which one sees in the main section (see pic, below).

"Congress Window" main section
“Congress Window” main section

The scenes here remember the 16th century project by the Catholic Church to reconvert England (which had turned away from Catholicism during the reign of Henry VIII).  A whole system was put into place to train up young English priests on the continent and then to send them back into England where they could work as ‘undercover’ missionaries. Many of them however were discovered, and were executed for treason by the Protestant authorities – martyrs for their Catholic faith.
So, it could be renamed ‘The English Martyrs Window’ – but… this might confuse it with the cathedral’s Great West Window, which shows the most famous of this country’s Catholic martyrs over the last 1500 years.
What about the ‘Tyburn Window’? After all, it shows the Tyburn Walk, Tyburn Convent and the executions at the ‘Tyburn Tree’, as the old gallows was known in the sixteenth century. However, some of the martyrs depicted in the window were not actually executed at Tyburn.

The blanket term for what is happening in the window is that of the ‘English Mission’ – the title for the project to reconvert England to Catholicism.
One suggestion therefore for a new name is the ‘Martyrs of the English Mission Window’ – though it might be just simpler to say ‘The English Mission Window’.
It’s hoped that the Shrewsbury Cathedral authorities will report a decision on a new name later in the year.

Roger Hall

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* A new description and fuller exposition by Roger Hall of this window – in detail – is now included on the definitive Margaret Agnes Rope website. See Marga’s Shropshire windows


If you’d like to add your thoughts on this posting, please use the Comments box below

▪Douglas Strachan’s treasure

One thing we can infer about Margaret Rope’s adolescence is that she was used to travelling the Shropshire countryside, either with her father on his medical visits or later alone on her famous motorcycle.
Did  she one day decide to make a visit to the little village of Peplow (just north of Shrewsbury) – to see the Douglas Strachan wall painting there? It would be good to think so.

Douglas Strachan

Douglas Strachan, Edinburgh Cathedral 1922 north window
Strachan, Edinburgh, 1922

British stained-glass work of the early twentieth century did not much reflect what was going on in painting, driving its own experimental line instead. However the Scottish glass-painter Douglas Strachan comes closest to the feel of the period’s avant-garde painting with his jagged streaks of colour and his disdain of naturalism.

Seven years older than Marga, he had one of his greatest moments in 1913 when commissioned to make the official British Commonwealth submission to the glass in the Peace Palace in The Hague (though he also went on to complete a number of bigger commissions).
Peter Cormack regards him as second only to Christopher Whall in that turn-of-the-century group of leading stained-glass makers.

He is now categorised (as is Marga) as a ‘Later Arts & Crafts Movement’ practitioner – another reason she might have wanted to call in to see his work at Peplow.

Peplow

Peplow’s Chapel of The Epiphany is a tiny estate church, set in the middle of fields, designed by the famous architect Norman Shaw and completed in 1879.
Shaw’s churches are the antithesis of Victorian Gothic, being deceptively plain and simple. However, their functionality disguises a harmony of line and structure that makes them immediately attractive and pleasant on the eye.
The Strachan wall painting therein is almost an oddity here in being almsot the one concession to overt ‘artiness’.

Actually, it is not a wall-painting at all (though it is described as such). It is actually a large canvas, in two parts, pinned to the wall adjacent to the altar. Signed by the artist, it dates to 1903.

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It is not in great condition sadly, and moves are afoot to try to conserve it before it deteriorates further. It is on the Church of England’s ‘endangered treasures’ list as an early work by a great artist.
It is clearly an accomplished piece. Although Strachan was only in his mid-twenties when he completed it, it has a sureness and wholeness in its composition and tone that is admirable; a tribute to his training.
It is well worth arranging to visit the church, if you can, just to see it.

Medievalism

Of course the question is: is it great? There’s no doubt that Strachan would eventually become a fascinating artist in glass, but this painting is actually pretty conventional by ‘greatness’ standards, even bearing in mind that it’s an early piece.

I’m biased however. I have never been a fan of the Arthurian/medievalist tendencies in Victorian/Edwardian art. Although a dominant and popular theme of the era in art, to me it is an almost perverse and deliberate turning-away from realities. And although the subject of Strachan’s work here is the visit of the three kings to see the baby Jesus (the Epiphany), it is definitely ‘Arthurian’ in tone.

By contrast, one approach that Margaret Rope eschewed all her working life was the ‘Arthurian’ (though she had one lapse – with her medieval knight figure at Hoylake Church!). The misty romance of such scenes clearly did not appeal to her; instead her work would have a base in real people, and in real and sometimes even horrific scenes (albeit from the Bible, or from accounts of antique saints).

I have a feeling that, had Marga visited Peplow, the painting may well have served to remind her of the kind of approach she did not want to pursue.
(And, to be fair to Strachan, he didn’t pursue it much longer himself…)