The baptismal font and its spectacular carved cover are in a separate small room at the back of All Hallows Church by the Tower. We first saw it through the wrought iron doors of the baptistry … locked wrought iron doors.
We found the verger, Martin Eatough, and asked if he would unlock the doors to allow me to take photos. He did, very cheerfully. We had a most enjoyable several minutes with him discussing the beauty of this church and other matters.
“This is the treasure of the church.”
Martin Eatough – Verger
The cover is spectacular. Look closely at the photos and notice the different shades of wood color and different grain patterns. Here one can begin to understand how Gibbons built complex carvings by creating many layers. Gibbons’ delicate foliage carving techniques were well advanced by this time. The cherub faces are distinctive and quite different from the typical cherub of the time. Typical cherubs were strikingly similar, showing innocent, almost blissful, young faces. Gibbons’ cherubs appear to be individually modeled from different children and don’t always have the same expression.
An information plaque says that Gibbons was paid 12 pounds in 1682 by James Foyle. Mr. Foyle was a patron of All Hallows Church by the Tower, but we know little more than that about him. Nor is there very much written about the carving. Esterly, the current world expert on Gibbons’ woodcarving, does not mention this work in either of his books, and all online mentions I have located are in association with this beautiful church.
The chain that you see in some photos is for lifting the cover to gain access to the baptismal font.
Thank you Mr. Eatough, for opening the doors and letting me get photos of this beautiful carving!
(Click on an image to see a larger view. Then, depending on the size of your browser window, click again for yet larger.)
Oh, by the way…
All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in London and sits a few steps from the Tower of London. It holds many treasures, both in art objects and the contents of its crypt, and also in history. Information about the church tells us of many famous people connected with the church, including our own (USA) William Penn and John Quincy Adams.
The church has survived many catastrophes including: the Great Fire of London (1666), a gunpowder explosion that destroyed 50 homes around it and killed 67 people (1650), and the London bombings of WWII which severely damaged the building, leaving only one wall and the tower (1940-41).
Today, it is bright and airy, and extremely well cared for. We imagine the church’s finances are well managed, and (perhaps?) they are supplemented by the fine little cafe in its courtyard.
See much more of the church with this “virtual tour.”
P.S. In the pews, instead of kneeler benches, we found these very attractive cushions:
Books you might like about Grinling Gibbons and his work.
"Grinling Gibbons and the Art of Carving" by David Esterly
A history of Gibbons' woodcarving work through the eyes of an expert carver. David Esterly has become today's leading authority on Gibbons, and carves in ways similar to Gibbons. His book takes us on a very thorough tour of Gibbons' work and how it evolved through Gibbons' lifetime.
"The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making" by David Esterly
At its base, this is the story of restoring the Gibbons' carvings that were damaged by a fire at the Hampton Court Royal Palace in 1986. Yet, it is very much more; full of history, analysis, discovery of woodcarving techniques and the art of making art.
"Grinling Gibbons & the English Woodcarving Tradition" by Frederick Oughton
A study of English woodcarvers that uses Gibbons as the center of focus.
"The Work of Grinling Gibbons" by Geoffrey Beard
The description says, "This magnificently illustrated book..." A review says, "Disappointed in the number of photos of his fabulous woodcarving.... But, it does show what an incredible talent he possessed!!"
"Grinling Gibbons: his work as carver and statuary 1648-1721" by David Green
I found little description of this book, but see it in the "Select Bibliography" of one of Esterly's books.
A few Videos and Audios
[Video] BBC Program: "The Glorious Grinling Gibbons - Carved with Love" - in four parts. (about an hour)
[Video] "Grinling Gibbons' carvings at Hampton Court Palace" - a short video featuring Royal Court warder Konrad Jordann talking about "a few of my favourite things." (2 minutes 41 seconds)
[Audio] NPR All Things Considered - "Re-Creating The 'Lost Carving' Of An English Genius" - an interview with David Esterly (7 minutes 5 seconds audio at upper left)
About the photos...
Most of the pictures in this series of articles are mine. Any picture with my photo credit is available for your use, as you please.
Pictures that specifically credit other sources, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum or St. Paul's Cathedral, are published here with their permission and that permission stipulates they may not be copied for commercial use. I appreciate their permission and ask that you honor the agreement I have with them. Thanks.