I had a fantastic day with a few members of my local art group as guests of The Very Rev Dr Robert Willis - 39th Dean of Canterbury. The Deanery stands in the Cathedral precincts (which are very extensive).... Here's a link to a great website which gives more info about the Cathedral, its origins, more recent times and events through history - there is also a wealth of info about restoration - (click on the stained glass studio link to 'meet' Leonie Siliger who I mention later in the post).
I was nervous about joining the others as I'm not a 'plein air' painter. Actually I'm not a painter at all but was assured it would be OK to sketch with pencils (again something I don't often do as I've got into my comfort zone of working from photos/screen for my detailed portrait work) so was expecting to have to 'wing it' a little - and I was very keen to see these hidden gems at the Cathedral/Deanery. I'm not a churchgoer but this place has such history. Google the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket on the steps of the Cathedral in 1170 if you didn't learn about it in school.
The Dean gave us a personal tour of the Deanery building and its historic artworks, the gardens and several areas of the Cathedral not normally open to the Public. I took lots of photos inside and outside but perhaps its not pc to show too many of the indoor ones as its the Dean's home as well as the place housing so many lovely old paintings and treasures.
Just the one - a part of the entry hallway. Every room was full of plants and flowers and lovely objects (oh and a few cats as well).
We had a brief tour of some of the most precious and oldest stained glass and work being undertaken in the Cathedral. Leonie Siliger (Head of Stained Glass Conservation) showed us some of the current restoration works and demonstrated how this is carried out. There's over 1200 sq metres of stained glass in the Cathedral - that's a lot of work to be done
Its so difficult to do justice to these fabulous windows
Showing how badly the glass is 'corroded' by the elements ... once restored, the windows will have protective plain glass panes installed to the outsides areas so the coloured glass doesn't get weatherbeaten
This pic gives an idea of the scale of the operation - this is one small section of a large window
Work in progress by the conservationists
Now that's what I call a lightbox ... none of these 'girly' A4 machines here!
We had a tour of the fabulous library/archives and were shown some of the treasures by the Cathedral Archivist Cressida Williams.. this is just one small section of the archives. I wasn't allowed to photograph the artefacts close up
We were plied with food and drink throughout the day and Robert (as he asked to be addressed) and Fletcher spent a lot of time with us chatting and generally being 'down to earth' and lovely people - no standing on ceremony at all. We were invited to stay for Evensong but I had to leave so missed this spectacle.
The buildings are 15th/16th century (with repairs carried out after wartime damage). The gardens are lovely - and productive with beehives, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. They are very peaceful, obviously very mature - and teeming with 'pets'.
There is quite a menagerie with guinea fowl, chickens and 'fancy hens', several cats, tortoises, rabbits including a wonderful lop eared bunny.
The Dean, Robert, with lop eared bunny
closer look at lop eared bunny
Oh, and we managed to fit in a couple of hours painting/sketching in the gardens in the middle of it all. I worked at a table on my own - further back from the main 'painting' group but wasn't lonely. This is Tigger who parked herself next to my chair
and this is Leo, a handsome black/tabby with a playful personality. He stood guard over my pencils whilst I sketched.
Not one of my finer works but it made me realise I need to sketch from life a bit more and not fixate on nitty gritty stuff.