Diary Date: Sunday 20th May

We shall celebrate the restoration of our Chancel with a peal of bells, a Choral Evensong with Bishop Peter, a Reception and a Lecture by Dr Ayla Lepine of the Courtauld Institute.

All are Welcome!

Completed Chancel Restoration at St Mary Magdalene Enfield

Members of the Society will be delighted to know that the Chancel Walls and Ceiling of St Mary Magdalene’s Church have now been fully restored and have been revealed in their full glory. Not only have we restored what some are now saying is perhaps the finest Victorian art inside a church in the land, we have made some fascinating historical discoveries along the way.

Firstly, during the restoration we discovered an inscription, placed high inside the window arch when the work was done, saying: “This ceiling was decorated in 1897 on the completion of the 6oth year of the reign of Queen Victoria at the sole cost of Mrs Philip Twells”. Philip Twells, Enfield resident and MP for the City of London, had died in 1880, and his wife Georgiana had St Mary Magdalene’s Church built in 1883 in his memory, and her final gift was this artwork. The following year, she herself died and was laid to rest alongside her husband in Lavender Hill Cemetery. Not only the land for the Cemetery, but the Town Park and Library, had been theirs, and with the church, form their legacy to our town.

While the Diamond Jubilee link, connecting our own celebrations this year of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee with that of Queen Victoria in 1897, was a wonderful and serendipitous surprise, more was to come. For also written on the ceiling was a list of the names of the five men who had actually painted it, among them, one John Boffin. After ITN’s ‘London Tonight’ broadcast an item on the Jubilee link, showing the inscriptions, I received an email from Boffin’s grand-daughter Jackie Rayer, telling us that she did not know he had painted the ceiling, but also that before his death in 1914, he had worked on the interiors of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. This other connection also got us some media attention when we revealed it, coinciding so nicely as it did with the recent commemorations of the sinking of Titanic on April 15th 1912.

And now, our chancel is available for anyone to see: obviously visible for Sunday services at 8, 10 or 6.30, at lunchtime concerts and also by appointment. Furthermore, there will be a special day of celebration on Sunday May 20th. A full peal of bells will be rung in the afternoon, and then at 6.30pm the Bishop of Edmonton will attend Choral Evensong, there will then be a reception, and at 8.15pm Dr Ayla Lepine of the Courtauld Institute will give a lecture. The conservators from Hirst Conservation will also be present to meet people and answer questions. It will be a memorable, joyous and informative evening to which everyone is warmly invited.

Further information and the week by week story in words, photographs and videos is on our Chancel pages.

Gordon Giles