I have been a resident and Councillor in Kensington and Chelsea for a great many years. In that time, I have visited pretty much every street and been in hundreds of homes, shops, restaurants and probably much all of its public buildings.
But even so, the Royal Borough never bores; such is the richness of our history, our architecture and our art, that there is always something new to discover.
In this column I want to share one such discovery. It happened at a recent Ask Nick event, at St Mary The Boltons. Ask Nicks are events to which residents can turn up and ask any question they like. Every now and then that can make for an uncomfortable experience, when the question is about something I have failed to do my homework on for example, or about something on which we have not acquitted ourselves well.
The point is that it can sometimes be helpful before an Ask Nick to try and compose myself with a bit of a stroll; and if the event is taking place in a church, as is often the case, that stroll is usually around its calming interior.
St. Mary The Boltons is a very nice church. It was consecrated in 1850 but the spire wasn’t added until four years later. The windows were once all stained glass but sadly most of them were destroyed by wartime bombing. The interior is rather austere I would say, but in a good way.
Anyhow, there I am, shuffling around the aisles, mentally rehearsing replies to tricky questions, when I find myself standing in a square of pinkish light cast by a modern stained glass window depicting the crucifixion but utterly original nonetheless.
It is hard to say why one particularly likes a piece of art, but like it I did and when I got home I looked up the artist on the interweb. It’s by one Craigie Aitchison, RA who died in 2009. The window dated from 2008 so it’s a very late work indeed. Turns out Aitchison was quite a successful artist best known for his crucifixion paintings and many of his paintings also containing dogs, as does the window at St. Mary. Aitchison was a big fan of the lamb-like Bedlington terrier, apparently, and the “doggie in the window” as the old song goes looks as though it might well be a Bedlington.
Anyway – it’s a crucifixion and there’s a dog in it – that’s as much as you’re getting in terms of my aesthetic response lest I make a fool of myself with windy artspeak.
Suffice it to say, St Mary The Boltons has a beautiful stained glass window well worth seeing. And it is just one of literally thousands of interesting and beautiful things to see in Kensington and Chelsea.
If you are interested in getting to know your beautiful borough a bit better you could do worse than visit our virtual museum, which you can find at www.rbkc.gov.uk/virtualmuseum/