Stories on Whalls: Church of the Holy Cross, Sarratt

Whall was responsible for the “Charity” window in this church. It is the East window in the North Transept. The window dates from 1923. The Church dates back to circa 1190. Whall was responsible for two other windows, “St Cecilia” and “Bringing the children to Christ”. The “Charity” window comprises two lights featuring angels. There is a panel below each light and in the panel below the left hand light is a heart and below the words “Deus Caritas Est”. “Bringing the Children to Christ” is the earliest of the three windows and was installed in the West of the tower in 1913. It is a two-light window and in the left hand light we see a mother with two children. They look towards the right hand light in which we see Jesus with a third child. In a roundel above the two main lights, two angels are shown and the inscription “In Heaven their angels do always behold the face of the Father.” The window “St Cecilia” was installed in 1921 and is the South window, South Aisle. St Cecilia sits at a piano. The window was commissioned in her memory by the children of Emily Catherine Hamilton Ryley. (List of works by Christopher Whall)

And then, there’s the M25, always present, always humming, always flowing. Or trying to. 50 years it wasn’t. It might have a glimmer in a planner’s eye but when we were growing up in the area, the challenge that the M25 was to become and the traffic it would generate was beyond our imaginations.

We were able to ride our bikes through the narrow country lanes out of Heronsgate, around Chorleywood, down Solesbridge Lane and up to Sarratt without having to dodge lumbering articulated HGVs which had taken the wrong SatNav instruction and now found themselves squeezing through bushes and demolishing rabbit warrens before they were forced to reverse perilously, jack-knife and bring the whole of South East to a gridlocked halt. It’s amazing how one errant truck can take a wrong turning and seize up the nation’s supply chain.

In those days, Holy Cross Church in Sarratt would have looked very much like it does today – and probably how it looked like 800 years ago. Motorways may wax and wane but these older churches are made of hardier infrastructural policies.

But these days, the M25 helps you makes a trip to Sarratt by car in a hop skip and a jump and within minutes you can find the village’ s now empty duck pond, the Village Hall (scene of my first young farmers disco) and the Cricketers Arms (home of beautiful cobalt blue cutlery which is unfortunately not for sale).

A ten minute walk down Church Road – greeted politely by locals (“lost your way? You’re not from ‘ere are you?”) making it clear there’s nothing more suspicious than a couple of blokes walking down a country lane – leads unsurprisingly to the church, in which Christopher Whall is present, jostling for attention with the likes of Powell and Alfred Fisher. In the Baptistry, there’s St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, dating from 1921; in the Bell Tower, Bringing the Children to Christ (1913) and in the North Transept, Charity (1923).

Back outside, you clock that the Church of the Holy Cross  is opposite another pub, The Cock Inn, with its promise of ‘fab fish weekends’, which no doubt complement the fish and loaves Sunday mission of Holy Cross itself. The pub and the church: constants in an ever changing flux of articulated lorries, traffic diversions and speed cameras.

Connecting up with yourself again: what would your older you say to your younger you?

We’ve met up for the third time in as many years, the old school class of 1968 – 75 from Rickmansworth GS, and again have come away with the usual mix of feelings – sobered that we may not all be able do this again given the place we’ve reached in our lives, cheered by the ongoing companionship, struck by the distances we’ve travelled over the last 40 years, thoughtful that we’ve kept in touch and made it back here with so many different stories to tell, overawed by it all: and struck by the main land change of the ever present M25, always there in the background, somewhere around the corner, ahead of you, up ahead, over you, a constant hum of traffic and reminder of the flow around us, in us, through us. Even on the school rugby fields you can see that ever present glistening line of traffic streaming through the countryside, something that was impossible upto 1975.

And yet paradoxically, nothing has happened in the last 40 years – change has been superficial, our bodies are temporary in any event, and the changes we marvel at are just a manifestation of the traffic, the river, the flow. Money, family, relationships: the challenges are constant, just how to keep afloat is a question that’s always been there, and always will be. We ask ourselves, what would the older you say to the younger you if you bumped into yourself 40 years ago? and the answers are surprisingly simple: be confident, don’t worry, it’ll all be alright.

So you spend some money, have some laughs, drink too much, share a few memories – and keep the planning to a tentative minimum. It doesn’t need a lot more – we’re all part of the traffic, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, but all traffic together, going in our own directions but still happy to share pit stops, caveats, advice on oncoming diversions, warnings of impending heavy weather. And advice on where to find the sunshine too.

The knowledge of the car driver: Number 5 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

The knowledge of the car driver is perhaps the most complete form of knowledge available to us in both the private and public spheres of knowledge. He (for the car driver is always male, the form has not yet found a way of accommodating female insights into how to navigate oneself around the world) knows how to use Satnav, A – Z or his own innate capabilities in recognising how the world roads systems should connect up; how to surround himself with the perfect soundtrack which mirrors how his own internal emotional turmoil connects to his public confidence in the morals of the highway code; and  how his mpg will accurately predict his eta. On a good day, the drivers knowledge is both organic and inorganic,  both evolved and constructed: man and machine are perfectly melded. On a bad day, you find yourself on the M25.

Arts based research has a particularly effective role to play if the driver finds himself on the Moebius Loop that is the modern outer city motorway. Poetry, site specific installations and bricolage can be bought into play on the car dashboard, creating new interpretations on ancient themes of mans inhumanity to man, the place of God in a Godless society and the existence of the Devil. The only risk to the driver is that by becoming so immersed in the knowledge that this research generates, they miss the turning for the Dartford Tunnel and are doomed to repeat their journey for a further 120 miles.

More travel knowledge here.