Get thee to a Haggerston nunnery there to carve

Chapel: St Saviour’s Priory 18 Queensbridge Road E2 8NS 120415 ©
A time-pressed job, perhaps, but enough detail

EVERY SUNDAY morning hundreds of Londoners going to and from Columbia Road flower market pass a nondescript 1970s building without giving it a second glance.

Unknown to them, St Saviour’s Priory at the southern end of Queensbridge Road in Haggerston, contains within its walls a hidden chapel as beautiful as any flower.

It features a collection of intricate carvings of native creatures in a style that looks as warm as the tones of the wood from which it has been so lovingly etched.

The sculptor was no Grinling Gibbons yet somehow the skill was mustered to make such entrancing creations as you see scattered around this page.

Angel: whose face was the model?

The chapel, built in 1925 for an order of Anglican nuns founded 70 years earlier to tackle poverty, would have been unremarkable among thousands in the UK if one of the nuns, Sister Laetitia, had not enrolled one night at a municipal class to learn about working with wood.

Then she had to make the time, once she had carried out her daily sisterly duties, to create the 42 misericords — carvings under hinged seats — of English birds and animals, as well as decorations throughout the chapel.

This is the legacy of an extraordinary unsung artist.

David Altheer 290715

* St Saviour’s Priory, 18 Queensbridge Road, corner Dunloe Street, Haggerston E2 8NS, continues to tackle social problems, homelessness and, in its own words, support “issues of justice, sexual and racial equality”. You can see inside the chapel next time the priory holds one of its jumble sales, always on a flower market morning.

Oak and hedgehogs: sentimental in style without being maudlin

* Pictures on this page © DavidAltheer[at] Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.

In the squirrel carving, composition is probably the most admirable quality

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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