How was your lockdown? Did you learn to play an instrument, read a book or did you simply try and ignore the whole thing and just survive?
For some it was the perfect time to start a hobby. I was one of the lucky ones who was in the unusual position of having time on my hands, so my mother, on behalf of The Stowe Parish Church, commissioned me to illuminate the border of a baptismal roll to be hung in the Church.
It had been a long time since I had picked up a pen to actually create a piece of artwork but I decided to illustrate scenes from the landscape gardens as these had not been represented in other rolls. As I was spending lockdown in Cardiff, I had to create the designs through memory alone as I was unable to visit the grounds. Luckily, I am very familiar with the grounds as Stowe has played a huge part in the lives of the Scott family for the past forty-two years. We have become intertwined, like the roots of the trees, and it is just as much part of us, as we are part of it. To paint the picture, both my brothers and I were Stoics, Daniel, the second eldest of the Scott children, is now Head of Art and our father, Guy Scott, was Head of the Art School and Housemaster of Lyttelton from 1982 to 1999.
If you are a former pupil, you may not necessarily be familiar with the church building. It is somewhat overlooked in the landscape of the School as it was originally built for the parish of Stowe and Dadford. For some members of staff it is a place where they attend services, watch their children in Nativity plays, get married and some may even request their ashes be scattered in the churchyard with a view of the golf course (not naming any names of course!).
Over the years my mother, brothers, myself and my youngest nephew have all been christened in the Parish Church. It was Oran, the youngest member of our family, who noticed that his name had not been added to a framed baptismal roll. The rest of the family were listed but somehow Oran was missing.
This led to his grandmother (my mother) Jane Scott, who now works as a picture framer and restorer, being asked by Gillian Macdonald to find a way of adding Oran’s name, as well as looking at all the baptismal rolls and restoring the humidity-damaged art work. Most of the calligraphy had faded and had to be carefully redone, all the frames needed acid-free barrier boards and a special backing so they would not absorb moisture from the damp church walls. Also, all the artwork had to be placed away from the glass in order to allow air circulation. In all, every frame had to be redone to best practice conservation standards.
Whilst Jane was taking apart one of the frames, which held only a photographic copy, she was excited to find the original behind it, albeit in a very bad mildewed state. She carefully cleaned it with Isopropyl Alcohol, something we are only too familiar with today, repainted over the brown stain to disguise the damage and repainted the coloured border design, which had faded considerably. Most of the rolls needed the artwork restored to the original colouring and remounted to display the often very delicate work. The photographs below show the before and after record of the painstaking work involved.
Reading the names brought back memories of so many people who lived or worked at Stowe and those from the local community over the past fifty years. To think that some of those babies, like Daniel and his father before him, now work at the School is a heart-warming thought. My father has done much of the calligraphy and one of the rolls was created by my mother. Now I have become the next member of the Scott dynasty to proudly add a roll to the collection.
If you get the chance, please take a look at the baptismal rolls and, if you can, put a few pennies in the box to help maintain this lovely little church for many more generations to enjoy.