Evelyn De Morgan’s Angel panels, All Saints Church, Cawthorne

Hidden away in a dark corner of All Saints Church, in the tiny village of Cawthorne, some wonderful but relatively unknown paintings by Evelyn De Morgan are located.

Whilst there was undoubtedly a church on the site in Saxon times, the present structure dates back to the eleventh century, with its towers and bells being added in the mid-15th century. However, most of the present interiors date from a refurbishment planned and paid for between 1875 and 1880  by Evelyn’s uncle,  Walter Spencer-Stanhope who lived in the nearby stately home, Cannon Hall. The architect for the refurbishment was Gothic Revival architect G.F. Bodley. All the woodwork, including the waggon-headed roof, the pulpit, organ case and decorative panels on which Evelyn’s work is painted, is from this time and was created to Bodley’s design. Evelyn’s uncle, Roddam Spencer Stanhope also contributed to the decorative work in the church and his painted panels for the pulpit have recently been conserved and will shortly be on display at Cannon Hall for a limited period, before returning to the church.

Evelyn’s paintings are of four winged angels, each carrying the symbol of the four Evangelists: the winged man of St. Matthew; the winged Ox of St. Luke; the Eagle of St. John and the winged Lion of St. Mark.The panels are decorated in relief using gesso and then painted with tempera and gold leaf which is punched and incised to create floral patterns.  Within the De Morgan Foundation’s collection are some of Evelyn’s preparatory drawings for the panels, of the angels holding their shields along with the designs for the shields themselves. 

Whether the painted panels were part of the original design or an afterthought is unclear, but whilst the main refurbishment was completed by 1880, the panels were not installed until Christmas 1883, when Evelyn, her sister Wilhelmina and Mother were visiting Cannon Hall. Wilhelmina writes in her diary on the 24th December 1883, “Evelyn's angels were put up in church either side of the communion table" and this date is confirmed by an article in the Parish magazine of January 1884. The panels appear to have been in situ until the 1960s when they were taken down. They were later reinstalled at the back of the church - possibly to safeguard them from being sold. 

If you’re planning a visit, do call in advance to make sure the church is open. Other places of interest in the area are highlighted in the excellent Roddam Trail created by the Hoylandwaine Arts Group. 

Above right and below: sections of painted panels by Evelyn De Morgan

 

                 

 

Below: preparatory drawings from the De Morgan Foundation collection