Some thoughts on Our Lady of London

Our Lady, Martin Travers
One of my favourite images of Our Lady is the poster 'Our Lady of London' which was designed in 1935 by Martin Travers. I took this photo of it from a surviving copy hanging in a Nottinghamshire church. Our Lady has twelve stars around her head and is set in a crescent moon, superimposed against the sun, holding the Blessed Infant. Below is the sillouhette of the London skyline and St Paul's cathedral against a dusky sky. It is a striking image.

The iconography of Our Lady and the crescent moon isn't particularly unusual.  The iconographical elements are all based on the vision of the woman in Revelation 12: 1.  Usually Our Lady is standing or sitting on the moon.  Albrecht Durer produced a woodcut of the Virgin and Child with all of these and it bears a striking resemblance to Travers' work.  Except that Our Lady and the Infant are set on the crescent moon, rather than in it.

There is more. Among my collection of oddments at home, I have a small pewter pilgrim badge dating from the later part of the Middle Ages, which I bought it from an antiquities dealer in the mid 1990s. This tiny badge had been found on the foreshore of the river Thames, where I understand they have been found in their hundreds. The badge itself is believed to have been a pilgrim souvenir obtained during visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Pew, an image of the Virgin and Child  set in a chapel in the north Ambulatory of Westminster Abbey.  Like the Travers image, on the pilgrim badge, Our Lady is set in rather than on the crescent moon.  So I wonder - as well as seeing the Durer woodcut, had Martin Travers also seen a copy of this pilgrim badge? Was his design and the choice of this form of the Virgin and Child, based on this London connection with the cult of Our Lady of the Pew? 

Pilgrim badge


Anonymous said…
I remember in about 1981 (?) the Church Literature Association printed about four or five posters of Martin Travers' graphic work.They were very fine and inexpensive. i wonder why someon doesn't re-print some of his pictures as either post cards or posters.Alan Robinson
Davis d'Ambly said…
Nicely done, Allan. Yes the Travers is a striking image - one that I keep nearby. One thing I'd point out is that placing Our Lady within the crescent makes graphic sense.

I, too, recall the CLA's reprints done as I recall for the 150th anniversary of the Assize Sermon.
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
It was me who was responsible for making posters from illustrations by Martin Travers in the early 1970s. They were published by the Catholic Literature Association and the Church union and the preparatory artwork was done by Gavin Stamp. We took them to an obscure printer in North London culled from the Yellow Pages. The originals was taken from sundry publications illustrated by Travers, most of which I later either gave away or disposed of.

Upon the whole they turned out quite well. Travers never turned his own work into posters and the one discovered by Alan Barton dates from this enterprise. It is interesting to know that it has survived the vicissitudes of the last thirty years.
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
By the way, Davis, the posters were not printed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Keble's Assize sermon. That was kept in 1983, ten years later. The reason for publishing them was purely spontaneous. It caused much annoyance among progressive Anglo-Catholics but was enjoyed by antediluvian elements and the precious young of the period. They went down like hot cakes at Walsingham.
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
The inspiration behind many of Martin Travers's precedents was Sam Gurney, the Secretary of the Society of SS Peter & Paul. He had an astonishing collection of baroque church art and an excellent library kept in his house at Compton Beauchamp. His drawing room was hung with baroque sanctuary lamps, and c17 processional crosses lined the walls in the midst of fine c18 English furniture. I knew him quite well and he occasionally invited me to stay.

Nothing had changed since he moved in in the late 1920s and it was entirely evocative of the Anglo-Catholic Congress movement and the taste of the SSPP. It was Gurney who was responsible for the format of their publications, designed on the principles of Sir Emery Walker, and many of the engravings used came from books in his library, made into new blocks by an old-fashioned printer called Quick.
Michael said…
It has taken a recommendation from the New Liturgical Movement blog for me to discover your blog.

I must admit to not being overkeen on the Our Lady of London image but would the ACS not be a likely candidate for reprinting the image as prayer cards/ember cards/such like?
Davis d'Ambly said…
Thanks for the correction, Fr Symondson,

I must have been confused by the fact that here in the States, they were sold as part of that anniversary.
Anonymous said…
I wonder if Fr Symondson S.J. was responsible,too, for the lovely SSPP recreation pamphlet ALL Generations Shall CALL ME BLESSED edited by John Barnes, with texts form the Caroline Divines about Our Lady ? I wish that I still had my copy.It must have been late 1970s. The Church Literature Association used to sell little picture cards by T.Noyes Lewis. One of his pictures of a priest in old style Anglo-Catholic splendour (pre-SSPP) at the altar, apparently, adorns the walls of the Society of S.Pius X Seminary in the USA; I wonder if they know its origins ? Is much known about T.Noyes Lewis - I imagine that,like Clare Dawson, he's almost a footnote in anglo-Catholic history. ? Alan Robinson.
Canon Tallis said…
I am a great fan of Traver's graphic work and would love to see it collected and reprinted. I was particularly taken with a poster done for St Mary's Graham Terrace which I would love to have again.

Also, Father Symondson, why is so little available about Sam Gurney? Why I have been able to find has been quite interesting, but it is not enough and I would like to know a great deal more. The history of the Anglo-Catholic movement is not well enough known and all churchmen should know it better.
Anonymous said…
Sam Gurney,at least is immportalised in John Betjeman's verse,
"And has Sam Gurney poped"
The late Fr Henry R.T.Brandreth O.G.S. said that Sam Gurney used to say that there were only two people not needed in this world,the butcher and the hangman.
Alan Robinson
Allan Barton said…
There is still a paltry amount written about the Anglo-Catholic movemennt. Michael Yelton is going some way to plugging that gap and his new book 'Outposts of the Faith' has a chapter on Gurney.
BillyD said…
1. "It caused much annoyance among progressive Anglo-Catholics..."


2. I've never been to London - is the skyline depicted readily identifiable as that city?
Allan Barton said…
I think Father Symondson means those Anglo-Catholics who prefer a more 'modern Roman' style shall we say, rather than the back-to-baroque aesthetic that inspired Travers.

It's not really accurate, an idealised London.
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
Alan Robinson

John Barnes's 'All Generations shall Call me Blessed' was seen through the press by Brian Brindley and printed by the Clarendon Press, Oxford. He took a long time to do it and I was deputed to finish the final printing. It was a typographical masterpiece, the best thing that Brindley designed. I imagine it is now scarce.

T. Noyes Lewis was a member of the congregation of St Alban's, Holborn, and his liturgical studies were based on Garner's tryptich of blue and gold carved wood behind the high altar and his altar ornaments. All but the ornaments were destroyed during the Second World War. Lewis was related to the formidable Mother Superior of a London house of the Society of St Margaret, East Grinstead, in Queen Square, Holborn. It ran an outstanding embroidery room but the community was received into the Church in 1906 and their vestments and chapel furniture are now at Farnborough Abbey. Noyes Lewis did not follow her example and much of his later work was done for Mowbrays and the Faith Press.

Canon Tallis

As Allan Barton has noted, there is a chapter on Sam Gurney in Michael Yelton's 'Outposts of the Faith', Canterbury Press, £22.99. The problem with Yelton's work is that it is often gossipy and he is too young to have known the people he writes about, or fully experienced their world. The c20 Anglo-Catholic Movement needs a more serious approach but, given the straights it is going through, it is unlikely that a scientific approach of any value with emerge in the foreseeable future. The subject is either riddled with nostalgia or antipathy.

Anonymous 2

Henry Brandreth was correct in quoting Gurney as he did. He was a vegetarian but would produce meat for his guests. He always engaged good cooks.

Billy D

Allan is also right in identifying the supporters of modern Roman liturgical reform as antagonists of Travers's style. Most had been young towards the end of his life and they reacted against it in middle age, seeing it as emblematic of a superseded period of Anglo-Catholic history, as obsolete as the English Use. They were embodied in clergymen like Charles Smith, of St Mary Magdalene's, Oxford, and Herbert Moore, of St Stephen's, Gloucester Road.

Gavin Stamp and I admired Travers for his artistry as much as his aesthetic and we were encouraged by Douglas Carter, the Secretary of the Church Union, without whose agreement the posters would not have been published. He, too, was a modern Romanist but he also saw the value of Travers's work and the success of the posters reaped their own reward. I don't think there would be the will or the expertise to reprint them now.
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
Anthony Symondson SJ

Davis d'Ambly

I had no idea, Davis, that the Travers posters ever reached America. A large run was printed by the CLA and the stocks must have lasted quite well. By 1983 I was on my way to the One True Church and I did not participate in the Oxford Movement celebrations. By then the scales had dropped from my eyes.

By the way, if you would like to read my assessment of Anglo-Catholicism, past and present, a revised and extended version of an essay I wrote on the subject has just been published in the tenth anniversary edition of 'The Path to Rome', edited by Dwight Longenecker and Cyprian Blamires, Gracewing, £12.50. It should soon be available in the United States as it contains some new American contributions, but none, I am relieved to say, emanating from the Traditional Anglican Communion. These include essays by Admiral and Mrs John Poindexter and Marcus Grodi
Anonymous said…
Thank you Fr Symondson for your helpful comments. With great respect, I do not think that your assessment of Anglo-Catholicism in The Path to Rome is as good as your essay in the book Loose Canon, which although it poses as a tribute to Canon Brindley,is a brilliant and thoughtful obituary for anglo-catholicism. The 150th anniversary of the Oxford movement in 1983 prepared me for conversion in 1984.Alan Robinson
Anthony Symondson SJ said…
Full marks for admonition, Allan. There is a a better reason than one-upmanship for making comments on your excellent website. The cultural legacy of early-c20 Anglicanism is one of the most interesting periods of modern church history but the time has almost past for the verbal record to be recorded. Few have done any serious work on the documents. Some, like yourself, are rediscovering it in a positive and enthusiastic way informed by good judgment. But it was, in essence, a serious cultural movement which has almost become eclipsed by developments within Anglicanism during the last fifty years.

Apart from the even more bitter observations than mine of Peter Anson, few have attempted to come to terms with it as a serious subject. You would not have enjoyed Anson's company and I have letters from him which, even now, almost take my breath away. He would circulate copies of others he had written to good old priests like Marcus Donovan, for instance, to show how clever he was, and how stupid Donovan was in comparison. One of the reasons for the current neglect of the subject is that the present Anglican status quo regards it as a subject of no significance, best forgotten. It no longer fits the picture.

You have no idea how badly architects like Stephen Dykes Bower and his contemporaries who used the historic styles as a living architectural language were treated and suffered from the antipathy of the emerging status quo after 1962. In fairness to them, his style and that of his distinguished predecessors (Comper, Eden, Temple Moore, to a lesser extent Travers and some others) represented an element of stuffiness that had outlived its time. Exemplified by the work of Francis Stephens and the Faithcraft Studio this was, in my opinion, indisputable. It was given an extended life by the deplorable work of Lawrence King, perhaps the worst late-c20 English church architect whose work gave as much pain to Dykes Bower and that of George Pace.

Fortunately for you, you are free of these raging antipathies and your interest in the period gives me hope that one day it will be seen objectively as an artistic and architectural achievement in its own right. When I was your age I made many mistakes of attribution but I was fortunate in coming to know many pupils and protagonists who survived from the period and trained me to do better. At the moment you are too occupied with being trained for your professional life but I hope that one day you will find time to work in archives and work seriously in the subject. In the meanwhile, there is no harm in a correction or two intended to reinforce a stronger foundation.

As for the Church of England, in a curious and rather perverse way I admire it more than I did when I was part of it because I see that it is becoming more faithful to its origins. As an Anglo-Catholic I wrongly believed that the principles alone rightly expressed the faith of the Church of England. That was little more than vain optimism as the history of the national Church demonstrates in the post-Duffy and MacCullogh era demonstrates.
Allan Barton said…
Thank you. Why cling on to the memories of that dark time when you see a glimmer of hope? It makes no sense to me. The last time we had a discussion on this matter (re. East Markham) I came away with the distinct impression that you saw no hope for the future at all. In fact you told me that if I expected better things I was wasting my time. As someone who clearly has within them a wonderful oral record of early 20th century Anglicanism, I do hope you will make that known – perhaps a blog would be a good vehicle for that? There are plenty of us who would relish the information you could share. Raising the profile of the Anglo-Catholic movement in any way can only add momentum to a serious and considered examination of the movement and its artistic legacy.

With regard to my attribution of work, I sense in your last comment that you are calling into question my academic methodology. I am a person, I think, with a reasonable sense of scholarly integrity. When I am uncertain I don’t ever make a definitive attributon, I always couch the attribution as a question, as I did with the frontal at Grantham and the dossal at Great Haseley. This is with the view, I hope, of others answering that question. I get as irritated as you, when wrong attributions are made. I am happy and grateful when a correction is made from whatever source it comes.
This blog does not represent my serious academic work in any sense, but is a by-product of my exploration and enthusiasm. As I said to you before it is my attempt to infect others with the enthusiasm for medieval art and architecture that I have. My professional development, for want of a better word, is not impairing my serious academic work. My serious academic work focuses on late medieval Gothic art and architecture. I am currently engaged on a volume on the medieval stained glass of Nottinghamshire for the international Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi and concurrently I’m working on a number of articles on late medieval mercantile patronage. This is work that is based on original archive work and on the solid academic foundation of my research degree.
Michael said…
Thanks for this! I am tracing the history of the iconography of the Virgin Mary on the Crescent Moon in Europe. The image was popular in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries, it's great to see it in England on the pilgrim's badge. When you say "late middle ages" - can we be more precise? (Some say the Middle Ages end in England in 1485 with the death of Rchard III and the beginning of the Tudors)