St Mary’s Church, a Bexley view

St Mary'sMy father was an exceptionally gifted man. He taught English and History in secondary schools for most of his life after being demobbed in 1946. In addition he was a trained violinist and had played in an orchestra in Woolwich while he was a student at Goldmith’s College before the War. He wrote reams of poetry, mostly dedicated to my mother, and he was also an accomplished artist. I remember that with a friend, he used to attend evening art classes in Bexleyheath run by Mr Stutz, an old Austrian Jew who like so many of his compatriots had fled to England in 1938 to avoid the Nazis.

Stutz lived with his Austrian wife on Watling Street in a rather sombre house on the opposite side of the road to St Catherine’s School. Going into that stuffy and dimly lit house as I often did with my father, was like going into another world. It was full of art objects and paraphernalia some of which Stutz had collected and some of which he had made himself. On each visit, he would give me hundreds of stamps for my collection and on one occasion he also presented me with a Meccano stationary steam engine that functioned with a small methylated spirits burner under the water tank, for a long time my pride and joy!

Over the course of a year or two, our house began to fill up with artefacts manufactured at the classes run by Mr Stutz. There were coffee tables covered in mosaic, there were ornamental plates and dishes with designs my father had drawn, there were portraits of St Thomas More and St John Fisher which he transferred onto tiles to be glazed and assembled and which were eventually donated to the respective churches. And when not at his art classes my father sculpted using wood off-cuts, and he also loved to draw local views, such as the one illustrated, a view of St Mary’s Church in Bexley village. It was to this church that William Morris, at the time a Bexley resident, took his daughter Alice to be christened in 1861. For these drawings he would usually work from photographs, but one summer we all went out with him to the five-arches bridge in Footscray where he set up an easel to paint a view of the bridge in oils while we played in the fields.

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