Those who pass Saint Francis' along Keir Road have seen a certain amount of activity in recent months centred on the porch door.  Like the porch on Freeman Road, this porch has magnificent carvings around the door - six statues on each porch represent the Apostles of Christ and over the door there is the central figure of Jesus blessing those who enter, flanked by adoring angels.  It is entirely likely that these carvings are by the same artist who carved the wooden statue of Saint Francis that stands at the top of the tower (and which was restored a couple of years back, and gilded).  Over the years the stone statuary has seen natural wear and tear from the elements and a certain amount of unfortunate vandalism.  

Now stone mason Paul Jones has been tasked with the job of restoring the statues and the porches to their original state.  In some cases this means he will have to carve new parts for some of the figures and insert the new stone into the porches (as he has already done with the statue of Saint Matthew - see below left) and in some cases he will be re-carving some of the existing features on the statues to make them stand out more clearly.  

There is a lot of work to be done, and then the mortar to the stonework of both porches will need to be redone.  Although some of the work stands out a little at present, with time this will fade to match the existing stone.

The wording on the Foundation Stone laid in 1939 at the East end of the Church (facing Manor Road) will also be re-carved as part of this restoration process.

Pictured below is the main entrance to the Church on Freeman Road. Like the Keir Road porch, the statues also require a certain amount of restoration.

In recent times this entrance has been enhanced by new steps up the porch, and a ramp to allow easy access for the disabled and parents with children in prams or buggies.

This first picture (left) shows the statue of Saint Matthew to the bottom right of the porch, with a completely new head, shoulder, arm, hand and money pouch (the pouch is symbol of Matthew, who was a converted tax collector). Restoration involved the original damaged parts being carefully removed, new features carved and inserted. 

Here the statue of Saint Jude (the middle statue to the right of the door) has had face, hand and scroll re-carved to bring features which had been eroded by the elements back to life. The scroll is the symbol of Jude, the writer of one of the Letters ('Epistles') in the New Testament 

Similarly the statue of Saint James the Less (holding the quill, symbol of the Letter in the New Testament that bears his name) has been re-carved, and for the first time in years his face can be seen clearly. This statue stands on the middle tier to the right of the door.

The statue bottom left at the base of the porch shows natural wear and tear as well as a fair bit of vandalism. Hair and face have been hacked away, and the flail he holds (tradition has it that Saint Bartholomew was flayed alive) is barely recognizable. This will take time and skill as Paul cuts out the old stone, carves new features and inserts them.

One of the trickiest pieces of work will be the restoration of the figure of Christ over the door, where the halo (the halo with a cross inside it indicates that Jesus is God, not just a holy man) has been broken away and several of his fingers on either hand broken

It's Friday 16 May, a nice sunny day, and Paul Jones is back at work, beginning to deal with the large amount of damage to the image of Saint Bartholomew (you can see what it looked like before in the picture in the section above on the right). To the right here you can see the original damaged head cut away. By the end of this afternoon, Paul will have inserted a new block of stone so that he can carve the new head in situ, before moving on to the hands and the flail that Bartholomew holds.

Well, this is where we see the next stage of the process.

Having cut out the old stone, Paul has inserted a new block of stone roughly carved to shape beforehand. 

After this Paul will carve the features in situ to bring the face of Saint Bartholomew to life again.  

As with the face of Saint Matthew above, there is no real idea of how Saint Bartholomew's face used to appear before the damage to the carving was done, so Paul will create a face based on those of the other figures.

And here we see the final product. 

This costly piece of work is funded in memory of Hilda Spooner, a long time resident of Friar Park and regular member of Saint Francis', and also in memory of another parishioner Vera Jones, who began her teaching career at J Edward Cox School (as it then was; it's now the Priory School and Family Centre). Vera was also a feisty local councillor and help to many in the Friar Park community even when she was well into her 90s. A very significant contribution has also been made by the trustees of the Walter Stanley Trust, to whom yet again we offer grateful thanks for their support of the Church here. 


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