Left: Whole memorial. Right: Middle part of the memorial showing ships with billowing sails at both sides, and robed figures.

Memorial to Charles Mitchell (1820-1895) by Sir George Frampton, R.A., P.R.B.S. (1860-1928). 1898. Made of copper, bronze and lapis lazuli, on the wall of the north aisle of St. George's Church, Jesmond, Northumberland. Mitchell was an Aberdeen-born shipbuilder and munitions-manufacturer who lived in nearby Jesmond Towers Hall; he had become a partner of local magnate Lord Armstrong. An important philanthropist, he was the benefactor of St George's, and it was he who had commissioned the work from architect T. R. Spence. Unusually for Frampton, there is no representation of the man himself, but a robed figure at the very top with upswept arms above the simple inscription of his name on a lovely lapis lazuli background. Neil Moat suggests that "Lapis, as the source of ultra-marine (ultra mares), the rarest of colours employed by an artist," might allude to Mitchell's profession, his wealth and his taste for art" (190). It certainly harmonises well with the predominantly blue mosaic-work of the chancel. Either side of this tablet are sailing vessels, each one linked to it by what looks like a billowing sail. A figure on the right-hand boat holds a model of the church, while, according to the church website, another one on the left-hand boat holds a model of the tower and graduation hall of Aberdeen University, also built as a result of Mitchell's philanthropy.

Bronze relief depicting a series of symbolic figures flanked by St. Andrew and St. George.

The church website also points out that the figure on the left of the relief below, St. Andrew, so suitable for a Scotsman, has the arms of Newcastle on his shield — St. George, easily recognisable at the other end, has the usual cross on his. Curious, perhaps, but it nicely blends Mitchell's allegiances to his native place and his later home-town. In between, usefully labelled, are figures representing Art, Energy, Truth, Charity (with two little children) and Science. Truth is central. The church website reports, "The work is indicative of the progressive artistic tastes of both Mitchells, father and son, and was greatly admired when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898." Indeed, Moat claims that it was "one of the sculptor's most admired and influential works, and a key work of the New Sculpture movement" (190). On the opposite wall of the church is a rather less striking memorial by Frampton to Mitchell's son, Charles William Mitchell, who was himself involved in the decoration of the church, and who died in 1903.

Picking out the "stylised fruiting trees" at either side of the north aisle tablet, Moat associates the whole memorial very much with the Arts and Crafts movement of the time, and concludes his description of the memorial plaque by saying that it seems "entirely true to the man, and to the church Charles Mitchell brought into being" (191). As was the case with the church itself, no expense had been spared. Moat informs us that the memorial cost £1000.

Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images for larger pictures.]

Related Material

References

"Charles Mitchell." Grace's Guide. Web. 16 October 2015.

Moat, Neil. A Theatre for the Soul: St George's Church, Jesmond: The Building and Cultural Reception of a late-Victorian Church. Newcastle University: Doctoral thesis, 2011. Web. 16 October 2015.

"North Aisle." St. George's Church website. Web. 16 October 2015.


Last modified 24 October 2015