St James’s RC Primary School Prayer Corner

I was asked back in December to produce a plaque and a statue for a delightful school in Teddington, run by 2 heads, Anna McMullen and Clare Webber. A small corner of the school grounds with a rotting tree trunk and not much else going on was going to be transformed into a prayer garden, and would be opened and consecrated by The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

(I had the pleasure of meeting the Cardinal before when he consecrated the likenesses John Dasgupta and I carved a few years ago.)

Clare and Anna intended the tree to be carved into praying hands. But how to link the plaque, sculpture and hands together?

During the design process, Clare and Anna felt a traditional sculpture would not be relatable for the younger children and that a more emblematic solution was called for. James was a fisherman and is often pictured with a staff and a scallop shell broach. In the end 5 stepping stones in the shape of shells were to be created, with the Gospel values on each stone: Faith, Mercy, Love, Charity and Truth.

I ordered them in a York stone for durability and beauty – they have rivulets of iron ore running through.

Hand-carved inscription in York stone

Hand-carved inscription in York stone

Finished inscription

York stone

One of the 5 York stone stepping stones

The tablet with the inscription on was originally going to be integrated into the tree but in the end the tree was not able to accommodate the plaque, so I designed a Portland stone stand with stainless steel fixings to take the weight of the tablet and fixed it into a concrete base in front of the hands. To date the project has yet to be completed but the masonry side has been. I’m looking forward to getting some photos to share with you of the completed project.

Detail of inscription during the letter-carving process

Letter-carving completed in the workshop

The plaque in-situ at St James’s RC Primary School


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