Dear Readers, I was on my way to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery for my usual weekend walk when I was stopped in my tracks by this extraordinary statue. It appeared this week in the grounds of East Finchley Methodist Church. Last week, this was a red cedar tree, but this week it has been transformed.
The sculptor is Simon O’Rourke, and the funds for the project were raised after a 103 year-old parishioner died, and left money for something to be created ‘for the children’, with extra funds raised by local people and donated by the Heathfield Trust, a Methodist charity. The design of the sculpture incorporates some lovely details that I’m sure children will love.
Susanna Wesley was born in 1669, the youngest of 25 siblings. Although she never preached a sermon, she was a strong believer in the moral and intellectual education of young people, both boys and girls, and her meditations and commentaries on scripture attracted large crowds to her family services. Susanna and her husband had nineteen children, of whom only eight were alive at her death. Amongst the children were Charles and John Wesley, who went on to found Methodism, which now has about 80 million followers worldwide.
The whole of the area around the sculpture will be transformed into a garden for adults and children.
I rather like the statue, with its intricate details and the sense that Susanna Wesley is both welcoming everyone with open arms and simultaneously jetting off into heaven like a Red Arrow trailing smoke.
There is an explanatory sign hung on the railings.
In spite of this, I was intrigued to hear one male passerby describing Susanna Wesley as ‘John Wesley’s wife’. And this is how women are regularly denied their place in history and relegated to the role of appendages. Our assumptions betray us, every time.
After this, a walk in the cemetery was going to seem a little ordinary, unless the foxes would oblige with a spectacular showing. Alas they were keeping a low profile, but there were lots of more subtle delights on show. For example, my husband said that his hay fever was kicking in, and sure enough, lots of the conifers have their tiny cones just opening.
I love the way that the sun shows off the smooth silver bark of the young ash trees. It’s easy to forget how many there are in the cemetery. If/when ash dieback hits hard, it will be a very different place.
I love the way that horizontal branches develop their own ‘moss gardens’ as well. In the tropics they have bromeliads, in London we have moss.
The lesser celandine are really starting to kick off now….
And whilst in some places the snowdrops are in full flower…
…in other spots the buds are just starting to emerge, like little rockets.
Everything is starting to push up through the soil, and it will only be a few weeks until the cemetery is a riot of birdsong and crocuses. This year the winter has seemed very long to me, and the greyness unrelenting. How lovely to see the days grow longer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), and to feel winter losing its grip for another year.
You can read more about the Susanna Wesley statue in the Ham and High article below: