This work is titled ‘The Red Temple’, partly because red brick is not such a common sight in this part of East London; in the Midlands soot blackened, red brick Methodist churches are everywhere and the dourness of them can strike a chill in the heart. Despite the title, the building depicted here is no longer a religious edifice. An adjunct to the parish church of St. Matthews, it was created as a Parish Hall in 1904, but I am not sure how long it lasted in this capacity. It seems to have adapted well to the changes in the area having been utilised as a warehouse, an art gallery and more recently, as a music distribution company, which is its latest re-incarnation.
The building is situated in Hereford Road, Bethnal Green and was attached to St. Matthew Parish Church just around the corner. The church itself was originally designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor but never realized; eventually a church was built in 1746 to a design created by architect George Dance. Compared to the annexe, the church is a more formally imposing and austere monument. Its appearance though belies its history as Joseph Merceron (1764-1839), immortalised by Julian Woodford in the ‘Boss of Bethnal Green’, was a churchwarden at St Matthews. Scandalously he was imprisoned for running a protection racket and then appropriating nearly £1000 of church funds. Despite this, on his release, he was re-instated as Senior Curate! Recently, it was the church favoured by the Kray family who lived nearby in Vallance Road.
The building I have painted is very different. It opens up directly onto the pavement and street unlike the church, situated in grounds that presumably served as a former graveyard. As a result the annexe feels very connected to the community surrounding it.
I chose a simple full-frontal composition and thought it would be a straightforward painting to execute. The simplicity of the layout is deceptive, and it was difficult to weight the various elements of the composition. The juxtaposition of red brick and pale blue paintwork against the foliage and sky was a very temperamental blend to handle, as what works for the naked eye can become very difficult to translate on a two dimensional surface.
Doreen Fletcher 2020
The Red Temple 2020 Sold, oil on canvas 51 x 76cm (20 x 30”) unframed