Philip Chatfield

The sculptor for the project was Philip Chatfield, who specialises in medieval techniques and will be using only hand tools.

In 2005 Philip was commissioned to carve a life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Priory Church of St Mary and St Florent in Monmouth, Wales.

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Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Priory Church of St Mary and St Florent in Monmouth, Wales
The carving was undertaken in public view on the site of the cloister of the former monastic Benedictine Priory, founded in 1101, the final stages of the carving being completed inside the church. The eyes of the statue were carved by candlelight at night, in the medieval tradition.

The statue was blessed and dedicated by Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS, Bishop of Monmouth, on 11 February 2006 and now stands at the entrance to the Lady Chapel in the Priory Church.

The project at Tintern Abbey followed almost immediately after the work for the Priory Church in Monmouth. The fragments of the statue of Our Lady of Tintern, which have so miraculously survived from the late thirteenth century, provide a unique opportunity for Philip to study the work of the medieval sculptor at first hand.

About Philip

Born in Southsea in 1958 Philip was educated at Sherborne Preparatory School. Dorset, and Monmouth School in Wales. At the University of Newcastle upon Tyne he studied sculpture and stone carving techniques of 'direct carving' under the sculptors Roy Kitchin and Jonah Jones, and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Fine Art in 1981.

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Philip Chatfield's first commission, The Tabernacle, Catholic Chaplaincy, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities
Between 1981 and 1983 he worked on architectural stone-masonry jobs in Somerset and Dorset, before moving to Swansea. For ten years Philip was occupied with a series of commissions as sculptor to the City of Swansea and Swansea City Council in their prestigious new Maritime Quarter development.

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Swansea Maritime Quarter, Zephyrus 1987
These commissions included over one hundred carved stone plaques, keystones, large relief carvings, carved lettering and free standing architectural pieces. The work in the new Maritime Quarter was mostly carved in-situ directly onto the buildings from scaffolding, in all weathers.

Philip was based in a converted dock warehouse called Pier Street Workshop, where other sculpture was carved and private commissions created. The work carved in and around Pier Street Workshop often reflected the 'Nautical Style' of the location, and the strong maritime background of the sculptor. In an exhibition catalogue from 1987 he writes:

"Carving into stone is at once an exhilarating experience, the unrelenting removal of stone to reveal form is absorbing. The rhythm of flat chisel work with the wooden mallet is a form of meditation. Nothing pleases me more than seeing, and touching, well masoned and tooled surfaces. The nave columns of Durham Cathedral are fine examples. No machine can really match the living, vibrant hand-tooled surface upon which individual hammer or mallet blows of character are recorded.

I have mostly warmed to architectural stone structures in land or seascapes. My formative years were in Malta, Plymouth and Portsmouth, where I grew up living in immense Napoleonic Forts, on account of my father's work in the Royal Marines. I was attracted to robust harbour engineering works such as the great breakwater in Plymouth Sound, and of lighthouse construction. The Eddystone lighthouse of 1756, designed by John Smeaton, is built from carved blocks of Portland stone and Cornish granite, dove-tailed together so as to defy the sea. Our house had been built on the site of the original workshop. This lighthouse now stands on Plymouth Hoe and you can climb up inside it.

I am a sculptor/mason with a workshop practice and as such specialise in a variety of stonework allied to my own sculpture. I enjoy working outside on new buildings carving directly onto new stonework. For me making sculpture is an expression of optimism. Eric Gill once carved the words 'Laborare est Orare' onto his fireplace at Capel-y-ffin and I heartily agree."

From 1990 to 1995 Philip was a regular crew member, carpenter and gunner, of the Brig MARIA ASUMPTA. This historic wooden sailing vessel was built in Barcelona in 1858 and was the oldest sailing ship in the world still actively sailing.

On 30th May 1995 Philip was one of the eleven survivors when the MARIA ASUMPTA was shipwrecked on the North Cornish coast, with the loss of three of her crew.

At the time of the wreck all his working drawings and plans for the thirty foot high Merchant Navy Monument for Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan were lost to the sea. The monument was completed in 1996 after working for six months in the quarries at Portland. Dorset, and then six months at Barry, despite injuries sustained during the shipwreck.

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Carved memorial to the Maria Asumpta and the crew members Anne Taylor, Emily MacFarlane and John Shannon
In June 2006 Philip was able to design, carve and fix into place the slate monument to MARIA ASUMPTA and the three crew who perished. This is in the church of St Enodoc at Trebetherick on the North Coast of Cornwall. Sir John Betjeman is buried there. It is unique in maritime history for a survivor of a shipwreck to carve the memorial.

In 1994 Philip was commissioned by the Captain Scott Society with the support of Scott Polar Research Institute to carve a life size Italian Carrara marble bust of Petty Officer Edgar Evans RN. PO Evans was the first of Captain Scott's party to perish on the return march from the South Pole in 1912. The bust is sited in Swansea museum.

From a workshop in Gower, South Wales, Philip continues to work on a wide variety of large scale public, private and civic commissions in stone, marble and granite. Other work sometimes includes restoration carving on Grade 1 listed buildings and monuments.

From 1998 Philip has concentrated on figurative architectural stone sculpture, that reflects a fascination with the work of the medieval sculptors. He was taught by a Welsh sculptor, the late Jonah Jones, when at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland. Jonah Jones was himself taught in the workshops of Eric Gill. The stance of the artist as craftsman was passed down, along with one of Eric Gill's hammers, to Philip.

The theme of craftsmanship reappears throughout the history of stone carving, especially in the medieval era and is intimately connected with the idea of 'direct carving'. Of the English carvers it was Eric Gill who developed this philosophy and applied it to his life and work. "Sculpture is a matter of both workmanship and design. The combination in the same person of craftsman and designer must be revived.." Eric Gill, 1924.