The Piper Passport

Coventry Cathedral by Piper

Coventry Cathedral by Piper

Last week I gave a lesson  about the artist John Piper to my Art History class. Piper, the prolific and well-known painter went down very well with the students also something interesting came to light, more about that later.

First a  quick note about Piper. He was, as I have said, incredibly productive and made hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures using a myriad of techniques which have since become the staple of art teachers everywhere.  John Piper was a topographical artist, he recorded architecture, churches, stately homes and ancient ruins. During World War 2 he was commissioned to paint the damage caused to ancient and spiritual places like Coventry Cathedral . He worked at various sites throughout the British Isles. His work has a deeply Romantic edge to it.

Newchurch by John Piper

Newchurch by John Piper

One of his favourite places to visit was Romney Marsh where he recorded, in his own particular way, the churches of the Marsh and also the Military Canal. There’s a beautiful watercolour of Ruckinge Church in the collection of Rye Art Gallery. Sadly some of Piper’s Marsh church pictures seem to have have disappeared over the years, it would be great to know where they have ended up.  You can buy a nice set of the cards showing some of the pictures from the St Nicholas’s Church in New Romney.

Now onto my discovery.

A few days ago I was researching for the lesson I was going to give and I had a look at the Goldmark Gallery website. The Goldmark Gallery must be one of the biggest printed edition galleries in the Country.  On the site they had something called Goldmark TV and a  film clip where a presenter was touring round the Marsh churches and chatting about Piper. She was waxing lyrical in St Clements at Old Romney when all of a sudden from behind the uniquely pink pews came the actor and national treasure, Donald Sinden. He was brandishing a little book with a blue marbled cover.. The book was “Romney Marsh” by John Piper. A long-time local resident, Sinden described in his uniquely fruity voice  how this book was a must to anyone interested in the Marsh. He also gave a mention to the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust .

The great Donald Sinden

The great Donald Sinden

I had seen copies of the little  book, (published in 1950  by King Penguin)  on e-bay for between £20 and £30. Since I delivered my lesson on Piper scores of people have come up to me to show me their own copy of this little gem. It’s amazing how many people round here seem have them.   I have a theory that the ownership of the book indicates exclusive membership of some sort of elite Marsh Society, perhaps with Donald Sinden as  the Honorary  Chairman.  Quite possibly there are  perks attached to being in this exclusive club. For example, the secret code held within the layout of the Haguelands Marsh Maze, discounts at Lamby’s seafood stall, or an “Access all Areas” VIP pass for the  Dymchurch Players Pantomime. I can only speculate what other “under the counter” favours might be available.

The "Marsh Passport"

The “Marsh Passport”

Naturally, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was actually offered a copy of  “Romney Marsh” by one of my students (she had 2 copies so I assume she is on the Executive Committee) Of course I snapped it up. I’m now just waiting for the letter from Mr. Sinden to confirm my membership.

Who knows what privileges await me!!

That’s it for this year. Thankyou to everyone who has taken the trouble to have a look at Dymchurch World News – More next year.  In the meantime have a Very Happy Christmas!  


4 thoughts on “The Piper Passport

  1. One of my favourite Marsh books too…!
    Piper on The Coast Road “…a treeless and shrubless collection of the houses that line any by-pass out of London… all date from the 1930s, and as a small exhibition of the popular architecture of the period they could not be bettered.” Wonderful stuff..

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