There has been a lot of ‘official’ stuff to get sorted before the real research can begin and I can get stuck in to the residency.  Meeting the Canterbury Journey team, the Archives and Libraries team, getting my ID card, (security is tighter now as a result of the recent terrorist attacks, so this card is an important one),  and my Readers Card so I can access items from the archive. It has taken me the past few weeks to complete all of this but now all sorted and the real work can begin.

The Cathedral archives and library are vast, in terms of the years they span and the number of items they contain. Finding a way in, not the physical, through a door way in, has required some thought and planning. To begin with, the sheer magnitude of the possibilities was rather daunting. There are so many things I could research and just spending time talking to people and thinking about how my research might help develop a new body of work, or add something to a past research strand has been important.

Given that much of my practise centres around war, conflict, memory and memorial and particularly WW1 it seemed these themes should be the obvious starting point. From the Cathedral’s point of view this makes sense too as the exhibition of work I make will take place next year when the Cathedral will be focusing on the centenary of the Armistice. And so things begin to fall in to place.

Part of my remit as Artist in Residence is to work with the Learning Team for the Canterbury Journey to curate the content for a book. The book, a recreation of a Victorian Scrap Book contained within the archives will form part of the Cathedral’s Loan Box Scheme to go out to schools in the local area. Last week I had a very interesting visit to the Paper conservation Studio to see the original scrapbook and meet the Cathedral’s Paper Conservator and Book Binder.

The scrap book is very large and full of articles, newspaper cuttings, pictures, notes and documents about Canterbury mostly. The new book will be inspired by this one and figuring out what the content should be is going to be an interesting project in itself and will be separate to my own research initially, but may well cross over as time goes on.

My initial thoughts about the scrap book are that to recreate something like this would be rather inaccessible in a classroom environment and so my first task will be to figure out a way to create something that still references the original scrapbook but will be easy to use, be focused on a theme and not have pages that will get torn and damaged easily.

I am becoming very aware that this year long residency is going to be full on, and very interesting. I can’t wait.

And as I was leaving last week I looked in on my favourite Chapel – the Buffs Chapel – I am always drawn to the colours and the amazing gossamer thin flags.

On this visit I noticed this inscription in the chapel; never read it before so was very surprised to find a family connection with a mention of Sir Adam Spracklin



Being Artist-in-Residence at Canterbury Cathedral is a great opportunity and one that I am very excited about. The opportunity to make work in response to research in their archives and to work with their archivists and conservationists will I hope provide, not necessarily a new direction for my practise, but add another type of experience and a chance to learn new skills.

I have always lived only 12 miles from Canterbury Cathedral so since childhood it has been a place that I have visited often. However, I have really only been aware of just how significant this place is in terms of my family history since I first researched in it’s archives back in the late 1980’s.

My Great Uncle Lionel Spratling was visiting from the USA . He knew that there were several Sprakelings (the name changed over the years) buried in Canterbury Cathedral and wanted to find out more about them as he thought they were ancestors. My Dad, Lionel and I spent a happy afternoon researching in the archives, making notes and finding the headstones. It’s funny thinking back to this and realising that this was probably the beginning of my fascination with the Spratling family but had no inkling at this time that they would become the focus of my practise as an artist.

Since becoming the keeper of my family archives some years ago it came as surprise to find this little engraving of John Whitgift amongst some old documents and wills. Research has found the same engraving amongst the National Portriat Gallery’s collections and they have it dated as 17th century by an unknown artist. John Whitgift was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1583 until his death in 1604 and it is very puzzling why this little print should be amongst my family papers.

Whilst I doubt I will find the answer to this within the Cathedral archives and it is not my immediate focus for my residency, it is these connections that have influenced the desire to work and research there and see where it takes me.



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