Wednesday, May 09, 2007

There was great excitement when Peter, who was at the airport collecting the mail, rang to say that the Bishop's desk had arrived on the plane. It was only 5-6 days at the most since it had been dispatched from England! Indeed it may have arrived even earlier if the flights to Norfolk had been more frequent.
On Monday morning, after getting a clearance from Customs, Bern and David, plus John and Darren from the Joinery, took the boxes to the Patteson Room at the Parish Centre for the unpacking and unveiling. They were joined by Rev'd Rod, who took some of these photos.
As the desk had travelled in three parts, we were unsure of how it would go together. As it turned out, neither hammer, nail or glue was needed, as the top fitted neatly and snugly over the two banks of drawers on each side. Beautifully designed back in the 1860's, possibly with the need to transport it at some stage in mind. But little did the carpenter, William Champion, realise that it would go all the way to England by sea, and then back again more than a century later by air!

The Bishop's desk is solid, well used, and has a wonderful patina of age. The signs of wear, and the numerous inkstains only enhance it, and give rise to imaginings of all the letters, diary entries, stories and novels that have been penned there. I refer not only to writings from Bishop Patteson, but the prolific literary outpourings from his cousin Charlotte Yonge, who inherited it from him, and would have used this desk for almost thirty years. We do not know who used it after her, but we do know that for the past 45 years, it belonged to a Swedish born lady living in England. This lady had received the desk from some grateful patient, whom she had nursed over a long period. This lady died last year, and that is how the desk came to be put up for auction by her family.
The drawers glide smoothly, and it is fascinating to see the inscriptions of the carpenter's pencil in the bottom of the drawers, labelling the position of that particular drawer. The writing is is almost as fresh and legible as the day it was written, about 140 years ago, great testimony to the archival qualities of the humble lead pencil!
John and Darren were interested to try and identify some of the timbers used in the making of the desk, and particularly the lovely inlays on the top. Among others, they recognised Blackbean, and White Cedar (which would have been growing locally.) The main body of the desk is of Kauri, which would have been brought in from New Zealand. Many old Norfolk buildings contain Kauri and other New Zealand hardwoods.

The desk's "new/old" home is right on the site of Bishop Patteson's house at the Mission. In his letters home, John Coleridge Patteson used to write fondly of his study there, which was like his living room. Here he would read and write and study, occasionally going out onto his little verandah to enjoy the breezes and the delights of the gardens around. He particularly enjoyed the honeysuckle growing up the posts. His study also had adjoining doors opening into the old Mission Chapel, which gave him an opportunity to talk and pray with the Mission boys who came there for times of quiet meditation at all hours of the day or night.
It is so heartwarming to have this lovely link with the past returned to us.
In a future posting, I would like to tell you more about Charlotte Yonge. The members of the Charlotte Yonge Fellowship were very keen to obtain this desk, which is why the price went so high. It is only fitting that we should take the opportunity to pay tribute to this fine lady, because the profits from some of her writings funded our Chapel Organ, and also the Mission Ship "Southern Cross."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi again Mary, it's lovely to see the desk and so pleased it arrived. Look forwards to learning more about Charlotte Yonge.

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