Christianity, art and trains

By | Category: Travel destinations
the Turner Contemporary in Margate

the Turner Contemporary in Margate

The links between the church, art and trains seems to have become part of the English tradition. It was a clergyman – Rev Wilbert Awdry – who came up with Thomas the Tank Engine and in an old Ealing film, The Titfield Thunderbolt, it was the local vicar who was one of the guiding lights in keeping the local railway line open. On the day, they have to prove they can run the line it is his bishop who acts as fireman. It also contains one of the best satirical lines in any film. When one person says that the Canterbury to Whitstable line had closed, the vicar remarks that maybe there weren’t men of sufficient faith in Canterbury!

The links all seem to come together in Thanet this year, that part of Kent that includes Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

Five years ago in April 2011, (was it really so long ago that I went down there to review it for us?) the Turner Contemporary opened. To celebrate its birthday there are a string of exhibitions that will, of course, include works by J M W Turner the man who did so much to influence more than a generation of artists here and abroad. There will also be exhibitions by Joachim Koester and Rose Wylie, as well as a large group show including work by Barbara Hepworth, Anish Kapoor and Paul Nash.

Pop across the road whilst you are there to the cinema. Except it isn’t a cinema any more but the site of a food and drink market with an emphasis on local products like apples and those big black cherries that are at the best at the end of July.

Crampton Tower - not only a railway engineer, Crampton built this water tower to give Broadstairs a clean water supply © Crampton Tower Museum

Crampton Tower – not only a railway engineer, Crampton built this water tower to give Broadstairs a clean water supply © Crampton Tower Museum

Many pieces of mediaeval and renaissance art were concerned with the Bible and Christianity. Kent was where St Augustine first landed in 597 AD on his mission to bring Christianity to the England and then the rest of our Isles. At St. Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, a new visitor centre will open this year which will focus on the saint and Christianity as well as a local lad made good – Pugin, the man whose name is almost synonymous with Victorian art and architecture.

If Pugin is the man to link art and religion then is Thomas Russell Crampton the man to link art to railways? This almost forgotten engineer was born two hundred years ago this year in Broadstairs. Trained on the Great Western Railway under Brunel he designed railway engines and railways and yes, he was involved in the Canterbury to Whitstable line!

Another name forever linked to railways is Frank Hornby, a Ramsgate man, who must have inspired generations of young boys with his model railways. The Hornby Visitor Centre there will re-open this year in a different location in the town. But it still contains all those things that made it such a draw for boys (and girls) of all ages. Best of all you can play with the track layouts as well You’ll still see the toys with which his name is linked, Scalextric, Corgi and Airfix but those models of the Coronation and A class trains of the 1920’s and 1930’s reminds us just what works of art some train designers came up with. As good as some of the paintings that local artists like Turner and Pugin came up with.

It goes to prove what I said earlier. Trains, religion and art are joined at the hip and meet easily in the garden of England – Kent.

For more information about Thanet, click here.

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