Bretton Hall Church

The church on the Bretton Hall Estate which now forms part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was built to allow estate workers and the resident Wentworth family a convenient place of worship. Thus St Bartholomew’s was constructed in 1744 and exhibits the classical features fashionable that century. Its use of bays and Tuscan pilasters lend it a rather exotic though tasteful feel. Inside, however, and one is in for a shock. In keeping with the estate’s current usage as a place of sculpture, Leonardo Drew’s abstract Number 360 (2023) fills the space. An outpouring of chaotic, painted, broken and burnt plywood, the church’s internal space resembles a disaster zone. 

According to Sarah Coulson, Senior Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park:

“Leonardo Drew’s new work will have an incredibly impactful presence in YSP’s Chapel, creating a magnetic relationship between the meditative character of the space and the emotionally charged nature of the piece. This intensity and poignancy of the installation will resonate deeply with the often-troubled times in which we live.”

'Incredibly impactful' is certainly one way of putting it. Upon entering the former nave, I stood all agog, faced with this gigantic fountain of rubbish. The exterior’s respectable elegance provides a quixotic contrast to Mr Drew’s creative endeavours.

The chapel was deconsecrated in 2013, so excessive offence at seeing a church so used is not so necessary, yet how many churches does this installation resemble? I am not referring to the disorder and chaos, though heaven knows there are plenty of worship services in which a lack of preparation is deemed evidence of an openness to the Spirit. No, I speak not of the dirty-looking, blackened and splattered pieces of broken wood which might otherwise be despatched to a deep skip. We are invited to bring ourselves to the Lord, our broken hearts and our impoverished spirits, but how much other junk do we bring? Our ambition, our pride, our politics? Our psychology, our prejudice and our presumptions? Sometimes there is too much of us and not enough of Him. Nail your filth to the cross: do not exhibit it in the church. 

I sometimes fear that we increase and He decreases.