Funding needed to restore 100-year-old St James painting

St James Goldenacre Church where a portrait of Rev, Charles, J, Jenkins(4th from right) is painted on the wall.
St James Goldenacre Church where a portrait of Rev, Charles, J, Jenkins(4th from right) is painted on the wall.
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Church leaders are restoring a fresco in which a depiction of Richard Branson’s great-great-grandfather was discovered.

The remarkable painting has illuminated a church in the Capital for more than 100 years but funding is required to preserve the artwork.

Reverend Charles Jenkins, the billionaire’s great-great-grandfather, was rector of St James’ Church in Goldenacre from the age of 28.

He would go on to found a successful church in nearby Canonmills which later became St Phillips.

His image is featured in the fresco that is now in need of repair. It is not known at present how much the work will cost but it is expected to run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

The founder of the Virgin Group, who is famously an atheist, was surprised to hear of his religious heritage when he first heard of it in 2014,

He previously said: “While our devotion to religion may be worlds apart, it’s wonderful to hear that his church, the Episcopal Church, has spoken out against the death penalty, and in support of civil rights and same-sex marriages – three areas I feel very strongly about. Scotland has had a huge impact on my life, so it’s fitting I have ancient ancestry there.

“My grandmother was from Edinburgh and I’m proud of my roots.

“To top it off, my wife Joan is from Glasgow – making our children at least half-Scottish.

“I’ve always felt a strong attachment to Scotland and holidayed there many times.”

The current rector of St James’s and St Philip’s, the Rev Tembu Rongong, has overseen a series of revamps of what Edinburgh World Heritage call “one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful churches”.

However, in the year marking 100 years since the death of the artist, William Hole, Mr Rongong says a major fundraising effort will be needed to restore the artwork.

He said he will attempt to make contact with Mr Branson to try to enlist his support.

Mr Rongong said: “We have done a huge amount of work on the roof, this year we will improve the heating and we really need to start work on the mural.

“It is a good time to start thinking about it as 2017 marks 100 years since Hole’s death, but we have needed to make all the improvements in the right order.

“In some places the paint has come off, and a significant restoration needs to be done, although we are not in the position to know exactly what that would include.

“It is an incredible work of art – it comes from the time when people were building churches, and were looking to fill them with beauty and light. We love it, and I think it does aid the act of worship.”

Hole lived from 1846 to 1917, and was an English artist, illustrator, etcher and engraver, known for his industrial, historical and biblical scenes.

He also painted the frieze at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

A book on St James’s written by Gilbert Cole in 1988 to mark its centenary, describes Rev Jenkins as “legendary”.

newsen@edinburghnews.com