At a dedication ceremony on 7th August four sculptured stones bearing the text of John Donne’s prayer: Bring us O Lord God and designed to invite completive reflection, remembering and reflection, were unveiled in the church’s memorial garden following a bequest from Russell Vernon, the former Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate. He lived locally in Frank Dixon Way and was an active member of the Dulwich community, being chairman of many local charities and also, for many years, diocesan architect and surveyor to All Saints.
A verse of the poem ‘Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven’ is carved on the threshold stone and the remainder of the text is spread across four stones (three vertical and a bench) to encourage people to journey through the text and into the garden. The vertical stones have strong sentinel qualities and like a spire on a gothic cathedral are intended to symbolise contact between the earth and the divine.
The artist, Thomas Sargeant, a past apprentice of The Lettering Arts Trust, through whom the commission was arranged, used Caithness stone and the John Donne prayer was selected due to Donne’s link with Dulwich - his daughter was Edward Alleyn’s second wife.
Russell Vernon (1916-2009 was educated at Alleyns School and studied architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic. He joined the army in 1939 and was demobbed from the Royal Engineers in 1946 with the rank of major. He was in the forefront of the British Army’s advance into Germany early in 1945 and his command was one of the first to reach the Belsen concentration camp. He was awarded the MBE for his work there.
He joined his uncle, Austin Vernon, the Surveyor and Architect to the Dulwich Estate, in practice locally in 1946 and became his partner in 1948. The first major projects of the new practice, Austin Vernon & Partners, were the building of the new Dulwich College Science Laboratories and the almost complete reconstruction of the severely bomb-damaged Dulwich Picture Gallery - opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.
During the early 1950s he was heavily involved in the negotiations over the Dulwich Development Plan which set the pattern for the redevelopment of the area over the next twenty years - the objective being the regeneration of the Estate and the Foundation Schools. He succeeded Austin Vernon as Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate in 1959 and his practice designed well over 2000 houses on the Dulwich Estate, as well as buildings at Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School, JAGS, and the Dulwich College Prep School.