St. Gabriel's Church 

St. Gabriel's Church in Cockbrook was opened in 1912 as the daughter church of St. Michael's Church.  St Gabriel’s became a parish church in its own right early in 21st Century.


The Church building was constructed mainly of corrugated iron sheets and therefore became known locally as the ‘Tin Tabernacle’. In the 1950’s St Gabriel’s was clad in brick on the outside but the interior timbers remained unchanged. 


The inside of the church is quite unpretentious, but with a very welcoming feeling.


There is a marvellous pulpit which was built by Morris & Company of London as a tribute to the men of St Gabriel’s who served their country during The First World War and records the names of the 51 men who did not return to this small Church.  After the Second World War an additional 7 names were added to record the men who gave their lives in this conflict.


There is a beautiful charcoal mural behind the Alter, this was drawn by Bedrich Svobada who was a refugee from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War.


St. Gabriel's congregation is delighted to be able to offer the building for community use and the building is in use most of the time during the week.


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Above the Altar is a remarkable charcoal drawing of the Nativity Scene, which was hand drawn by a remarkable man - Bedrich (Bedzik) Svobada who was the artistic husband of Elsa, the Organist at St Gabriel’s during the 1980’s. This splendid mural of the Nativity lifts the eyes heavenwards above the altar.


In Czech the family name, Svobada means freedom, and was full of significance for Bedrich and Elsa, who had managed to escape to the west during the Prague spring of 1968.


Bedrich was an art student during the Nazi occupation and for a while was tortured by the Gestapo. After the war, Czechoslovakia came under Communist control and he was again tortured, being what we in the west knew as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.


He was far from being a broken man but these two terrible ordeals left their mark psychologically in that whatever he did, whether painting, talking or playing chess, he did with tremendous nervous energy.


In his study, Albert Radcliffe the former Rector has a painting of Bedrich’s wife Elsa playing the cello, the colours are sombre and the mood still and concentrated. She was Bedrich’s hidden strength as well as his calming influence.


Without her the Nativity at St Gabriel’s would not have been such a powerful and considered work, they were a strong and creative artistic couple, which makes the Nativity a work of both of them.

The window to the left of the Altar is a memorial to Mary Dyson who had served St Gabriel’s throughout her life. She was a gentle, unassuming lady of great faith, and the window was the result of a visit to the church of St Nicholas in Morton, a small village in the heart of Dorset.

The churchyard at St Nicholas’s holds the remains of T.E.Laurence, (Laurence of Arabia), but the Church’s most striking feature is the twelve magnificent windows created by Laurence Whistler. St Nicholas is the only church in the world where ten windows are entirely of engraved glass. They were completed over a period of thirty years, the main theme being that of light and its creation, from candlelight to the galaxies of the heavens.

Subsequently, at a meeting called to discuss what might be an appropriate memorial to Mary Dyson who had recently died, the suggestion of a special window was made. Upon seeing the book brought back from St. Nicholas' Church the vicar the Rev A Radcliffe wrote to St Nicholas church for information. The result was that a gentleman who had worked with the famous Laurence Whistler came "up" from the Midlands with a view to accepting the commission to design "Mary's Window". Before beginning the work, he visited friends of Mary and enquired about her life, her interests and her special association with St Gabriel's. The result can be seen here, in the sanctuary, which we believe is a fitting tribute to a special person.

Features of Mary's life and interests are depicted in the engraving; the view which met her as she went through the church door; her coat hanging from a hook in the vestry; Hartshead Pike (a favourite walk); and the lily flower which is a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The artist and his wife came up to attend the dedication of the window, bringing some shoots of evergreen trees to be planted outside the window to bring light and shade to this beautiful work.

The people of St. Gabriel’s were and still are deeply grateful for such a personal and lasting memorial.