Choirboy, to Verger, to Official Portrait Artist

06th October 2023

It’s a tradition to display a painted portrait of retiring bishops and deans to recognise the role they’ve played in the life of the church.

Choirboy, to Verger, To Official Portrait Artist – Blackburn cathedral makes dreams come true.

But it is certainly not the tradition to let one of your vergers loose on the project.

But that’s exactly what Blackburn Cathedral has just done when Jack Aspinall, part of the virging team, and a former choirboy asked if he could “have a go” at painting the retired bishop, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson.

Choirboy, to virger, to official portrait artist

Julian, who retired in July 2022 after nine years of service, returned to the diocese this week to unveil his “official portrait”.

And the result is a stunning study in oil that will now hang alongside the great and the good of the diocese on the walls of Blackburn cathedral’s undercroft – and an exhibition for the choirboy turned verger turned artist in the cathedral’s own Temple Gallery.

The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Revd Peter Howell Jones said:

“I wasn’t convinced to be honest, especially as Jack told me he’d had no formal art lessons or training. But he persuaded us to let him paint the portrait with no strings attached and no promise it would hang as the official portrait of Bishop Julian.’

“And I’m very pleased we did, not just for the cathedral but for Jack, whose dream has now become a reality,’ he added.

Jack’s work will be on display in the Temple Gallery until mid-October

The official portrait of Bishop Julian now hangs in the cathedral undercroft.