A LIFE-SIZE wooden carving of Mother Teresa took centre stage at a church in Poole this week.

The carving, which took more than 400 hours to create, is the latest work from award-winning craftsman and canon Dr Bill Merrington.

Currently on display at St Paul’s Church, Canford Heath, the lime wood sculpture depicts the Albanian-born missionary offering a baby to God.

Dr Merrington, who is the lead chaplin at Bournemouth University and the Arts University Bournemouth, first began carving wooden figures ten years ago.

“I used to make rocking horses as a hobby and it came from that. This is more challenging because it’s portraiture so it’s far more detailed,” he explained.

His previous works include a three quarter-size model of Gandhi and head busts of Nelson Mandela and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, for which Dr Merrington won the title international woodcarver of the year in 2011.

The 58-year-old said he designs each of the sculptures after studying images of the iconic figures.

He added: “I wanted to carve Mother Teresa because she was so inspiring and gave so much to help others who were suffering.

“I have been working on it for just over a year.”

The craftsman spends hundreds of hours carving each figure in a garden shed at his family home. He said: “For a normal head it usually takes me around 200 hours. I think this one took around 400 hours.”

Asked what his wife thought about him spending so much time in his workshop he joked: “She doesn’t seem to mind – it gives her some peace and quiet.”

The figure of Mother Teresa is the centrepiece of a free exhibition at St Paul’s Church. The exhibition, which ends today, also features paintings, drawings and photographs of other iconic figures including Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.