Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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Reviews of Stained Glass in Welsh Churches have recently appeared in two Welsh journals, the county journal Ceredigion and Archaeologia Cambrensis, the journal of the Cambrian Archaeological Association that was first published in the 1840s.

Writing in Ceredigion (vol. 18, no. 2, 2014), Elizabeth New also reviews my little book on the stained glass at Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn, published in 2013, since the church is in the county, located a few miles north of Aberystwyth. Her review appropriately notes examples from Ceredigion throughout her summary of the chapters and her ‘minor quibbles’ perhaps suggest some of the things that others might have hoped to find in the book, For example, she notes that I did not write much about the ‘extent of the loss of medieval glass, particularly through deliberate destruction’. In fact I think that I noted every reference to destruction of medieval glass in Wales that I came across, all of which were at the time of the Civil War, and none of which were in the sixteenth century. This surprised me and I would be very interested to learn of examples of the destruction of stained glass in Wales by Protestant reformers in the sixteenth century. To write about the extent of the loss of medieval stained glass in a county such as Ceredigion would rely on pure speculation. Elsewhere she notes that I do not comment on the use of the Welsh language in inscriptions, a subject on which I could write an interesting chapter but for which I simply did not have the space in the book or the leisure to research in more detail. It’s not unimportant, but this is a book about visual art. Along with the theme of the memorial window, which she notes recurring throughout the book, such things would be fruitful areas of new research.

I found it curious that she commends the layout as ‘user-friendly’: a term that we used to use in multimedia design in the 1990s, and therefore seems odd to me as a description of the printed page. But I hope that the book is indeed user-friendly.

Julian Orbach captures the essence of what the book tries to do in his review published in Archaeologia Cambrensis (vol 163, 2014). Noting my involvement in the ‘Visual Culture of Wales’ and ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ projects, both of which ‘stepped outside art-historical judgement’ and took an inclusive approach, he notes that this ‘even-handedness gives place for glass that has fallen thoroughly from fashion’, both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At the same time, some of the less inspired windows that I have illustrated contrast well with the best, and his list of windows by Leonard Walker, Richard Stubington, Karl Parsons, Harry Clarke Studios, Martin Travers and Wilhelmina Geddes more or less sums up the best of the best in my view. Julian Orbach’s own contribution to the study is not inconsiderable, having contributed to volumes of the ‘Buildings of Wales’ series, and those of the series that are most informative on stained glass are those on which he worked. He was also very generous in sharing his notes on stained glass in Wales with me some years ago. He concludes the review by describing the book as ‘the best survey of stained glass published anywhere in Britain’. On all counts, my thanks to him.

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