The Church of St Matthew in Maindee, Newport, was a church that I knew quite well in the mid-1990s when I was living in south Wales. I remember that the sanctuary fittings were attractive although I did not pay them all that much attention.
Even in the 1990s the future of the church was somewhat precarious, and the concern over whether it could remain open was greater still when I went back to the church, in 2010, to record the artwork there. The floor of the church had dry rot, and it finally closed in 2014.
The reredos was one of two in Newport by the artist Allen Henderson, the other being at the Church of St John the Baptist, where there is also a figure of the Virgin and Child and a set of Stations of the Cross by the artist. The sanctuary windows were unattributed, but were a very fine set of four two-light windows, slightly reminiscent of contemporary work by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, commemorating members of the congregation who fought in the First World War.
One of the two windows (of 1931) on the south side of the church had been attributed to Samuel Evans’ studio in the Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire, and when writing my chapter on war memorials for Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, I decided to illustrate one of the sanctuary windows. However, I was not certain who they were by and tried looking in the diocesan archives in the National Library of Wales. This was unsuccessful, and so I visited Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale in the hope that they might have something about the windows in the parish archives. I was delighted to discover the faculty for the windows which stated that they were also by Samuel Evans & Co.
This made it easy to attribute the earlier of the windows on the south side to the same firm, and similarities could be seen in the later window that had already been attributed to Evans’ firm, although there were plenty of differences as well.
Samuel Evans, like T.W. Camm and his brothers, had worked in the stained glass studio of Chance Brothers in Smethwick, and when the studio closed in the mid-1860s, these artists set up their own stained glass firms. This week I paid a visit to the Sandwell Archives in Smethwick to see if I could learn much more about the firms, or about the stained glass studio of Chance Brothers. The archives of Chance Brothers and of T.W. Camm (and also the separate firm, Camm Brothers) are quite extensive, but all that seems to be held for Samuel Evans’ firm are a dozen cartoons.
Nine of these cartoons are of windows whose location (according to the catalogue) is unknown, but two of them had a note to say that they were in Newport (unknown county). When I ordered one up it turned out to be the cartoon for the figure of St Agnes, by chance the same figure that I had chosen to illustrate in the book. And very beautiful the cartoon is. I didn’t have time to order more up, but I expect that more of the cartoons were for that commission, possibly all of them if they included the figure of David in the south wall.
While writing this post I was curious to see what had become of the church in Maindee, Newport. The answer via the website of the South Wales Argus came easily: the church was demolished in May.