Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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The Story of Welsh Art: the Llanrhaeadr Jesse window

A new television series on art in Wales began its journey through the centuries on 1 March 2021. The three-part series is the first to look at the long history of art in Wales since Peter Lord’s wonderful series The Big Picture, broadcast more than twenty years ago, and will also make its way to television screens in Yorkshire, Argyll, Antrim and Kent as the first series on Welsh art to air across the UK (on BBC4, which wasn’t an option in 1999).

The Story of Welsh Art doesn’t hang about, and having walked the viewer into Barclodiad y Gawres on Anglesey to see Neolithic markings at the beginning of the programme, the presenter, Huw Stephens, is discussing eighteenth-century portraiture with Peter Lord within an hour.

Large stained glass window, depicting Jesse and Old Testament kings and prophets.
Tree of Jesse, 1533, Church of St Dyfnog, Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch

With so few stops along the way it was good to contribute to the programme and help to bring stained glass into the story in an interview with Huw that was held in front of the big window depicting ‘Tree of Jesse‘ at the Church of St Dyfnog, Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch. Although there is a good deal of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century stained glass in north-east Wales, there isn’t time in the programme to cover any more of it. The Llanrhaeadr Jesse is a really significant work – near complete and with a characterisation in the faces (below left) that is more sophisticated than in the slightly earlier stained glass at Gresford and Llandyrnog – pointing to new directions in the medium that were cut short by the Reformation.

There are two other near-complete windows in the area, one of which is another window of the same subject at Dyserth, which was, remarkably, made within a year of the Llanrhaeadr window, and the other is the window with scenes from the Life of the Virgin Mary at Gresford. Both of these windows are about eighty percent complete, but neither have as much colour as the Llanrhaedr Jesse. The loss of the Jesse figure at the foot of the window at Dyserth leaves his tree rootless, and although some of the kings (below right) are impressive close-up, they lack the definition from a distance compared to those at Llanrhaeadr.

The next two episodes in The Story of Welsh Art focus on the period from the later eighteenth century up to the present, but I don’t expect that we will see any more stained glass in either of them. Although stained glass emerged so strongly from the mid-nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, it has often been neglected by art historians and drowned out by the painting that remains central to the popular perception of art.

The piece that we recorded at Llanrhaeadr was coupled with another section in the programme on the medieval carving of the figure of Jesse at Abergavenny, but I doubt that there will be a return to the church to discuss Helen Whittaker’s ‘Tree of Jesse‘, installed in 2016 behind the medieval sculpture, in the final episode. I’m sure Huw Stephens and the production team at Wildflame will be among the first to concede that there is plenty more Welsh art waiting to be broadcast on our television screens.

Taking Stock: Ten years of Stained Glass in Wales 2011–2021

At the turn of the year and the dawn of 2021, it will soon be ten years since the launch of the online Stained Glass in Wales catalogue. The funding received in 2009–10 and 2011 for the Stained Glass in Wales project at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies built on the work of the Imaging the Bible in Wales database (launched 2008), creating a new website that shared material with the previous project, and used the same database infrastructure. Further cataloging work almost enabled me to catch up with the number of windows that I had recorded up to that point, and focussed on material not part of the Imaging the Bible in Wales remit (principally adding more contemporary and medieval stained glass, and filling in non-biblical subjects). However, with the end of that funding in November 2011, and the ongoing fieldwork that I have continued to do since then, there has been an ever growing backlog of material to catalogue on the site. I took stock of this last summer and estimated that there were around 400 buildings in Wales, mainly places of worship, that I had visited and recorded windows at, but whose windows had not been added to the catalogue.

Stained glass window with depictions of the Acts of Mercy.
Good windows by John Hardman & Co, and Charles Powell can be found at Holy Trinity, Llandudno, but who is this south transept window by? It is similar to windows by Charles Clutterbuck in the area, but other makers of the 1850s, such as William Holland. Pilkington’s and Forrest & Bromley, have had little work done of them, and can be difficult recognising work by these firms

This amounts to thousands of windows – some of which are the sole east window of a church while others are one of many at big churches, from Holy Trinity in Llandudno to St Joseph’s Cathedral in Swansea – that await cataloguing and inclusion on the Stained Glass in Wales site. I estimated that it would take about nine-ten months full-time to complete this work, which could get close to doubling the number of windows on the site. I also have much more good information on stained glass in Wales from buildings that I have not visited, gleaned from years of research and from images provided by others, and the addition of this material to the site would begin to make it a fairly comprehensive, if far from complete, listing of stained glass in ecclesiastical contexts in Wales.

Stained Glass window showing the Ascension of Christ.
Windows by Hardman’s and Mayer of Munich can be found at the cathedral, makers whose work is often found in Catholic churches, but the east window of what is now St Joseph’s Cathedral in Swansea appears to be by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, judging by the painterly style

People periodically get in touch wondering why certain churches aren’t included in the catalogue, and sometimes offer to send me images, probably assuming that the addition of windows to the catalogue is a quick and easy process, and that the catalogue is an ongoing funded resource. Sadly neither are true. It is true that to add a very basic record for a window and upload an image or two for it on the database is usually quite a quick process, but in order for windows to be searched and found they need to be embedded in the database with various links enabled. Descriptive and interpretative notes, alongside transcriptions or summaries of inscriptions and texts, make the catalogue more useful for a range of researchers. Subjects and biblical references are indexed and often a degree of research is necessary to ascertain the evidence for the dating and attribution of each window.

There are instances where some very scant listings exist on the catalogue, many of which date back to an initial trawl for artworks from a collection of church guide books and leaflets at the outset of the Imaging the Bible in Wales project in 2005–6, and while they are useful in marking the presence of windows, they aren’t particularly helpful to the researcher.

In a few cases correspondents have made use of my offer to add windows to the database themselves, which is possible using an online form. The form is entered into the database and is checked over and edited as necessary before it appears on the website. It therefore requires administrative time and sometimes the number of emails involved end up using more of my time than if I had added the windows from scratch myself, but it is a good way for others to get involved in the work and have windows added. It has also been a good way for me to learn about the windows at churches that I have not yet visited.

Although I have been developing proposals for expanding and co-ordinating the recording and cataloguing of stained glass into England over the last couple of years, partly by improving and further streamlining the system for user contributions, I remain keen to make many more of the windows that I have recorded in Wales available on the site. The unpublished archive includes work by many artists and makers not yet represented on the site, and more windows by those only represented by one or two windows. In some cases I have revisited churches and now have additional details of windows only illustrated on the site with a single image, and some of the older images on the catalogue, processed using early camera raw conversion software, are no longer very satisfactory – although they might have looked pretty good back in 2007!

Stained glass window of Christ with children.Stained glass window of Christ with children.
Window at St Woolos Cathedral by John Hardman & Co., originally photographed and added to the Imaging the Bible in Wales database in 2006; (right) rephotographed in 2013 and uploaded to the database August 2020
Stained glass window of the Magi.
Detail of a window by A.J. Davies just across the Welsh border in Herefordshire, at Kentchurch

Numerous attempts to fund additions to the Stained Glass in Wales catalogue during 2020 met with little success, hardly surprising in a year of unusual challenges. Funders often seem to prefer funding new initiatives rather than providing for additional work on existing resources, but I have been grateful to the Glaziers Trust and the Gibbs Trust for providing some additional funding this year. Time funded by the Gibbs Trust will focus on the addition of windows from Nonconformist places of worship, while funding from the Glaziers Trust enabled the improvement of information concerning windows already listed on the site, as well as additional details concerning artists and makers listed on the site, with improved bibliographic referencing.

Funding from the Glaziers Trust since 2016 has provided for the addition of stained glass from churches that have closed, enabled the functionality to add CVMA numbering of windows, and, in 2020, provided the opportunity to update many hundreds of records on the database. Adding in material gleaned from archival work done over the years, particularly in 2012–13 when seeking out the identity of makers of windows that I considered including in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, was a large part of this work, as well as incorporating new information from relevant publications. I also found that during the process of reviewing many hundreds of records, I was also able to attribute more windows on stylistic grounds, particularly in the case of windows added to the catalogue over ten years ago, when I was less adept at recognising the styles of particular firms. Dozens of old and new articles and books were added to the bibliography, with hundreds of links provided to individual windows on the database.

In addition it is now possible for me to tentatively attribute windows to particular makers or artist, where evidence is not conclusive. This makes it possible for windows to be listed as ‘perhaps’ or ‘probably’ by a studio, giving users of the catalogue the option of including them in lists of windows, and encourages caution in using any particular window for the attribution of another. In time I would like to extend this so that the catalogue provides the basis for the attribution of each window, although this would require further time going though the catalogue and checking exactly how the attributions of over 2500 windows have been arrived at. There have also been a number of other minor improvements to the site and I am grateful to Nigel Callaghan of Technoleg Taliesin for his ongoing support of the technical aspects of the database.

Stained glass window with figures.
East window at Llanwrthwl, 1874. The style looked vaguely familiar to me when I first saw this window in 2011, but after looking carefully at the early windows by Daniel Bell at Lampeter, when writing a book on the windows there in 2016–17, I recently realised that the style of this window matches those quite closely, and it is of the same date. No other work by Daniel Bell, who was working with Richard Almond at the time, has yet been identified in Wales, and I found it very difficult to find more than a couple of windows attributed to him anywhere else. Does that make it rare? Or will better recording prove that it is one of many more?

The Stained Glass in Wales catalogue will always be work in progress. There will always be more windows to find, and records of windows already lost that need to be added. I continue to be surprised by things that I come across for the first time when visiting churches, such as windows by firms that were previously unknown to me, or subjects that I have not come across before in stained glass. Windows already on the catalogue could often benefit from fuller descriptions, more detailed subject indexing and additional illustrative details. Furthermore it longs to extend across the border, and link up with the work of other researchers.

What then would this achieve? Many more local communities would find good information online about the stained glass in their places of worship, which could be shared to encourage visitors and enhance the understanding of the artistic significance of these buildings. We would be in a better position to write histories of stained glass artists and studios, being able to see the work of the more prolific in their variety over a period of time and in contrast with other makers. Windows made by little known studios and artists could be found by other researchers across Britain and overseas and used to help stylistic attribution and dating. Charitable bodies allocating funds towards the preservation and conservation of stained glass would be better equipped to make decisions regarding the relative rarity and quality of particular stained glass windows that have been damaged or are at risk.

There is much to do in the next ten years and I hope to find the necessary funding to carry on the work. Donations welcome!

Richard King

Just over ten years ago I called into the Catholic church in Aberystwyth to have a look at the east window in the church that I had spotted from the outside some time previously. Although I have become quite adept at identifying common biblical scenes in windows from the outside of churches (when visiting churches that turn out to be locked), they just look grey, and although I suspected that this would be an image of a female saint, I was unprepared for the lovely colour in the window.

Detail of a window by Richard King, showing his signature.
Richard King’s signature, Aberystwyth

Wondering who the window was by, I later looked at my photographs in more detail and spotted what I thought could be a signature, and with the help of the NADFAS guide to marks and monograms in stained glass I realised that this was a window by the Irish artist Richard King. It transpired that I had come across another work by the artist not long previously, just down the coast at Aberaeron, which had a similar signature that I had previously been unable to decipher.

Stained glass window of the Virgin and Child by Richard King
Richard King, Our Lady of Ireland, c. 1958, Aberaeron

A new book by Ruth Sheehy details the life and career of Richard King, published as a volume in the ‘Reimagining Ireland’ series. Her study ably demonstrates the importance and impressive versatility of the artist’s work across various media and as a designer, and although many of the images are rather small, they convey the work of an artist of considerable power and vision. These windows in Ceredigion are evidence of that and his only known works in Wales, although they were completely unknown and unpublished when I came across them – or at least I have not found any reference to their existence, let along the identity of their artist, before. In Stained Glass from Welsh Churches I could only guess the date of the Aberystwyth window, which Sheehy dates to 1955. She tells us that the link with the artist was through his association with the Carmelites, who were established in Aberystwyth, and King’s Our Lady of Ireland at Aberaeron was donated to the church by the artist in around 1958.

Ruth Sheehy writes of an artist that was ‘formed’ by Harry Clarke, having been taken on as an apprentice at Clarke’s family firm Joshua Clarke & Sons in 1928 at the age of 20. Clarke encouraged him to study stained glass at evening classes at Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he was taught by A.E. Child.

Stained glass window by Harry Clarke Studios of St Gregory and St Gertrude
Harry Clarke Studios, St Gregory and St Gertrude, 1932, Church of St David, Pantasaph, designed by Richard King

Harry Clarke died in January 1931 aged only 41, leaving Richard King as one of the senior designers at the firm, alongside William Dowling and George Walsh, all of whom were in their early twenties. Tasked with continuing the success of Harry Clarke’s style, under the management of Charles B. Simmonds, it is no surprise that King’s work of the 1930s strongly echoes that of Clarke. This can be seen in the arresting intensity of the figures of St Gregory and St Gertrude in Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios’ window at Pantasaph, which Sheehy attributes to Richard King (1932). Its effect is noticeably similar to King’s window depicting St Elizabeth of Hungary, made in 1934 for the chapel of the Sacred Heart Convent, Mount Anville, Dublin, and illustrated in Sheehy’s book. She also attributes the design of the second Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios’ window at Pantasaph to King, which is signed by the firm, but has a more emollient and less Gothic character (1933).

King succeeded Charles Simmonds as the manager of the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios in 1935, but left in 1940 to work independently. His early work as a talented designer of stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross in opal glass, stamp designs and illustration, is shown by his art from 1930–40. He continued to design stamps, paint in oils and watercolour and produce illustrations for The Capuchin Annual in the 1940s, before turning again to stained glass in around 1949–50. During 1960–73, he undertook Stations and crucifixes in vitreous and non-vitreous enamels which had an influence of the style of his late stained glass windows of the 60s and early 70s. Hence King’s artistic development and impressive body of work throughout the course of his career, reveals an artist whose work deserves to be appreciated alongside his mentor Harry Clarke, and not just in his shadow.

If I had not been able to identify King’s windows in Aberaeron and Aberystwyth, I have no doubt that King’s biographer would have tracked them down by now after all her work researching the work of the artist. Nonetheless, the works by the artist in Wales, though few in number, are of great importance and deserve to be better known. While the image of Our Lady of Ireland, illustrated in print for the first time, seems safe enough for now in the church at Aberaeron, a former Wesleyan chapel, the window of the Assumption that I found at Church of Our Lady of the Angels and St Winifrede in Aberystwyth faces an uncertain future. The church was declared unsafe and controversially closed in 2012, leaving the window out of sight ever since. The church was recently put up for sale, and was bought by the town council, although it appears that the sale excluded furnishings including the window. It is to be hoped that the diocese safeguard this wonderful example of Irish modernist stained glass, and that it will be seen again in a new setting.

Ruth Sheehy, The Life and Work of Richard King: Religion, Nationalism and Modernism
Peter Lang, 2020
ISBN:978-1-78707-246-6

New publications on Charles Eamer Kempe

Two volumes by Adrian Barlow appeared in 2018 and 2019 on the work of Charles Eamer Kempe. The first of these, Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe, is an excellent biography and the second, Espying Heaven, is more of a picture book focussing on his stained glass, featuring photography by Alastair Carew-Cox. My thoughts on these books have been published on Vidimus, the online journal devoted to (mainly medieval) stained glass.

I had a nagging feeling that I didn’t do Kempe justice in my Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, but it was hard to do any of the similarly important Victorian firms sufficient justice in a book covering seven centuries, even if only two of those chapters covered the period before 1800.

There are many windows by Kempe in Wales, and Barlow writes about his work at Monmouth, Newbridge-on-Wye, Llangattock-Vibon-Avel and Tenby among other places in Wales.

The earlier work of Wyndham Hope Hughes is in evidence in the west window depicting musical angels at Llangattock-Vibon-Avel, and Barlow contrasts it with the four standing figures in the same church by John Carter, who was Kempe’s senior designer from 1878 until about 1895. The rather Pre-Raphaelite style of Hughes contrasts with the Gothic character most closely associated with Kempe, and for those less disposed to Kempe’s usual style, is perhaps surprisingly attractive.

From the mid 1890s, John Lisle is identified as Kempe’s main designer, and he remained as such until he died in 1927, continuing a style of design after Kempe’s death in 1907 under Water Tower. Tower was his cousin three times removed, and inherited Kempe’s business as well as his house at Old Place in Lindfield, Sussex.

As well as being responsible for all but one of the windows at the Church of St Mary Monmouth, and all of those at the Church of St John, Barmouth, Kempe’s Studio was responsible for large east windows in Wales at Haverfordwest, Pembroke, Builth Wells and Rossett, as well as a series of large windows in Wrexham, now at the Church of St Giles.

C.E. Kempe, Crucified Christ with Scenes from the Passion, 1904, Christ Church, Rossett

Kempe’s work is presented in the books without any illustrations of contemporary firms, and in works of biography there is a danger of seeing the subject in isolation. While Adrian Barlow is sensitive to detractors of Kempe’s style, and deftly balances criticism of his work, he goes as far as to suggest that only John Thornton of Coventry and Barnard Flower in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were as influential on the stained glass of their time. Admirers of A.W.N. Pugin, J.R. Clayton, William Morris, Henry Holiday or Christopher Whall might want to disagree with that.

In fact Kempe’s windows, designed by his Studio and made at his glassworks under his own name or as C.E. Kempe & Co. after 1907, are not quite as unique and recognisable as they might seem. It is true that many of the firms and artists whose work might be mistaken by the untrained eye for Kempe’s were imitators, and some were former employees. Nonetheless, Kempe’s windows are often easily identified by their wheatsheaf mark (superimposed by Tower’s tower after 1907, below centre), while Clayton & Bell and Burlison & Grylls rarely signed their windows, and others who made work in a similar style to Kempe, such as Percy Bacon Brothers or Charles Powell, only occasionally signed their work. I even once found a window by John Jennings misidentified as a window by Kempe in a church guide, because it had three wheatsheafs included in its heraldry (below right).

In his biography, Adrian Barlow explains the reason why Kempe’s name is more prevalent in Nikolaus Pevsner’s ‘Buildings of England’ series than many other firms. This was because of the lists of Kempe windows that were provided to Pevsner and his assistants, and had similar lists of other makers work been in circulation, they might have received better coverage. Barlow tries to suggest that Pevsner, hardly an enthusiast for the later Gothic Revival, was at least not anti-Kempe, and contributed to a revival of interest in his work. However, the evidence is a little thin. Citing an example where Pevsner rates a window of 1906 at St James, Sutton-on-Hull, as better than windows by Ward & Hughes from the 1870s and 80s at the same church, is not exactly high praise.

Kempe’s work is increasingly repetitive after 1900: there is little sign of innovation, and a sense that the firm was going through the motions. To some, such consistency of style is dull compared to the contemporary variation found in the work of James Powell & Sons and, to a lesser extent, Burlison & Grylls, while to others it might be seen for its strength and consistency of vision.

With such a high output, repetition is understandable and expected, as can be seen in details from the near contemporary east windows at Builth Wells and Rossett of similar dates. The scene of Christ carrying the cross shares common details in both depictions (over two lights at Builth, three at Rossett), but is reversed and is not exactly the same. In my recent little book of images of St David, I struggled to find any figures of the saint that reused designs or cartoons of others, which it was easy to do in the cases of Morris & Co., Shrigley & Hunt and Robert Newbery.

C.E. Kempe, Passion scenes from east windows at Builth Wells (left, 1903) and Rossett (right, 1904)

In Espying Heaven, small sets of illustrations show us examples of Kempe windows depicting particular subjects of different dates, and hint at the possibilities of making such comparisons. Of the largest stained glass firms, only Morris & Co. have been subject to the forensic indexing of designs and cartoons (published by A.C. Sewter in 1974), but with Philip Collins’ published Corpus of Kempe windows of 2000, much of the groundwork for such a task has been done. An online version of this, subject-indexed and with images, could really help us appreciate Kempe’s variety and ingenuity, as well as the necessity and extent to which designs were adapted and repeated.

In the meantime, the online Stained Glass in Wales catalogue remains the only place where it is possible to search for particular subjects by Kempe in order to compare them (or indeed those by other artists and firms). I was also grateful to the Kempe Trust for their financial assistance that enabled me to add more Kempe windows to the catalogue in 2018. Unfortunately it’s still not complete in its coverage of Kempe’s windows and presently restricted to Wales, as funding applications to expand the catalogue to cover other areas have not met with success.

These two books have much to offer to improve our understanding of Kempe’s work and those that he worked with. To order the books visit Lutterworth Press.

St David panels at Cardiff Cathedral

It feels a long time since last week. At the end of February I was in discussions to hold a launch of Depicting St David at the Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St David in Cardiff, and although events were beginning to be cancelled or postponed, on Monday 16 March 2020 I gave a short talk after the lunchtime Mass to a small gathering. That afternoon, new government advice discouraged all events of this type and events for St Patrick’s Day on the next day were cancelled. Within days all church services were suspended until further notice as a result of the pandemic, prior to the requirement for us all to stay at home.

The reason why it seemed appropriate to hold a launch of the book at the cathedral – albeit not in such circumstances – was the presence of a unique set of scenes of the Life of David in the sanctuary. Two pairs of two-light windows contain eight scenes from the Life of David, more than any other set of scenes depicting David that I have come across in any other churches.

There is however some uncertainty surrounding the windows. The devastation of Llandaff Cathedral, not far from the city centre, in the Second World War and its subsequent restoration in the 1950s is well known, but St David’s, built as a parish church for the centre of Cardiff in 1885–6, also suffered, and was gutted by an incendiary bomb in 1941.

In June 1897, The Tablet reported on the intention to fill the windows of the chancel with stained glass depicting the saints. David, Teilo, Iltud, Cadog and other local saints, as a memorial to the Vicar-General, the late Monsignor Williams. Although small roundels of Dyfrig, Patrick, Illtud and Teilo are found in the upper tracery lights, the scenes in the windows now are all of David, with Latin inscriptions. Teilo does appear in one of the windows, but in the context of his visit to Jerusalem with David and Padarn, where they are consecrated as bishops.

The survival of these windows in situ, given the terrible destruction of the sanctuary in 1941, seemed unlikely, and I had wondered whether the windows had been saved from four of the two-light windows in the nave and moved there when the cathedral, which had been largely derelict for most of the 1940s and 50s, was restored in the late 1950s. The windows are commensurate with a date of around 1897, and the work of Mayer of Munich. I spoke to Canon Peter Collins, formerly dean of the cathedral, who thought that the windows had indeed survived the bombing in their present position. In support of this possibility, a small amount of stained glass can be seen in a photograph of the interior. It may of course be possible that the original intention to fill the windows with scenes or figures of Teilo, Illtud and Cadog in June 1897 was changed, and a set of scenes of the Life of the patron of the church would have been very appropriate.

My visit to the cathedral afforded me the opportunity to look more carefully at the windows now in the sanctuary, which revealed a couple of important discoveries. Firstly, the inscription to Mgr Williams remains at the foot of one of the windows on the north side, and all of the windows have lost a number of pieces of glass, including some figures, which have been replaced, although the majority of the panels are intact. An amount of restoration would be expected given the long period in which the church stood derelict.

CardiffCathedral_DSC0046BHowever, comparing the very small amount of stained glass, faintly visible at the edge of the photograph taken after the bomb fell in 1941, with what is in that window now, seems to show that the glass that is there now was not there then. Furthermore, the foliate tracery lights do not clearly match the architectural tops of the present windows, which might suggest that these are the original tracery lights, with the scenes of St David inserted in the 1950s from elsewhere in the church. Although the inscription is present, its continuity with the surrounding glass is not altogether convincing, and could have been inserted into the lower decorative panel at the time of restoration. Some of the two-light windows in the nave have no stained glass, and the main lights are of a similar width and appear to be only slightly taller than those in the sanctuary. Correspondingly, the design of the architectural canopies in the tops of the main lights of the sanctuary windows seem slightly truncated, which would have been necessary if they had been moved from the nave windows, where the upper part of the arched top is taller.

Whether or not these windows are in their original position, and whether or not we have lost scenes of other local saints, these eight scenes include images of certain episodes in the Life of St David that are not found anywhere else, and are therefore a fortunate and important survival.

First review and 20% off!

I’m grateful to Jon Gower for the first review that I have seen of Depicting St David on Nation.Cymru, published on the site on St David’s Day. He titles the review as ‘a glorious little handbook full of unexpected treasures’, which is a very fine thing to say of it. A spread about the book by Jenny White also appeared in the weekend section of the Western Mail on Saturday 29 February.

The publishers are offering a 20% discount off all of their titles this week, until 9 March. That means that for those who don’t have a copy of my Stained Glass from Welsh Churches already, you can buy that and get Depicting St David (almost) for free, post included.

I was also contacted by Matt Lloyd at the BBC who wrote a lighthearted piece for the BBC website, although what I am quoted as saying isn’t quite what I said over the phone! I wasn’t asked for any images and it is not immediately obvious that the stock image at the head of the article depicts St David at all. I did my best to research the image, which is a detail of a stained glass window, and found that the accompanying text on the iStock website describes it as Victorian, which is clearly not the case. From what I can gather, this is an image of St Modomnóc (Modhomhnóg), presumably with David, and probably from a church in Ireland. It seems to show a scene from Rhygyfarch’s Life of David, in which Modomnóc departs to Ireland in the company of his bees. But I have not yet been able to identify the location of the window, which is perhaps at one of the churches dedicated to Modomnóc in Ireland.

Depicting St David

Books on stained glass and other ecclesiastical arts from the modern period tend to focus on an artist, studio or designer, on a period or movement, or on a single church or region. This new book does something different, and approaches the field by way of subject matter and iconography, in this case the imagery of a single saint.

dewisant-clawrAbout 170 images of David are depicted in the book, from 1840 up to 2015, and most are from churches from across Wales. Some are found in churches that are now closed.

It is common for writers on stained glass to note the tendency of artists and studios to reuse designs and cartoons, and occasionally illustrate examples, as I did in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. This book provided the opportunity to illustrate the reuse of designs by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, Morris & Co., Shrigley & Hunt, Burlison & Grylls and Robert Newbery, demonstrating that cartoons were not always copied exactly, and were sometimes subject to very different treatments. 

For example, after going through all of the images of David that I have found, none of standing figures of St David by C.E. Kempe and his studio reuse the same design, although they are more than twenty in number. By contrast, I have identified eight figures of David by Robert Newbery that all use the same cartoon, which highlights two in particular that do not, in churches at Neath and Llansamlet. Initially I thought that there was a third ‘different’ image of David by Newbery at the Church of St Catherine, Pontypridd, in the west window. Having visited the church a few years ago, where the windows all bore the hallmarks of Newbery, I had assumed that all of the windows in the church were by him (except an obviously new work by Nicola Hopwood), although I was struck by the striking colour and quality of the west window. However, in the process of bringing together all of the images that I had found of David, I discovered that the figure of David in the west window at Pontypridd exactly matched another by Percy Bacon at Monkton Priory, thereby identifying this studio as the manufacturer of the west window at Pontypridd, and not Newbery. I nearly left the Monkton window out, but found a corner for it on my further reading page.

(see update below)

I have just recorded a piece about the book for ‘All Things Considered’, which is broadcast on Radio Wales. Among the things that I was asked was whether I might be annoyed if others wrote to me with further images of David that I had not included (making the assumption that all of the known images of David were illustrated in the book). I have well over a hundred further images of David on my list that there was not space to include, although the inclusion of some of them might have made the book itself rather repetitive, like the cartoons of stained glass. But there are certainly more to be found – as large or incidental figures in windows, and on reredoses and pulpits in various media. Many that I have come across were found by surprise, as probably less than half are documented in any published sources. As I continue to visit churches around Wales I am still finding more, and there are also more to be found outside Wales, although I have not the opportunity to research them.

Depicting St David is now available from the publisher, Y Lolfa, for £7.99 and will shortly be in bookshops, in time for 1 March, Gŵyl Dewi Sant, St David’s Day.

Update 2 September 2020

In the process of reviewing the references to windows by Percy Bacon Brothers at Monkton Priory, I returned to look again at my photographs of the various windows in the church. In the list of windows published by the British Society of Master Glass Painters of work produced by members in the previous twenty years (1930), windows by Percy Bacon include a series of windows in the chapel at Monkton Priory, and a four-light window (of the four evangelists) in the tower. The listing does not include the saints Nicholas, John, Alban and David in a very similar style, although the list makes no claims to be comprehensive, and is not.

It was my attribution of these four saints at Monkton Priory to Percy Bacon that made me reconsider the west window at Pontypridd, and attribute this to Percy Bacon as well, instead of Robert Newbery as I had assumed. The omission of the four saints from the list of windows by Percy Bacon made me look very closely at them and compare their treatment of the faces, the poses of the figures, the decorative detail and the lettering with others more securely attributable to Percy Bacon (at least one of which is signed). While they were close to the evangelists at the same church, I have come to the conclusion that I can find better matches for these elements in other windows by Robert Newbery of around 1920.

It therefore seems to me that my last-minute change of attribution for the image of David in the west window at Church of St Catherine, Pontypridd, was incorrect, and that this is in fact a design from Robert Newbery’s studio.

St Nons windows, Pembrokeshire

StNons_DSC1225_52AFor some years I have been pondering on the attribution of four windows at the Chapel of St Non, which stands on the cliffs above St Nons Bay, near St Davids. The chapel was built in 1934 adjacent to St Non’s Well and the ruined medieval chapel, and was intended to provide a focus for Catholic devotion to St David and his mother, St Non.

The east window is signed and dated, both of which are something of a surprise. The window is dated 1920, before the chapel was built, as it was originally made for St Non’s House, while the name of the maker, ‘William Morris Westminster’, is not the William Morris known to most as the celebrated Victorian poet, artist and socialist, but an entirely unconnected designer of stained glass, whose work was popular in the 1920s and 30s.

The reason for my interest in other windows in the chapel is that they also depict Welsh saints and for some time I have been working on a book on the imagery of Welsh saints. One of the windows is a particularly fine one of St Brychan, who stands with the Nevern cross behind him. There is also a window depicting St David, and while I prepare the book, I have been working on a smaller study in the interim, on the imagery of St David, which is far more plentiful than the imagery of any other Welsh saint. So I wanted to include this window of David at St Non’s in this smaller book, which will be published shortly under the title Depicting St David.

There is a rather simple charm to the execution of the windows, and the figures have largely plain quarries around them and quite distinctive borders. I wondered whether they could be the work of John Hardman & Co., makers of many windows for Catholic patrons, but could not find any direct correlations. Another maker that I considered was Frederick Charles Eden, although none of the windows by him that I had come across appeared to be quite the same. I found that some had quite similar border patterns, but a similar kind of edging around the frame of a window was also used for windows by other studios, such as Burlison & Grylls and C.E. Kempe & Co. I even found a window that was almost certainly by the same maker, also in south-west Wales at Marros, although I could find no attribution for this window either, or any trace of any records that might help.

Not far away from Marros in Carmarthenshire is a complete set of windows at Eglwys Cymun that are thought to be the work of Frederick Eden, and span a period from 1906 to 1915. There are various differences in execution: some have none of the coloured bands and silver stained patterns around the edge of the windows, the style of text is different, and some have more decorative painted detail. This can be accounted for by the fact that during this period, in about 1909–10, Eden established his own studio to make the windows that he designed. As the last are nearly twenty years earlier than the windows at St Non’s, direct correlations need not be expected, even if the same designer or maker was responsible. Nonetheless I kept returning to what little I could find by Eden online and in my archive, because I sensed similarities in the painterly style and in the borders and lettering found at St Non’s, and at Marros.

As a result of this search, in which I also sought to find out about the studios that Eden worked with prior to the establishment of his own (I’m sure that I have come across or been told about a reference to a firm that he worked with somewhere before!), I discovered that a summary catalogue of Eden’s drawings from c. 1909–44 in the V&A Art and Design Archive was available online. I was delighted, and lucky, to find an entry for ‘Four grouped lancets’ for ‘St. Non’s Chapel, Pembrokeshire’. Nothing is included in the list for Marros, or Eglwys Cymun, so the list is far from a complete list of his windows. I did however note a design for St Deiniol and St Christopher, which I surmised would probably be in Wales somewhere, and concluded that it was one of the porch windows at the Church of St Deiniol, Hawarden. This window had been attributed to Haswall or (possibly Frank) Haswell in Malcolm Seaborne’s list of stained glass in Flintshire Churches, even though its companion window of the same date was attributed to Eden by Seaborne.

Another researcher who has used the V&A Art and Design Archive for researching windows in Wales is Peter Jones, who had kindly provided confirmation of my tentative attribution of Eden’s work at Llanfairfechan, and submitted another window by Eden at Llanbedr-y-cennin to the Stained Glass in Wales catalogue some years ago.

StNons_DSC1245_52A

Frederick Eden, St David, c. 1934, Chapel of St Non, south wall of the nave.

While continuing to search for more windows by Eden online, I did discover a very good match for the figure of David at St Nons, in the guise of Nicholas at the Church of St Peter, Henfield, and dated 1935, which has been added to Wikipedia. It also shares the same kind of lettering, painterly style and borders as the St Non’s windows. But as Peter Jones noted in his comment on the Llanfairfechan window, Eden had a severe stroke in 1934, around the time that the St Non’s windows were made. That a window so similar was made by Eden’s studio in 1935 suggests that by this stage the studio was able to continue to produce windows in his idiom without his direct involvement, and that a house-style was in full swing and could be replicated as required.

Plenty of questions remain, such as the name(s) of the studio that made Eden’s windows prior to the establishment of his own stained glass studio, and also the identities of the painters and glaziers who worked for him into the 1930s. But at least I am convinced that the four windows in the north and south walls of the chapel at St Nons are his designs and almost certainly the product of his studio, and I can attribute them as such in the book.

Stained Glass and Modernism in the Diocese of Llandaff

During the course of browsing through diocesan archives at the National Library of Wales some years ago, I noticed an abrupt change of policy in the commissioning of stained glass in the Diocese of Llandaff in the late 1950s. The change was from the endorsement of quite conservative design, and the avoidance of additional background detail and ornament, to a much more colourful and modern approach to stained glass design. There was also a concerted encouragement to commission stained glass by Welsh artists, which chiefly benefited the firm of Celtic Studios, in Swansea, and John Petts.

stained glass depicting the Crucifixion.
Celtic Studios, The Crucifixion, 1960, detail from a window designed by John Edwards, Church of St Mary and Holy Innocents, Merthyr Vale

I noted this in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (p. 268–9), and expanded upon it in a lecture given in Cambridge in 2016. This has now been published in my first article for the Journal of Stained Glass (vol. 42, 2018), and illustrates windows that I would have liked to have included in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches but didn’t have the space for.

One of the striking things about the distribution of stained glass by Celtic Studios is that, although their windows are found widely across the whole of south Wales, few were commissioned for churches in Cardiff. I pointed this out in a footnote to Stained Glass from Welsh Churches on p. 248, noting that windows by the firm in Cardiff were limited to two Anglican churches, a Presbyterian church and a synagogue. As a result of some recent fieldwork, one of these Anglican churches can be crossed off the list. A ‘major early window’ of theirs is mentioned by John Newman in the Pevsner (The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan, 1995, p. 313) at St Mary’s, Whitchurch, and although it is not listed in the appendix of Maurice Broady’s study of the firm (A Vision Fulfilled, 2010), I did not question Newman’s reference as the window was described as ‘signed and dated 1948’.

I recently arranged to visit St Mary’s, which is usually locked, and discovered that this impressive window is in fact signed and dated, but by Powell’s of Whitefriars, and not by Celtic Studios at all.

Large stained glass window.
Powell & Sons. Resurrection and Ascension, 1948, Church of St Mary, Whitchurch

Reflecting on this, and looking again at post-war commissions for stained glass in and around Cardiff, I feel that perhaps I should have given a little more weight to the number of these commissions that went to Powell’s in the 1940s and 50s, which included the replacement east window for St Margaret’s, Roath (Cardiff), a major work alongside that at Whitchurch and others. These are enumerated in Dennis Hadley’s list of works by Powell’s, compiled from their archives at the V&A in London. But, strangely, the west window at Whitchurch is not among them, although two earlier windows by them at the church are listed.

Windows for the World

Cover of 'Windows for the World' book.

2018 saw the publication of Jasmine Allen’s book on the display of stained glass at the international exhibitions held in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In addition to the description of these exhibitions and some consideration of the stylistic and national diversity, the book includes a list of the artists and stained glass firms who exhibited work at the eleven exhibitions that form the basis of the study. It’s striking how many of them are completely unknown to us today.

My review of the book has now appeared in issue 127 of the online journal Vidimus.