The most recent issue of the Journal of Stained Glass (vol. 41, 2017, published 2018) was a special issue dedicated to the work and archives of the Glass House in Fulham, which was the hub of Arts and Crafts stained glass in London in the first half of the twentieth century. Primarily the work of Alan Brooks and Peter Cormack, the volume includes a transcription of their business archives and brief biographies of artists whose windows were made at the Glass House.
There is much to learn from this fascinating material and the accompanying essays, and I looked through the listings to see what might illuminate my research on stained glass in Wales. One entry that stood out was a window by Patience Hallward at the little church at Arthog, near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, and as I was giving a talk on the stained glass of Dolgellau and the surrounding area, I arranged to visit the church. The window was one of two stained glass windows at the church dated, but unattributed, in The Buildings of Wales: Gwynedd (2009).
Arts and Crafts stained glass is often associated with colourful and emotive original artistry and imagery, but the business archives are a reminder that the practicalities of earning a living as a stained glass artist can be rather more mundane. Among the listings for the one of the foremost artists of the medium, Margaret Chilton, are entries for the Marble Hall in City Hall, Cardiff, and the plain glazing of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Ewloe, which were commissions for restorations and repairs, and not original works. The window by Patience Hallward at Arthog is a relatively simple memorial window, with the dedication at the centre of the design. It is beautifully executed, with flowers and sheaves of wheat for decoration, and the lovely textured quality to the glass is typical of an interest in materials that characterised the Art and Crafts Movement. The artist had moved to Arthog with her father, Reginald Hallward, who was also an artist and also designed stained glass, so she would have been a local artist to the church in 1952 when the window was made.
The east window at Arthog is also quite unusual. The three-light window depicts the Annunciation to the Shepherds, but the scene is executed in white glass, with a single piece of pale blue glass used in the lower part of the scene to the left. The detail is provided by paint and silver stain, but the effect is rather monochrome. It reminded me of a series of monochrome windows that I came across relatively recently at Halkyn in Flintshire, which were so unusual that I was sorry to have found them too late to include in my Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (2014). These were listed by Malcolm Seaborne in his survey of Victorian and later stained glass in Flintshire and attributed to Heaton, Butler & Bayne, part of a complete glazing scheme provided for the Church of St Mary, Halkyn, in 1878.
On first sight, the east window at Arthog was also reminiscent of the work of the same firm, and I subsequently compared my photographs of the window with those at Halkyn. Not only was there a discernable similarity of style, but I discovered that the same cartoon had been used at both churches. What was different about the two versions was that the scene at Halkyn is entirely monochrome, with no silver stain. This is something that I have not seen in nineteenth-century stained glass anywhere else, although I am sure other similar windows will have been made elsewhere.
I could not easily measure the width of the panels at Arthog, but it looks as though they were slightly narrower than those at Halkyn, judging by the central panel depicting the two angels. At Halkyn, the arm of the left-hand angel is raised at the edge of the panel, but at Arthog there is not sufficient room, and a hand is folded in from the left. This panel also omits the narrow border found on the right and at either side of both of the flanking panels, to accommodate both hands of the other angel, and the complete halo of the left-hand angel.
This could suggest that the design at Halkyn might have been the original and the window at Arthog a reuse of the cartoon. Seaborne confidently dates the Halkyn glass to November 1878 from a newspaper report, while the Arthog window is of uncertain date, but probably early 1877 or later. It could have been made after the version at Halkyn, or the design might have predated both commissions, and adapted for use at both churches. It would be interesting to see whether the design was used for a coloured stained glass window, or whether it was reserved for largely or wholly monochrome windows as found at these churches.
I started this blog four and a half years after publishing Stained Glass from Welsh Churches in summer 2014. The book has now won a prize! It has been awarded the Mrs Foster Watson Memorial Gift, which is awarded every five years to a member of staff of Aberystwyth University for published work that combines scholarship with general interest.
The assessors commented: ‘It is a substantial work of pioneering scholarship, spanning the centuries. At the same time it explains the development of this specialist art-form and craft in terms that the wider audience of cultured readers will understand. It thus fits perfectly the criteria set for the competition and fully deserves the award’.
The news arrived a couple of weeks ago, while I was working with the publishers, Y Lolfa, on an application to the Welsh Books Council to help with publishing a book on the imagery of Welsh saints in Welsh churches. The award was formally recognised at a drinks reception held at Old College, Aberystwyth, 17 December 2018.
Early stained glass is quite rare in south Wales, particularly in comparison with north Wales, and many of the most notable stained glass in the region comes from overseas. It was with some surprise that, on a recent visit to a number of churches in Monmouthshire, I came across some sixteenth-century heraldic stained glass that I have not seen noted anywhere before.
I arranged to visit the church to see its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century stained glass, but was intrigued by some coloured and painted glass that I found in the chancel windows. The two two-light windows both had roundels containing complete or partial coats of arms, with coloured and stained fragments around the borders. The window on the north side also had an inscription along the bottom, and although most of the paint has been lost, the ‘ghost’ of the letters was faintly visible.
Sometimes early and mid-nineteenth-century stained glass can appear very faded as the paint sometimes deteriorates, and at the time, since I was not expecting anything so old, I wondered whether this was badly-fired nineteenth-century work. But the more I looked, I thought that there must be a good chance that this stained glass was indeed a few hundred years old, particularly given the way in which small parts of glass were leaded together in a rather irregular way. Nonetheless, the fact that I had not seen anything published about this glass weighed against such an assumption. It was not mentioned in John Newman’s ‘Pevsner’ for Gwent/Monmouthshire, and it is not included in Andrew Renton’s survey of pre-1700 stained glass in south Wales, published in Vidimus in 2009, although there are a few other omissions from this list that I have come across. Nothing about them was included in the notes on the building available at the church.
On returning home I checked the Pevsner once again and found the CADW Full Report for Listed Buildings, neither of which mentioned any early stained glass at the church. I then had a look at Joseph Bradney’s multi-volume History of Monmouthshire, to see if it might help with the heraldry found in the windows. In the past I have found this work particularly unhelpful for researching stained glass, but in this instance he does mention some stained glass that was formerly at the church, lamenting that it had only very recently been removed from the church (the book, his first volume, was published in 1904).
He describes the windows in heraldic terms, and it took me a little while to decipher the descriptions (e.g. Argent, a chevron sable between three ravens proper and Argent, a cross moline quarter pierced sable; Sable, a fosse between three escallops or, a crescent for difference), but the four descriptions match what is currently at the church very closely, suggesting that what was taken out in around 1903 has since been carefully restored. The glass was formerly in a three-light window, with a fourth heraldic roundel in a south chancel window, and it must be that the commissioning of the present east window (by Ninian Comper) displaced this pre-Reformation stained glass, which had no doubt hitherto been in its original position. At some unknown date, and possibly quite soon after the new east window was placed there in 1903, the glass was obviously carefully restored to the church: the three roundels from the east window joined by the one Bradney recorded in the south chancel window (but now in the north) in the north and south windows of the chancel.
As well as identifying one of the arms as those of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Charles Herbert, Bradney also transcribes an inscription, which asks for prayers in favour of Sir Charles Herbert and his wife Elizabeth ‘qui hanc fenestram vitriari fecerunt’ (who caused this window to be glazed). I have not yet discovered the date of their marriage, which would give us an earliest date for the window, but Charles Herbert of Troy (1500–57) would have been unlikely to have placed the window much before 1520. The donor suffered a decline in fortunes in the later years of his life, and also remarried, so Bradney’s suggested date of about 1540 seems about right.
The displeasure of an historian such as Joseph Bradney in learning of the recent loss of the windows is not unexpected. Nonetheless, these rather dilapidated reminders of sixteenth-century gentry patronage had probably outlasted their welcome for the congregation, who probably preferred the new modern pictorial window. At least Bradney’s worst fears turned out to be unfounded, and this important historical stained glass has continued to survive more than a hundred years since he pronounced it lost.
I have been writing a booklet about the stained glass at the Church of St Peter in Carmarthen, which is being published this month. The opportunity to write this short study raised a couple of intriguing questions regarding the attribution of two of the windows in the church.
The window on the north side of the nave, depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, had been attributed to the London firm Heaton, Butler & Bayne, but this did not appear to be correct according to what I have seen of their work around this date (1870). In considering other possibile makers of the window, I thought about Joseph Bell of Bristol. This long-lived firm made two windows in the south aisle of the same church, and one at the east end of this aisle, an area formerly used as a consistory court. This big east window was signed by Bell (1864), and the ones on the south side were either attributable to Bell from newspaper reports, or by clear stylistic parallels.
Although the style of the 1870 window is quite different from these earlier works, there were nonetheless parallels with the east window of Trinity College Chapel, Carmarthen, made by Joseph Bell in 1873. In both windows there are some similarities in the poses, lettering, the red halo used for Christ, and they have a darker, richer, palette. The contrast to the brighter colours and Neo-classical style of drawing found in the windows by Bell of the 1860s is nevertheless quite marked, and shows how a window could be very different from another made only six years earlier by the same studio.
A further window at the church posed a more difficult problem. The window is situated between the Crucifixion and Resurrection window and a First World War memorial, which I had been able to attribute to Percy Bacon Brothers from the British Society of Master Glass Painters list of 1930, a detail of which was used in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (2014). The main scene in the window, depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd with St Peter, looked markedly different from other windows that I have come across from this period, although the Gothic framing around it was very conventional. But I could not find anything else that seemed to match the style and identify the maker.
Finally, I came across a newspaper report of the unveiling service which contained the information that I had sought, which came with a surprise: ‘The design which is in beautiful stained glass represents the Good Shepherd and also St. Peter with the Keys. A suitable inscription on a brass plate at the foot, completes the memorial, which was carried out by Mr W. B. Simpson, of Martin’s Lane, London’ (The Carmarthen Weekly Reporter, 2 October 1903, 4).
At first I thought that this firm had only made the brass plate, but after reading it again it seemed likely that Simpson’s had made the plate and the window. However, I had not heard of the firm before, certainly not as makers of stained glass, so, having found a name, it was an unexpected one. Some further research revealed that they did indeed have a stained glass studio at St Martin’s Lane in London, and also that the artist Lewis Foreman Day had quite a long association with the firm, designing for their products in various media. Whether he was the designer, or how typical the window is of their output, has been impossible to easily assess, as I have yet to find any other images of their stained glass.
The firm was apparently better known as producers of ceramic tiles, making many thousands of them for public buildings such as hospitals and theatres in the late nineteenth century, as well as the London Underground. I also found that I had come across their tiles already in Wales, as Simpson’s firm was responsible for tiles at St Asaph Cathedral, and made the pictorial tiled scheme designed by Horatio Walter Lonsdale depicting scenes from the First Book of Kings for the roof garden of the Bute Tower of Cardiff Castle.
The Stained Glass of the Church of St Peter, Carmarthen, is now available from Sulien Books.
I was asked to provide a Christmas image for the Facebook and Twitter feed of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies this week, and although I had one or two other things in mind, stumbled across a pair of panels in the Church of St Twrog, Maentwrog, in north Wales.
These attractive scenes in the north and south walls of the sanctuary are set with square silver stained quarries above and below and have a nice charm about them.
When I came across the windows, which were probably listed on the Stained Glass in Wales catalogue six or seven years ago, I was unable to precisely date or attribute them, and looking at these windows again, inevitably the questions arose of when was the window made and by whom?
None of the obvious studios came to mind as probable makers, but following comparison with the poses, painterly style and lettering of windows by Edward Frampton at Hawarden, I decided that both of the windows could fairly safely be attributed to this artist’s studio. Further evidence comes from the fact that a window of Christ the Good Shepherd in the church was signed by Edward Frampton. This window shares a very similar style of lettering, the same floreate background, and also confirms that the artist had contacts at the church.
The Good Shepherd window is dated 1896, the same year in which the architects Douglas & Fordham restored the church and added the chancel. This would therefore be the earliest and perhaps most likely date of the north and south sanctuary windows, although they could have been added later.
What is striking about this little discovery is how unlike the Good Shepherd window these panels in the sanctuary appear to be at first glance, and they are perhaps even more removed from the windows at Hawarden that I looked at first (which didn’t help my attribution). At Hawarden the five two-light windows, made between 1886 and about 1904, all have Gothic architectural tops and bottoms, which lends them a late-Victorian appearance. In contrast, the light and space afforded the scenes in the sanctuary at Maentwrog, enhances their delicacy, rendering them visually more redolent of the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Another set of windows at the Church of St Ethelwold, Shotton, make even more of a contrast, as the east and west windows all have quite dark scenes, and the large Gothic canopies in the big windows of the sanctuary apse characterise them very much as late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century Gothic Revival works.
All three of these churches (Maentwrog, Hawarden and Shotton) had work done on them (or were originally built, in the case of St Ethelwold’s) by the Chester architect John Douglas, in partnership with D.P. Fordham or C.H. Minshull, and, while thinking about some other churches by these partnerships that I have visited, I was able to attribute the big east and west windows of the Church of Bryn-y-Maen, near Colwyn Bay to Edward Frampton. None of the windows in this church are even mentioned in Edward Hubbard’s Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (1986).
A further look around the windows at Maentwrog brings us to the west window, in which three rather stiff figures stand within elaborate Gothic framing, and here again, on close inspection, the lettering, canopies and some of the faces recall Edward Frampton’s work at Hawarden. Nonetheless, they seem far removed from the panels in the sanctuary, and the comparison of these windows by Frampton is suggestive of how much the borders around windows can condition our perception of style.
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.
On 8–9 September I attended the Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE) symposium in Cambridge: ‘In glass thy story‘, a two-day symposium addressing over 70 years of innovation and iconography in the glass art of British and European churches and cathedrals.
On the first day I contributed a paper on the change in direction that prompted the adoption of a more vivid and bold approach to stained glass design in the Llandaf diocese. This enlarged an observation made on pages 268–9 of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, and presented the opportunity to show the work of Welsh artists Howard Martin, John Edwards, Tim Lewis, John Petts and others to a distinguished gathering of British and continental artists and scholars.
The symposium was held at Robinson College, Cambridge. This presented the opportunity to see works by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in the chapel of the college, one of which is a small and intimate window, the other a large and ambitious work occupying much of the wall behind the altar. After my lecture, the proceedings continued with a short performance by the pianist Patrick Hemmerlé in the chapel, offering the opportunity to contemplate the work in conjunction with music by Debussy and Ravel.
The opportunity to engage with another recent work in Cambridge was provided by a visit to St Catherine’s College Chapel, where the artist Tom Denny spoke about his work in conversation with Sophie Hacker, and in particular about his window in the chapel.
The final talk of the conference was about the windows designed by the abstract artist John McLean for Norwich Cathedral, installed since I last visited the cathedral. As I came away I couldn’t help thinking about the striking difference between these wholly abstract windows, saturating their aisle with colour, with the window we looked at by Tom Denny. This was also a work which was rich in colour, and might, in combination with two other windows in a similar kind of location, have also created a colourful immersive environment. But the work of Denny was figurative and suggestive, an intelligent interpretation of texts from Ecclesiastes, and also brilliantly painted.
Were the windows by John McLean, with their absence of any apparent message, suggestive of a church that does not know what to say anymore, or at least a church that chooses to say little? In glass no story?
Such things cannot be argued one way or another in a few lines here. I didn’t talk about theology or narrative in my talk and lots of us were perhaps on safer ground with style and form. But the rare opportunity to think about these things at the ACE conference was a welcome one.