Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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Glass Conference

Conference for Glass ConferenceI will be involved in a conference being held in Swansea on 11 March at Alex Design Exchange, Swansea College of Art. There will be several speakers in the morning, and after that there will be an official opening of the ‘Glass Beacon’: a new work for the refurbished building.

In the afternoon we will be welcoming Nicola Gordon Bowe, who will talk about the artist Wilhelmina Geddes, the subject of her excellent new book.

For more information and to book please visit:

Conference online booking

Facebook site


Lecture at Swansea College of Art

I’ll be speaking at Swansea College of Art on Friday 27th November on ‘Modern and Medieval: tradition and change in 20th Century Stained Glass’. There is also an exhibition of my work on display and I will be giving a short gallery talk after the lecture.

Please visit this event page for more information.

Lecture Poster

Medieval saints in Bangor Cathedral

Further to my last post on the David Evans east window at Bangor Cathedral, during my talk in the cathedral on Saturday I was asked about a medieval window depicting the Welsh saint Dwynwen, formerly in the cathedral, which I did not know about.

stained glass window with saints.

Clayton & Bell, St Ambrose and St Augustine, 1873, figures in the tracery lights of the east window at Bangor Cathedral

I wondered whether there might be a reference to this by the eighteenth-century antiquarian Browne Willis, and in fact a number of saints were visible in the windows of the cathedral in the early eighteenth century, according to his Survey of the Cathedral Church of Bangor and the Edifices Belonging to it (1721). He reported that ‘the glass is so broken and patched up’ that it was not possible to read many inscriptions or understand any remaining iconography. However, there were figures in the east window tracery of Ambrose and Augustine, and perhaps, if this was remembered in the 1870s, this might have been the reason behind the inclusion of the four Latin doctors of the church (and their Greek counterparts) in Clayton & Bell’s east window of 1873. The remains of these figures were perhaps removed when the east window was reglazed by David Evans in 1840. Had any of the medieval glass still been in place in the 1870s, there would have been a better chance that it might have been incorporated into the new window.

Browne Willis records three saints in the stained glass of other windows as Daniel (Deiniol), Katherine and Donwenna (Dwynwen), and records that all of these figures probably dated to either the late fifteenth century or the early sixteenth century, which accords with most of the surviving stained glass of north Wales. Further heraldic stained glass in a north window was probably of a similar date, related to the Griffiths of Penrhyn.

Browne Willis wrote about all of the four medieval cathedrals of Wales, and although I looked up his description of St Davids Cathedral when researching medieval glass for Stained Glass in Welsh Churches, unfortunately I did not look at his decriptions the other cathedrals. He mentions some remains of painted glass at St Asaph, but stated that there was none at Llandaff, even though heraldic glass at Llandaff was extant in the 1640s.

The date and arrangement of Bangor Cathedral east window

The subject of this post is the east window made by David Evans that was removed at the time of Gilbert Scott’s restoration of the cathedral. This important work by the artist is dated 1838 in the Pevsner for Gwynedd, a date which I followed when illustrating one of the panels, now in the west window of the nave, in chapter three of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches.

I am contributing to a series of talks relating to the ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’ project in Bangor this Saturday, and have been looking up some newspaper references to windows installed in the cathedral. The east window was paid for from contributions given when the vicar, Revd J.H. Cotton, was appointed Dean of Bangor, but the design for the window by David Evans was only agreed in November 1838, suggesting a completion date more likely to be 1839 than 1838, which was in fact the date given by Mostyn Lewis in his Stained Glass in North Wales up to 1850 (Altrincham, 1970). However, a report on the finished window did not appear in the North Wales Chronicle until 30 June 1840, stating that the window was completed during the previous week. This report gives a good description of the window, but only describes six figures: David and Solomon, with the four evangelists, although there are now nine figures in the three windows that contain glass from the old east window (one on the west window, and one towards the west end of the north and south aisles).

stained glass window depicting standing figure of Aaron.

David Evans, Aaron, 1843, Bangor Cathedral

In the report on the agreement of the design in November 1838, it was regretted that the amount raised did not allow for the whole five-light window to be filled with figures (as originally proposed in October 1838), and with the outer lights being filled with decorative glass, the cost was expected to be £200. It was not until 1843 that four further figures were added and the window completed, the North Wales Chronicle states, ‘through the munificence of our Bishop’. The four additional figures were two from the Old Testament, Aaron and Moses, and the saints Peter and Paul. We can therefore assume that these were placed in the outer lights, most likely with the Old Testament figures on the left.

The window was removed when the chancel was restored and George Gilbert Scott introduced a window by Clayton & Bell as the east window in 1873, which remains in place today with ten main compartments, now filled with scenes from the Life of Christ. It does not appear that the figures by David Evans were reset in their present positions until 1880, and when they were, there was only space for nine of the ten figures. Solomon, who was crowned and held a sceptre in his right hand, and a ground plan of the temple in his left, was presumably lost to the cathedral in the process.

In summary, for Aaron, 1838, read 1843!

My talk on the saints in stained glass and in sculpture in Bangor Cathedral will be on Saturday 12 September, the last of four talks relating to the ‘Cult of Saints in Wales‘ project.

Stained glass and religious identities: two conferences

Two conferences this month gave me opportunities to talk about saints in stained glass windows that tell us something about the conflicting national and religious identities.

For ‘The MIddle Ages in the Modern World‘, a multidisciplinary conference on medievalism in the post-Middle Ages at the University of Lincoln, I contrasted competing claims on Welsh saints by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I also talked about the inherent medievalism in most stained glass since the nineteenth century, which eschewed the use of coloured enamels in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in favour of the medieval mosaic method of making stained glass.

The International Congress of Celtic Studies, held every four years, came to Glasgow this year, and my paper, ‘Kings, Saints and Popes: Ancient Britain in Stained Glass During the Welsh Revival’ followed a similar theme but focussed on the legend in which the British king, Lucius, sought the help of the pope for the evangelisation of Britain in the second century. This was a subject occasionally chosen by Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic patrons, and implicated the dependence of the early Welsh church on Rome, in contrast to the Protestant projection of an early Welsh church independent of papal authority.

Detail of a stained glass window with a group of figures.

Mayer & Co., Pope Eleutherius Sending Missionaries to Britain, 1882, Church of St Peter, Roath, Cardiff

Both visits were also opportunities to see the stained glass in two cathedrals that I had not visited before. At Lincoln I was surprised how much medieval glass still survived, and, at the other end of the scale, Glasgow was interesting for the amount of post-war glass commissioned the replace the Victorian glass (by Mayer of Munich, controversial in its time and notable in the involvement of the historian Charles Winston). Both cathedrals, commendably, had books available detailing their windows.

stained glass window.

Douglas Strachan, Detail of a window in Bute Hall, University of Glasgow

I was particularly struck by the quality of the mid-twentieth century glass in Glasgow Cathedral, featuring Scottish artists whose work I have not come across in Wales, such as Herbert Hendrie, William Wilson and Douglas Strachan, as well as English makers such as Francis Spear and Marion Grant. Excellent work by Douglas Strachan was also on hand where the conference was held at the University of Glasgow, in both the Bute Hall and the University Chapel. The Chapel east window is by Lawrence Lee, a work of 1962 and roughly contemporary with two of his three Welsh commissions.

Research Seminar

Colour, Creativity, Glass: The Story of Welsh Stained Glass

Lecture for the School of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies Research Seminar Series

28 January 2015, 4.30

Founders Library, University of Wales Trinity St David, Lampeter Campus

All welcome

Victorian Review

Many thanks to Michael Hall for his review of the book in the November issue of The Victorian, the Magazine of the Victorian Society.

Christ standing in the boat, calming the storm.

Burlison & Grylls, Christ Calming the Storm, early twentieth century, Church of St John the Divine, Cwmbach Llechryd

Michael Hall’s book on the architect G.F. Bodley is published this autumn, and is a long-awaited study of this important Gothic Revival architect. Although relatively few churches in Wales were designed by his architectural practise, Bodley & Garner, the firm that he favoured from the 1870s, Burlison & Grylls, made many windows for Welsh churches from the 1880s until the closure of the firm in the 1950s.

I have been asked to speak for the Wales Group of the Victorian Society in Llandaff on the 22 November 2014.

Penarth Book Festival

Today marks the beginning of the Penarth Book Festival, and I will be speaking about the book, and about other stained glass in Penarth, on Sunday 19 October at Trinity Methodist Church.

The church has one of the best collections of stained glass at a Methodist Church in Wales, and the Anglican churches of St Augustine and All Saints also have notable collections of glass. At the Church of St Augustine there is glass by Alexander Gibbs made for William Butterfield’s church, and also windows by W.G. Taylor, Robert Newbery and Clayton & Bell. The Church of All Saints has the distinction of being the only church in Wales where stained glass was provided by Harry Clarke, but unfortunately this was lost in 1941. When the church was rebuilt after the war in the 1950s Arthur Walker designed windows for the church, but a change of heart by the Diocesan Advisory Committee in the late 1950s brought the commissioning of more Modernist works by Francis Spear, John Petts and Powell & Sons.

Stained glass window with the Good Samaritan tending to the wounded man.

Probably H.J. Salisbury, The Good Samaritan, 1920s or 30s, Trinity Methodist Church, Penarth

Both of these Anglican churches are among the more serious omissions that I am aware of on the Stained Glass in Wales Catalogue, although the stained glass at Trinity Methodist Church is included. When I was there in 2008 one of the windows was damaged, so I will be interested to see if it has been restored so that I can see the whole scene. The earlier stained glass at the church, and possibly all of it, was made by the studio of H.J. Salisbury, and they also provided the painted reredos of the Last Supper.

Narberth talk

nave window by Joan Fulleylove.

Joan Fulleylove, St John, 1932, Church of St Andrew, Narberth

I will be presenting a number of talks in September related to my work on stained glass in Wales. The first of these will be held in Narberth Museum on 3 September at 7.00. Earlier in the afternoon I will be at Oriel Q from 4.00, where my exhibition Patterns, Monsters and Mysteries will be in its final week, to talk about the exhibition. Immediately prior to the talk, the Church of St Andrew, Narberth, will be open from 6.00, providing an opportunity to see windows by Joan Fulleylove, Morris & Co and Robert Newbery.

I will also be speaking at conferences in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, both of which are related to broader themes. The Aberystwyth conference is a British Academy Digital Humanities Networking Event, 12-13 September, at the National Library of Wales. For the conference in Carmarthen I will be speaking about images of Welsh Saints in stained glass as well as in other media. This conference, 16-19 September, is part of The Cult of Saints in Wales Research Project at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.

Pecha Kucha at Greenbelt

I’ve been asked at the last minute to talk about the book on Sunday evening at this year’s Greenbelt Festival, as part of their Visual Arts programme. Pecha Kucha consists of a twenty image presentation, for which the speaker has twenty seconds to talk about each image.