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In an addition to a post about five months ago I mentioned an upcoming exhibition and book about the work of Margaret Rope.
Margaret Agnes Rope (1882–1953) was born in Shrewsbury and was trained in stained glass at Birmingham School of Art under Henry Payne. Her first major work was for Shrewsbury Cathedral and in September an exhibition about her work opens at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
The exhibition ‘Heavenly Lights: The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope’ runs from 12 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.
As part of this initiative, Arthur Rope has produced a large-format book of her work with colour illustrations of full windows and details, and a list of her works. It is a considerable achievement, and a reminder of how little has been published on artists of this quality working in stained glass. Faced with a vast gap in developed academic study of the field of stained glass, and art in churches in general, books like this, as well as those by Roy Albutt and Alan Brooks’ study of Francis Spear, have mostly been privately published and rely on the strength of conviction (and financial commitment) of their authors.
These books, from the bottom up, if you like, easily outnumber those from the top down, such as Peter Cormack’s recent Arts and Crafts Stained Glass (2015). This is a book about which I have intended to write on these pages for some time, and may do yet. With such a huge range of material at his disposal, Peter Cormack’s book only illustrates couple of panels and one full window by Margaret Rope and does not have the space to discuss her work in any detail, which ably demonstrates the huge amount of work still to be published on the artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement. There are also those artists and studios earlier in the nineteenth century and later in the twentieth century about whom so little has been written, as well as the contemporaries of Henry Payne and Margaret Rope that have not been connected with the Arts & Crafts ethos, and remain (even) less fashionable.
Margaret Rope of Shrewsbury is announced on its title page as ‘an exhibition of her works in a book’, and since the book lacks a narrative, this is very much the case. Here, the contrast with Nicola Gordon Bowe’s recent book on Wilhelmina Geddes is stark, as her years of research and study have yielded a fascinatingly insightful portrait of the artist offering an absorbing narrative that sheds so much light on the windows.
In the case of Margaret Rope, she left few records, and there is an appeal for more information about her, as well as a team of volunteer archivists gathered by Shrewsbury Museum with the task of researching her life and work. In the meantime, we have a new book of her work, which will be available at the exhibition in September and beforehand via mail order, for details see Arthur Rope’s website.
Further to my last post about the upcoming Glass Conference, here is Rachel Phillips’ post on the Glass Beacon, which will be officially opened on Friday as part of the one-day conference.
I’ve been involved in a lot of work recently project managing and making a new architectural glass commission, the Glass Beacon, for the home of the glass course in Alexandra Road, Swansea where I also lecture. It’s been a hard task, with a lot of expectation- some I know and some I am less aware of thankfully but, most of all I just wanted to help make a good thing for the glass college. It’s been a collaborative project and working with my colleagues has been great- so many talented and dedicated people.
The final piece of the jigsaw is the official opening next Friday on the 11th March, as part of a day conference. Details can be seen here: Glass Conference
I’m just looking forward to seeing the scaffolding come down and seeing it properly!
I 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:
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.