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Over the last few months I have been collaborating on a book about the stained glass at the Church of St Peter, Lampeter. The initiative for the book came from John Hammond, an expert on stained glass war memorials, and we have written the book together, with publication funded by the church.
The difference between writing an overview of stained glass in churches and writing a guide that includes all of the windows in the church is that all of the windows need some attention, whether good or bad, and whether or not it is possible to attribute them. In the case of this church, only a few of the windows have signatures, and while the style of some other makers are clear, or have been identified from archives, a handful remained unattributed.
The church does contain a really fine window. The west window is the last monumental work by Wilhelmina Geddes, and the recent biography of the artist by Nicola Gordon Bowe is so detailed that it makes the window perhaps the most comprehensively documented stained glass window in Wales. Since the window contains a figure of the patron of the church, St Peter, it is featured on the cover.
This was the last window added to the church, but the first were windows by Daniel Bell working with Richard Almond in 1870, and also a window that I considered to be by Lavers & Barraud of the same date. Exactly how many of these 1870s windows were also by Daniel Bell (and Richard Almond, with whom he worked until 1875) was uncertain, and given the fact that relatively few windows attributed to Daniel Bell (brother to the better known Alfred Bell) have been published, it has been difficult to make comparisons with other windows by the artist.
Another window that I was particularly keen to attribute was an attractive First World War memorial. The window is more colourful than much contemporary stained glass, and exhibited unusually loose glass painting in a few areas of the background. The window had no makers’ mark that we were able to discern, and we did our best to go through all of the church and diocesan archives that might be able to date or identify the maker of the window. These efforts failed to find even the date of the window, and I thought that I ought to consult a few experts that I knew in case any suggested attributions came to light.
After a couple of conversations by email, I was at least approaching the idea that the window was not the work of an individual artist associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, but was more likely to be by a larger studio, even if it was a livelier window than the usual output of the period. This was then corroborated by a suggestion from Neil Moat that it was the work of John Clement Bell for Clayton & Bell. Given the character of the other windows that I knew of by the firm from around the time of the First World War, this window was something quite different, and unlike anything else that I could find by the firm published online or in print – not that our libraries are full of illustrations of twentieth-century Clayton & Bell windows.
The only other vaguely comparable window by the firm that I knew of was at Beaumaris: a colourful five-light Crucifixion scene. There wasn’t quite the same freshness of colour and painting here, and the painting of the faces was rather different to that in the Lampeter window. However, when I looked at the painting of the angels above, there did seem to be a greater correspondence with the the faces in the Lampeter window. Surely there was a second glass painter at work here in the Beaumaris window (probably more of course).
But the most startling similarity between the two windows was a very tiny detail. Many Clayton & Bell windows, going back well into the nineteenth century, feature little stars that are nonetheless prominent in the design. These two windows also had little stars in the upper parts of the window, and are remarkably similar in execution.
Was the principal glass painter of the Lampeter war memorial working at Clayton & Bell’s studio when he or she painted it? Can we identify the influence of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic (a controversial idea, let alone a definable one) in the output of Clayton & Bell in the 1910s or 20s? Are there many more windows by Clayton & Bell of the period that remain unidentified because of their dissimilarity to what we expect their windows to look like?
The answers to such questions are known by the very few people who have in-depth knowledge of British twentieth-century ecclesiastical stained glass. And it is with sadness that I have to record that in the time since I corresponded with Neil Moat he died suddenly, so now there is now one fewer.
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.
I have stated elsewhere that Stained Glass from Welsh Churches was not intended as a book of the best stained glass in Wales (and said as much on p. 7 of the introduction). In his review of the book recently published in the Journal of Stained Glass (vol. 38), Peter Cormack goes further, noting the ‘number of feeble or positively dire examples’ that I troubled to include from the later nineteenth and twentieth century, which potentially reinforces a negative view of stained glass that persists among many people. However, negativity, or at least indifference, towards the medium seems more characteristic of art historians than of people in general in my experience. He also claims that the work illustrated reflects ‘the relative poverty of Wales’, and I wonder whether such a claim would have been made if the book had focussed more on high-class works such as big east windows during the same period by Clayton & Bell, Hardman’s, Powell’s and Burlison & Grylls.
In the previous post I quoted another reviewer who commended the ‘even-handedness’ of an inclusive approach to stained glass, and Peter Cormack also praises the inclusion of work by many provincial firms, ‘often for the first time’, in addition to those that are better known. In fact he goes as far as to say that ‘it would be difficult to think of a book that might be more useful to groups such as NADFAS Church Recorders in introducing them to the vast subject of Vicorian and later glass.’ High praise indeed.
There are certainly windows in the book that are poor but which demonstrated something I wanted to convey, and there are others that I couldn’t bring myself to include. There are certainly several in the chapter on late nineteenth-century memorial windows and saddest of all is perhaps the Good Shepherd by A. Seward & Co. of Lancaster which was included to point up the originality of the work of Mary Lowndes and (particularly) Edward Woore in the following chapter on the Arts and Crafts Movement. But my choice of themes for certain chapters was deliberately chosen to include work by lesser known makers, good and bad. Somewhere there will be a window by Seward & Co. that is genuinely cherished by a congregation unaware of my opinions or those of Peter Cormack. They would be probably be interested to know more about the maker and about other windows that the studio made, and these people need books about stained glass as well as art historians primarily interested, for good reasons, in the best that our culture has produced. There is also another reason why the photograph of the Good Shepherd by Seward & Co. was chosen for the book. It is in a church that has long been closed and may never be accessible to the public again, if indeed it survives.
The review in the Journal of Stained Glass is followed by another positive review of my little book on the stained glass at the Church of St Mary, Tenby, which adds some further useful detail on the architect J.D. Coleridge, who advised the rector on the commissioning of Karl Parsons. Interestingly, Peter Cormack notes the probability that Edward Woore assisted Karl Parsons with the war memorial window at Tenby.
My thanks to Elizabeth Siberry for reviewing Stained Glass from Welsh Churches in the 2015 issue of Brycheiniog, the journal of the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends.
She mentions two shortcomings of the book. One was that the locations of the churches in remote locations will be unfamiliar to those without a good knowledge of Wales, and I am reminded that I had intended to add a map to the volume to help with this. As things worked out I simply ran out of time when completing the design of the book this time last year, although I had not yet worked out in my mind how I was going to reference several hundred place-names on a single map.
The other was that there are important windows in the old county of Breconshire (Brecknock) that are not mentioned in the book (as there are throughout Wales). One that she mentions is John Petts’ east window of 1989 at the Church of St Mary, Brecon, which I overlooked in favour of other windows by the artist, partly because it was included at a generous size in Alison Smith’s chapter on the work of the artist in the 2010 volume Biblical Art from Wales. In fact I tried to complement the illustrations in her chapter by including photographs of windows for which only the cartoons were illustrated, and his east window at Llansteffan, which was represented in Alison Smith’s chapter by a photograph of him working on the window. In this instance the window was reproduced in the Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion Pevsner (2006), but as it was such a personal window, it seemed particularly important to the history of stained glass in Wales.
Stained Glass from Welsh Churches is an attempt to present a full range of stained glass in the churches of Wales, and a book of the best stained glass in Wales would have been a different book and even more subjective.
Mentioned in the review are Carl Edwards’ windows at Llyswen and David Pearl’s windows at the (now closed) Catholic church in Crickhowell, and these are perhaps of particular importance. Also in the book from the old county are details from the fine Tractarian church at Beulah and the excellent Modernist work of Harry Harvey at Maesmynys (the images far too small to show off this window).
So what else from Breconshire might have deserved a mention in the book? Along with John Petts’ window in Brecon there are good windows by Powell’s and Horace Wilkinson in Brecon Cathedral. Another important work in Brecon is the unusual window by Clayton & Bell to J.P. Seddon’s design at Christ College Chapel, Brecon, which merited a colour illustration in Martin Harrison’s Victorian Stained Glass (1980). Now part of Brecon, the church of Llanfaes is represented in the book by a late Morris & Co. window, but not the east window designed by James Hogan at Powell’s in 1924.
At Builth Wells I found and illustrated a small window in Alpha Chapel that I attributed to Burlison & Grylls, partly because of the amount of their late work in the area, notably nearby at the parish church where there are large late works by them. There is also a large east window of by C.E. Kempe that I tried, and failed, to find a home for in the book.
A search for windows in the county is possible by searching for churches in the county of Breconshire/Brecknockshire on the Stained Glass in Wales Catalogue, although I have much more to add from my archive when I have time one day. The catalogue also shows locations of the churches listed on Google maps.
And if you’re wondering where Breconshire is, it’s the lower part of central Wales.
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.
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.
The First World War memorial window by Karl Parsons at the Church of St Mary, Tenby, made a memorable impression on me when I saw it in 2006, not long after I began to record biblical stained glass in Wales as part of the ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ research project. Its inventiveness of design, use of colour, and attention to detail in each piece of glass distinguishes it as perhaps the finest stained glass window in the county.
The window is illustrated in a full-page illustration in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, and makes a clear contrast with another First World War memorial, dedicated not to the memory of a single soldier, but to all the men of the parish who died in the war, by the firm of C.E. Kempe.
As in the case of many windows illustrated in the book, there is no space for a more detailed analysis of the complex imagery of the Parsons window, and the illustration of any details. This has now been remedied with a booklet illustrating and describing all of the stained glass at the church, which was launched on Sunday (28 September) during the morning service. The book was funded by the Friends of St Mary’s and sales will contribute towards the upkeep of this important historic church.
As well as these war memorial windows, there are nineteenth-century windows by William Wailes and Clayton & Bell, two smaller windows by Karl Parsons and C.E. Kempe & Co. and a window of the 1950s by John Hardman Studios. While researching for the booklet I was pleased to find correspondence relating to the first window commissioned from Karl Parsons (in 1908) at Pembrokeshire Archives, which provides an insight into the appointment of the artist and his status as a pupil of Christopher Whall.
Unfortunately I was unable to find the name of the designer or the studio responsible for the little window of Faith, Hope and Charity in the south wall, but papers in the National Library of Wales did allude to some controversy over its use of imagery.
The windows at the church can all be viewed on the online Stained Glass in Wales Catalogue, and I would be grateful for any suggestions of the maker of the Faith, Hope and Charity window. Perhaps it was made by another artist based at the Glass House, Fulham, where Karl Parsons had a studio, or perhaps by one of the students trained at the Birmingham School of Art. The website accepts comments on sites, artists/studios and individual windows. Copies of the booklet (priced £2.50) can be obtained from the church (or I can forward requests for the booklet if you contact me via my website).