Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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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 The window is dated 1920, before the chapel was built, as it was originally made for St Non’s House, while the name of the maker, ‘William Morris Westminster’, is not the William Morris known to most as the celebrated Victorian poet, artist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.

Attributing Edward Frampton windows

The Flight to Egypt, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Maentwrog

Edward Frampton, The Flight to Egypt, c. 1896, Church of St Twrog, Maentwrog

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.

The Annunciation, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Maentwrog

Edward Frampton, The Annunciation, c. 1896, Church of St Twrog, Maentwrog

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.

Christ as the Good Shepherd. stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Maentwrog

Edward Frampton, The Good Shepherd, 1896, Church of St Twrog, Maentwrog

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.

Three Marys at the empty tomb, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Hawarden

Edward Frampton, The Three Marys Visit the Empty Tomb, c.1904, Church of St Deiniol, Hawarden

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.

The Last Supper, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Bryn-y-maen

Edward Frampton, The Last Supper, c.1899, Christ Church, Bryn-y-maen

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).

St Twrog, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Maentwrog

Edward Frampton, St Twrog, c. 1896, Church of St Twrog, Maentwrog

Mary and Joseph, stained glass window by Edward Frampton, Hawarden

Edward Frampton, Mary and Joseph, detail from Christ with the Doctors in the Temple, c.1891, Church of St Deiniol, Hawarden

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.