Stained Glass from Welsh Churches

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Stained Glass Museum Study Weekend 2017

It was good to revisit some churches in north Wales, and see some new places in Cheshire, while acting as a guide for the Stained Glass Museum Study Weekend, alongside Jasmine Allen and Penny Hebgin-Barnes.

stained glass window.

A.L. Moore & Son, Crucifixion with the Supper at Emmaus, probably early twentieth century, Emmanuel Church, Bistre

The opportunity to see new things in familiar places, with the help of a knowledgeable and observant group of people, ensured that all of us went away with something new. In familiar churches there were some things that I had not seen before. In the case of the two churches in Buckley for instance, there were windows that were not there the last time that I visited: at St Matthew’s a new little window painted by Deborah Lowe has been added, and a window by A.L. Moore from a closed church in Manchester has found a new home in Emmanuel Church, Bistre.

As the tour included churches and private chapels that I had not visited before, there were a few things in particular that I learnt from the trip, and here are three of them.

1. The work of the big studios such as Heaton, Butler and Bayne could be tremendously diverse.

Well, that’s not a great start because I already knew that, but it was underlined by the work of this firm that kept cropping up at a number of the places that we visited. This seemed especially noticeable as we were fortunate to start at Eaton Hall Chapel, where the entire scheme of windows was made by the firm, but to the design of Frederic Shields, who evidently excercised considerable control over its production. These windows bore none of the recognisable features of stained glass by the firm, and at successive churches – Rossett, Gresford, Malpas, Llanfarchell as well as at Chester Cathedral – we found their work in a wide variety of styles from the 1870s to the 1920s.

Incidentally, on my return I found some similarities between a few of the poses found in the Eaton Hall Chapel glass and a window I know better, the east window at Llanbadarn Fawr, which Frederic Shields designed with J. P. Seddon and was made by Belham & Co in 1884.

2. There are very close parallels between some of the Flemish panels at Cholmondeley Castle and those at Llanwenllwyfo

I have written about the collection of Flemish glass from the Neave collection, now at Llanwenllwyfo, Anglesey, on these pages and elsewhere. While researching the Llanwenllwyfo glass I have come across references to, and a couple of small illustrations of, the stained glass now at the private chapel of Cholmondeley Castle, so once again, although the above statement was not really new to me, the chance to see the stained glass at Cholmondeley enabled me to see this for myself and make some further observations (too many to detail fully here).

The design of six scenes now in the east window of Cholmondeley Castle Chapel is very close to some of those at Llanwenllwyfo such as Christ with Veronica, the Raising of Lazarus, Abraham Visited by Angels and David with Abigail. These were probably made in Leuven and may have come from the Charterhouse there. As well as the overall design of the panels, some of the figures are painted in a closely related style, and probably by the same workshop, and there are two examples of lettering used on the edges of garments to state the names of certain figures, found in several panels at Llanwenllwyfo.

stained glass panel.

Execution of a Prophet, early sixteenth century, Chapel of St Nicholas, Cholmondeley Castle

The detail illustrated here shows this and also the problems of identifying artists. It would seem that the head of the unfortunate prophet here does not match any of those at Llanwenllwyfo closely, but it also differs from that above it and the group to the right, raising the possibility of three hands at work in this single panel.

stained glass portrait of a man

Samuel Anointing David, early sixteenth century, Chapel of St Nicholas, Cholmondeley Castle

stained glass portrait of a man.

Simon the Pharisee, probably 1520s, Church of St Gwenllwyfo, Llanwenllwyfo

The heads of Samuel from Cholmondeley and of Simon the Pharisee at Llanwenllwyfo offer an example of a pair of heads that seem to match very closely, but not quite exactly. Since we really know very little about these panels, they could be by the same artist but separated by a number of years, by different painters in the same workshop, or the product of different workshops but closely following the work of the same designer. Whether they were originally made for the same location we will probably never know.

Three of the scenes at Cholmondeley retain their lower inscriptions, which may assist with further work on their origin and the workshops responsible for them, although none have any borders at their sides.

Finally, as an additional parallel to the stained glass at Llanwenllwyfo, a roundel at Cholmondeley also depicts Christ wearing a hat and holding a spade as he encounters Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, a scene that is particularly distinctive at Llanwenllwyfo and was featured on the cover of the book about that church and its glass.

3. The firm of Ballantine of Edinburgh underwent a huge transformation in the first quarter of the twentieth century, or perhaps they didn’t

large stained glass window.

The Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi, 1928, Church of St Oswald, Malpas

Visiting the Church of St Oswald, Malpas, brought me back to a window that had struck me on my first visit, a four-light window of the Adoration of the Magi. After I first saw the window I was surprised that the Pevsner (Clare Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cheshire, 2011) tentatively attributed the window to Ballantine of Edinburgh. Shortly before this discovery I had also been surprised that Peter Cormack, in his review of my little book on the stained glass at Tenby, had also suggested the firm as the maker of a window that I had been unable to attribute there.

Comparison of some of the faces in both windows suggests that they could perhaps have been by the same artist, although there was a little more painted shading in the little Tenby window. But were either of the windows products of the studio of Ballantine?

stained glass image of a female face.

Figure representing Faith, 1927, Church of St Mary, Tenby

stained glass image of the Virgin and child.

Virgin & Child, c. 1928, Church of St Oswald, Malpas

James Ballantine & Son (also Ballantine & Allen, and later Ballantine & Gardiner and then A. Ballantine & Son) was a long-lived firm that was established in Edinburgh by the 1830s and made stained glass for the House of Lords. Windows by the studio of the 1850s and 60s are found in north Wales, demonstrating a strong pictorial style with very fine painting and bright colours, but, by 1881, their window at Emmanuel, Bistre shows a duller colour palette in keeping with the times. A further window of 1890 at the Church of St Mary, Lenten Pool, Denbigh, also on our tour, demonstrates a very much more conventional Gothic Revival style typical of the period.

So after that recognisable change of approach, might they have embraced the Arts and Crafts Movement so convincingly that they were able to produce the beautiful window at Malpas? Many on the tour thought not, but no other attributions were forthcoming.

St David by Heaton, Butler & Bayne

stained glass window depicting Padarn.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St Padarn, about 1930, Church of St Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr

On Saturday 1 April the ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’ project collaborated on an afternoon of talks about St Padarn and the saints of Wales at the Church of St Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr. My short talk focussed on three south transept windows of the 1930s by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, which depicted the saints Padarn, Teilo and David.

According to the Lives of all of these three saints, they journeyed to the Holy Land together, where they were met, and given gifts, by the patriarch of Jerusalem. As we were specifically remembering Padarn in the church that bears his name, I showed some more images of Padarn in other churches, but also took the opportunity to show windows of other saints by the studio of Heaton, Butler and Bayne.

When looking through my archive, I found a series of images of David, patron saint of Wales, made by the firm from the late 1880s up until the one at Llanbadarn Fawr of about 1930. What is interesting about all of these figures is that even though they use more or less the same kind of figure, none that I have seen are repeats of another, using the same cartoon. This use of the same cartoon for multiple windows is of course well-known among all stained glass studios, from Hardman’s to Morris & Co. to Celtic Studios and even some of the finest individual artists in the medium, such as Christopher Whall and Karl Parsons reused designs and cartoons. Note the range of unusual headgear provided for the saint, not a mitre in sight!

stained glass window depicting David.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St David, about 1888, Church of St Gwynan, Dwygyfylchi

stained glass window depicting David.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St David, about 1890, Church of St Catwg, Gelligaer

stained glass window depicting David.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St David, 1898, Church of St Brynach, Pontfaen

stained glass window depicting David.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St David, 1917, Church of St Beuno, Whitford

stained glass window depicting David.

Heaton, Butler & Bayne, St David, about 1930, Church of St Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr

Cambria Magazine

I have written a short article on war memorial and military windows which has recently been published in Cambria Magazine (vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 26–9).

Stained glass memorial window

J.A. Nuttgens, Window celebrating the tercentenary of the founding of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 1990, Church of St Giles, Wrexham

The article provided an opportunity to join up windows from the fifteenth century up until 1990, thereby providing a broader context for the chapter on First World War memorials in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. It was also an opportunity to reproduce a couple of fine windows at a decent size, namely the William Aikman window in Llanbedrog, and one of the Heaton, Butler and Bayne windows at Flimston in Pembrokeshire. There is also a full page illustration in the book of the window commemorating the tercentenary of the founding of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, designed by J.A. Nuttgens for the Church of St Giles, Wrexham. There are several illustrations in the book from this church, and there wasn’t room for this one in chapter 11, making J.A. Nuttgens one of the more significant omissions form the book. He also made a window not far away at Buckley, a depiction of the Good Samaritan.

This is to be the last printed issue of Cambria Magazine, which was first published in 1997.