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Depicting St David

Books on stained glass and other ecclesiastical arts from the modern period tend to focus on an artist, studio or designer, on a period or movement, or on a single church or region. This new book does something different, and approaches the field by way of subject matter and iconography, in this case the imagery of a single saint.

dewisant-clawrAbout 170 images of David are depicted in the book, from 1840 up to 2015, and most are from churches from across Wales. Some are found in churches that are now closed.

It is common for writers on stained glass to note the tendency of artists and studios to reuse designs and cartoons, and occasionally illustrate examples, as I did in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. This book provided the opportunity to illustrate the reuse of designs by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, Morris & Co., Shrigley & Hunt, Burlison & Grylls and Robert Newbery, demonstrating that cartoons were not always copied exactly, and were sometimes subject to very different treatments. 

For example, after going through all of the images of David that I have found, none of standing figures of St David by C.E. Kempe and his studio reuse the same design, although they are more than twenty in number. By contrast, I have identified eight figures of David by Robert Newbery that all use the same cartoon, which highlights two in particular that do not, in churches at Neath and Llansamlet. Initially I thought that there was a third ‘different’ image of David by Newbery at the Church of St Catherine, Pontypridd, in the west window. Having visited the church a few years ago, where the windows all bore the hallmarks of Newbery, I had assumed that all of the windows in the church were by him (except an obviously new work by Nicola Hopwood), although I was struck by the striking colour and quality of the west window. However, in the process of bringing together all of the images that I had found of David, I discovered that the figure of David in the west window at Pontypridd exactly matched another by Percy Bacon at Monkton Priory, thereby identifying this studio as the manufacturer of the west window at Pontypridd, and not Newbery. I nearly left the Monkton window out, but found a corner for it on my further reading page.

(see update below)

I have just recorded a piece about the book for ‘All Things Considered’, which is broadcast on Radio Wales. Among the things that I was asked was whether I might be annoyed if others wrote to me with further images of David that I had not included (making the assumption that all of the known images of David were illustrated in the book). I have well over a hundred further images of David on my list that there was not space to include, although the inclusion of some of them might have made the book itself rather repetitive, like the cartoons of stained glass. But there are certainly more to be found – as large or incidental figures in windows, and on reredoses and pulpits in various media. Many that I have come across were found by surprise, as probably less than half are documented in any published sources. As I continue to visit churches around Wales I am still finding more, and there are also more to be found outside Wales, although I have not the opportunity to research them.

Depicting St David is now available from the publisher, Y Lolfa, for £7.99 and will shortly be in bookshops, in time for 1 March, Gŵyl Dewi Sant, St David’s Day.

Update 2 September 2020

In the process of reviewing the references to windows by Percy Bacon Brothers at Monkton Priory, I returned to look again at my photographs of the various windows in the church. In the list of windows published by the British Society of Master Glass Painters of work produced by members in the previous twenty years (1930), windows by Percy Bacon include a series of windows in the chapel at Monkton Priory, and a four-light window (of the four evangelists) in the tower. The listing does not include the saints Nicholas, John, Alban and David in a very similar style, although the list makes no claims to be comprehensive, and is not.

It was my attribution of these four saints at Monkton Priory to Percy Bacon that made me reconsider the west window at Pontypridd, and attribute this to Percy Bacon as well, instead of Robert Newbery as I had assumed. The omission of the four saints from the list of windows by Percy Bacon made me look very closely at them and compare their treatment of the faces, the poses of the figures, the decorative detail and the lettering with others more securely attributable to Percy Bacon (at least one of which is signed). While they were close to the evangelists at the same church, I have come to the conclusion that I can find better matches for these elements in other windows by Robert Newbery of around 1920.

It therefore seems to me that my last-minute change of attribution for the image of David in the west window at Church of St Catherine, Pontypridd, was incorrect, and that this is in fact a design from Robert Newbery’s studio.

Annunciation x 3

It’s well understood that stained glass studios produced multiple versions of their windows, making use of their designs and cartoons at different churches. However, it seemed a bit excessive to discover the same design three times over the period of two days in the south Wales valleys this week.

These designs by Robert Newbery, ever-present in this part of Wales, are at churches in Gelligaer, Treharris and Pontypridd. Treharris is about three miles east of Gelligaer and five miles north of Pontypridd. In my introduction for Stained Glass from Welsh Churches I estimated that there were over a hundred windows by this London maker in south Wales. Having continued to visit further churches, including a handful this week, I have discovered more that have not been listed previously, confirming that this is quite a conservative estimate.

The dates on the three windows suggest a range of about thirty years, corresponding with his activity in Wales. The date of the window at Gelligaer is uncertain, and the earliest possible date for it would be 1895, which would make it the earliest known window by Newbery.

stained glass window of the Annunciation to Mary.
Robert Newbery, The Annunciation, c.1900, Church of St Cattwg, Gelligaer, south wall
stained glass window of the Annunciation to Mary.
Robert Newbery, The Annunciation, 1916, Church of St Catherine, Pontypridd, south aisle
stained glass window of the Annunciation to Mary.
Robert Newbery, The Annunciation, c.1929, Church of St Mathias, Treharris, north chapel

Windows commissioned by Sir W.T. Lewis

Stained glass window depicting Christ and a kneeling figure, pithead and blast-furnace.

Robert Newbery, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, 1896, Church of St Tydfil, Merthyr Tydfil

Over the last couple of years I’ve been aware of the patronage of Sir W.T. Lewis, first Baron Merthyr of Senghenydd, and featured a couple of the windows commissioned by him in the chapter of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches discussing memorial windows in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He commissioned more than a dozen windows for at least six churches and at least one in Llandaff Cathedral. Among these is the really unusual window at Merthyr Tydfil dedicated to the ‘Captains of Industry’, many of whom were coal-owners in the south Wales valleys.

A report in the Cardiff Times from 1899 (although the window is dated 1896) claims it as ‘a bold departure from the conventional treatment of subjects in memorial glass’ and its unconventional use of biblical subjects and texts (including extracts from the Book of Job) is accompanied by the depiction of a pithead and blast-furnace in the scene below.

I’ve been adding further notes on the window for the ‘Stained Glass in Wales’ Catalogue, and looked up the Cardiff Times report that I had a note of but had not consulted. Another reason for my interest in the patronage of W.T. Lewis is his fairly consistent patronage of the studio of Robert Newbery, and his interest in depicting Welsh saints, particularly Elfan, in the windows that he commissioned. His family also continued these two aspects of his patronage after his death in August 1914.

Windows with Welsh Saints

For well over ten years I have been collecting images of Welsh saints from churches on my travels, mainly around Wales. The majority of these images are in stained glass and there is more variety in the windows than there is in sculpture and occasional murals, as windows sometimes feature scenes from the saints’ Lives, as well as standing figures. I have given a couple of lectures about images of saints in Welsh churches and been writing about them for a while, with the intention of publishing a book on Welsh saints from Welsh churches in the future, although it will not be finished before next year.

In November I joined the ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales‘ project as a part-time Research Fellow at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, where I am working on the beginnings of an online dictionary of Welsh saints, and setting up four dayschools around Wales with a small touring exhibition. The principal aim of the project is the publication online of editions of all of the medieval Welsh-language poetry related to saints in medieval Wales, and of the Welsh-language lives. This includes material relating not just to Welsh saints, but also to saints with more widespread cults such as the evangelists Mark and Luke; Mary Magdalene; and Margaret of Antioch.

A few posts back I wrote about the Stained Glass in Wales Catalogue, which was launched in 2011, and as part of the project I hope to find some time to add some further examples of images of saints to the resource. Recently I have added the windows at the Church of St Elvan, Aberdare, which includes a large window with scenes from the story of the patron saint of the church. The window is one of many in south Wales by the studio of Robert Newbery, and his association with the patron Lord Merthyr is underlined by the number of other windows by the firm at the church.

Three standing and kneeling saints depicted in stained glass.

Celtic Studios, Saints Cyfelach, Rhidian and Gwladys, probably 1959, Church of St Gabriel, Swansea

I have also added the windows at the Church of St Gabriel, Swansea, a church that I visited some years ago when photographing windows for the book by the late Maurice Broady on the Swansea firm Celtic Studios. The church boasts a west window that may contain more Welsh saints than any other (about 27, depending on whether you count Brychan and all of his family), and is a significant work by Celtic Studios. Two large details from the window occupy the centre spread of the colour section in A Vision Fulfilled, and partly for this reason it did not get included in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. I included the east window at the church and a detail from one of the Lady Chapel windows by A.K. Nicholson’s studio. The church is perhaps unusual in having two good sets of windows by just two firms: six by A.K. Nicholson from 1925–6, and four by Celtic Studios 1949–71.

You often see new things when cataloguing windows, and unfortunately I realised that the caption of the east window in the book is incorrect. The window is in fact a representation of the ‘Te Deum’ and the standing figures in the outer lights are Peter and Paul, Isaiah and Stephen. The detail of Mary reading the Bible from the Lady Chapel windows, open at the same verse of Isaiah that Isaiah holds on a scroll in the east window, is one of many that deserved reproduction at a much larger size in the book.

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.