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The Church of St Matthew in Maindee, Newport, was a church that I knew quite well in the mid-1990s when I was living in south Wales. I remember that the sanctuary fittings were attractive although I did not pay them all that much attention.
Even in the 1990s the future of the church was somewhat precarious, and the concern over whether it could remain open was greater still when I went back to the church, in 2010, to record the artwork there. The floor of the church had dry rot, and it finally closed in 2014.
The reredos was one of two in Newport by the artist Allen Henderson, the other being at the Church of St John the Baptist, where there is also a figure of the Virgin and Child and a set of Stations of the Cross by the artist. The sanctuary windows were unattributed, but were a very fine set of four two-light windows, slightly reminiscent of contemporary work by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, commemorating members of the congregation who fought in the First World War.
One of the two windows (of 1931) on the south side of the church had been attributed to Samuel Evans’ studio in the Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire, and when writing my chapter on war memorials for Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, I decided to illustrate one of the sanctuary windows. However, I was not certain who they were by and tried looking in the diocesan archives in the National Library of Wales. This was unsuccessful, and so I visited Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale in the hope that they might have something about the windows in the parish archives. I was delighted to discover the faculty for the windows which stated that they were also by Samuel Evans & Co.
This made it easy to attribute the earlier of the windows on the south side to the same firm, and similarities could be seen in the later window that had already been attributed to Evans’ firm, although there were plenty of differences as well.
Samuel Evans, like T.W. Camm and his brothers, had worked in the stained glass studio of Chance Brothers in Smethwick, and when the studio closed in the mid-1860s, these artists set up their own stained glass firms. This week I paid a visit to the Sandwell Archives in Smethwick to see if I could learn much more about the firms, or about the stained glass studio of Chance Brothers. The archives of Chance Brothers and of T.W. Camm (and also the separate firm, Camm Brothers) are quite extensive, but all that seems to be held for Samuel Evans’ firm are a dozen cartoons.
Nine of these cartoons are of windows whose location (according to the catalogue) is unknown, but two of them had a note to say that they were in Newport (unknown county). When I ordered one up it turned out to be the cartoon for the figure of St Agnes, by chance the same figure that I had chosen to illustrate in the book. And very beautiful the cartoon is. I didn’t have time to order more up, but I expect that more of the cartoons were for that commission, possibly all of them if they included the figure of David in the south wall.
While writing this post I was curious to see what had become of the church in Maindee, Newport. The answer via the website of the South Wales Argus came easily: the church was demolished in May.
On 8–9 September I attended the Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE) symposium in Cambridge: ‘In glass thy story‘, a two-day symposium addressing over 70 years of innovation and iconography in the glass art of British and European churches and cathedrals.
On the first day I contributed a paper on the change in direction that prompted the adoption of a more vivid and bold approach to stained glass design in the Llandaf diocese. This enlarged an observation made on pages 268–9 of Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, and presented the opportunity to show the work of Welsh artists Howard Martin, John Edwards, Tim Lewis, John Petts and others to a distinguished gathering of British and continental artists and scholars.
The symposium was held at Robinson College, Cambridge. This presented the opportunity to see works by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in the chapel of the college, one of which is a small and intimate window, the other a large and ambitious work occupying much of the wall behind the altar. After my lecture, the proceedings continued with a short performance by the pianist Patrick Hemmerlé in the chapel, offering the opportunity to contemplate the work in conjunction with music by Debussy and Ravel.
The opportunity to engage with another recent work in Cambridge was provided by a visit to St Catherine’s College Chapel, where the artist Tom Denny spoke about his work in conversation with Sophie Hacker, and in particular about his window in the chapel.
The final talk of the conference was about the windows designed by the abstract artist John McLean for Norwich Cathedral, installed since I last visited the cathedral. As I came away I couldn’t help thinking about the striking difference between these wholly abstract windows, saturating their aisle with colour, with the window we looked at by Tom Denny. This was also a work which was rich in colour, and might, in combination with two other windows in a similar kind of location, have also created a colourful immersive environment. But the work of Denny was figurative and suggestive, an intelligent interpretation of texts from Ecclesiastes, and also brilliantly painted.
Were the windows by John McLean, with their absence of any apparent message, suggestive of a church that does not know what to say anymore, or at least a church that chooses to say little? In glass no story?
Such things cannot be argued one way or another in a few lines here. I didn’t talk about theology or narrative in my talk and lots of us were perhaps on safer ground with style and form. But the rare opportunity to think about these things at the ACE conference was a welcome one.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
About two and half years ago I revisited the Church of St Gwenllwyfo, Llanwenllwyfo, in northern Anglesey, and began a conversation that has resulted in a new book on the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Continental stained glass at the church.
When I first attempted to write about the stained glass on the online ‘Stained Glass in Wales’ catalogue, I turned to the notes written by J.O. Hughes that were produced as a small unillustrated booklet in 1995. The booklet left a lot of unanswered questions as it did not list any sources, but, when writing Stained Glass from Welsh Churches in 2013–14, I was able to find further writing about the stained glass of the period in scholarly articles and catalogues which alluded to the dating, provenance and attribution of the panels at Llanwenllwyfo.
Some of this writing confirmed what J.O. Hughes had written about much of the earlier sixteenth-century glass, which was thought to have originated at the Leuven Charterhouse, and the important article by Yvette Vanden Bemden and Jill Kerr identified a number of them among the ‘Anglesea Group’, which also encompassed similar panels elsewhere. Some writers went further, and Hilary Wayment attributed couple of the panels to the Master of the Mass of St Gregory, the painter of a roundel of that name now at the V&A, or to his workshop. Although I admit that I found some of the arguments confusing, in the absence of any writing that I could find at the time to contradict this attribution, I broadly adopted Wayment’s attributions in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. I also used his attributions in an article on the stained glass for Vidimus, published early in 2014, hoping that I might receive some feedback from scholars more versed in the stained glass of the Low Countries on the validity of these attributions.
Around the time that I visited Llanwenllwyfo again in 2014, a small bequest from the family had been set aside to publish the research of J.O. and Catherine Hughes as a small book, and I was very pleased to be asked to design and produce the book. This consisted of an introduction about the gentry families involved in the building of the church and the acquisition of the stained glass, and then descriptions of each of the main panels.
I also took the opportunity to look more closely at each of the panels and collate the writing on them in other sources. It was during this process that the attribution to the St Gregory Master appeared to me to be increasingly doubtful, mainly because the similarities between a group of the panels, here and elsewhere, seemed to be greater with each other than to those attributed to the St Gregory Master. I was also struck by their similarity to panels that had recently been associated with Jan Rombouts by Yvette Bruijnen. These panels were also from the collection of Sir Thomas Neave, but now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Prittlewell, Essex. Some of these conclusions will be published shortly in a feature for the online journal Vidimus, and are alluded to in a short contribution that I have written for the new book.
That it has been such a long time since Avril Lloyd at the church first discussed the draft of the text that she had prepared from the notes of J.O. and Catherine Hughes about two years ago is down to a variety of reasons. These included other commitments on my part, the time taken for the texts to be translated and checked and finally securing the funding to print the book as intended. The book is now available this autumn on my Sulien Books website for £10 + postage, and from the church.
There are many windows in churches from the nineteenth and twentieth century for which we do not know the names of the artists or studios responsible. Sometimes windows are signed or their makers are identified in secondary literature, archive sources or as signatures. Occasionally new names crop up in this process. For example, I found a signature on a window in the Church of St Augustine, Rumney, attributing it to H.W. Lloyd, although I have been unable to discover anything more about this artist/studio. The signature notes their address, which may read 107 Hanley Road, although unfortunately the name of the town is lost into the muck and sill of the window.
It would be good to identify any commercial stained glass studios that existed in Wales prior to the 1930s, as none making pictorial glass have yet come to light. A window at the former Ebenezer Welsh Independent Batist Chapel, Cardiff, is very clearly signed ‘W. Davis & Son, Cardiff’ but nothing more is known of them. One possibility is that W. Davis & Sons was a maker and supplier of leaded window lights, who occasionally bought in painted panels like this rather than make them in their own studio, and then assembled and installed the window in the chapel.
Examples of misattribution can happen as a result of the building contractor or other supplier being credited for the making of a stained glass window that in fact was bought in from a stained glass studio. In these instances, correspondence and invoices may survive in church records relating to windows installed or supplied by the building contractor or glazier, but which do not not necessarily provide the evidence of where a window was made.
An example of this may be found at the recently closed Church of All Saints, Cwmffrwdoer, Pontnewynydd. The west window of the church contains four figures from two windows brought from the Church of St Luke, Pontnewynydd, which closed more than twenty years ago. These were both war memorial windows (1924 and 1948), and the names provided for the windows by John Newman in The Buildings of Wales Gwent/Monmouthshire (2000) are J. Newton Whitely for the 1924 window, and E.G. Croney for the later window, both of Bristol.
I could not find anything further about these makers/firms, and while that does not mean that they did not exist, the earlier figures look very much like the work of J. Wippell & Co. of Exeter and the later ones have similarities with G. Maile & Son, who were busy in the region soon after the Second World War (for identification of windows by Wippell’s see my previous post).
Some months ago I received an enquiry about a fine window in Llandrindod Wells, which I also sought advice on when preparing Stained Glass from Welsh Churches. I was grateful to Alan Brooks (author of books in the Buildings of England series) who pointed me in the direction of William Pearce of Birmingham. Following this suggestion, the similarities with other windows by the firm that I had seen looked obvious, but I hadn’t come across anything as good as this by the firm. However, this more recent correspondent discovered that, according to a contemporary newspaper report, the window was supplied by G.A. Rowson of Shrewsbury.
This seemed to be an obvious case of a firm supplying a window made by another studio, but the same correspondent had discoverd that G.A. Rowson was indeed in business as a glass stainer (not simply a glazier), in a bankrupcy notice from 1927. Perhaps he wasn’t very good! The name Rowson was familiar to me because a window at the Church of St Illtyd, Llantwit Fardre, had been attributed to G.A. Rowson in a little guide to the church. When I looked at the window again, I immediately recognised the style of William Pearce in the treatment of the faces, and so it could be that once again Rowson was supplying work by Pearce. But there may be other possibilities. Rowson could have been employing a glass painter who worked before or after for Pearce, or perhaps Rowson was trained by Pearce and then left to set up his own firm.
In the same guide to the church at Llantwit Fardre, three windows are attributed to the architectural practice Caroe & Partners, who have never made stained glass to my knowledge, but all of these windows closely match the style of Alfred Wilkinson.
So, in conclusion, it is great to find a signature on a window or a newspaper article naming the firm who supplied a stained glass window, but that doesn’t necessarily correspond with the actual maker of a window. On the other hand, I don’t think that we should be surprised to find the names of makers that we currently know nothing about.
And finally, a word of warning. Many of the windows under discussion here are not of great artistic quality or interest, although they have other kinds of cultural significance. Furthermore, two of the examples are now in churches that have been closed, and while one is now safe in the hands of another denomination, these windows, as importance evidence of stained glass practice, are sometimes at risk of being lost.
I have mentioned the upcoming exhibition of the work of Margaret Rope at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery on these pages before, and I was pleased to be able to attend the private view for the exhibition on 9 September.
This innovative exhibition includes drawings, cartoons and projections of many of her windows, as well as work in glass and sculpture. The exhibition includes coloured cartoons of all three of her windows in Wales, the pair of saints at Llanarth in Monmouthshire and the memorial window to her niece and nephew at Llandovery, who both died in childhood.
This exhibition view shows the Llanarth cartoons with (just visible!) my photograph of St Bernard projected on the wall. Also at the exhibition is a cartoon of the window depicting St Winifrede at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Newport, Shropshire, which found its way to the museum at Holywell at some stage in the past, and has been lent by the Diocese of Wrexham.
I also took the opportunity to visit Shrewsbury Cathedral, where there are seven windows by Margaret Rope. and I will post a further piece about the imagery of Winifrede on the Saints in Wales project website.
I will be back in Shrewsbury, on the 17 November, if not before, to give a talk about David Evans, another important artist with Shrewsbury connections, for the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum. The exhibition continues until 15 January 2017.