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For 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 The window is dated 1920, before the chapel was built, as it was originally made for St Non’s House, while the name of the maker, ‘William Morris Westminster’, is not the William Morris known to most as the celebrated Victorian poet, artist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.
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.
During the course of browsing through diocesan archives at the National Library of Wales some years ago, I noticed an abrupt change of policy in the commissioning of stained glass in the Diocese of Llandaff in the late 1950s. The change was from the endorsement of quite conservative design, and the avoidance of additional background detail and ornament, to a much more colourful and modern approach to stained glass design. There was also a concerted encouragement to commission stained glass by Welsh artists, which chiefly benefited the firm of Celtic Studios, in Swansea, and John Petts.
I noted this in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (p. 268–9), and expanded upon it in a lecture given in Cambridge in 2016. This has now been published in my first article for the Journal of Stained Glass (vol. 42, 2018), and illustrates windows that I would have liked to have included in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches but didn’t have the space for.
One of the striking things about the distribution of stained glass by Celtic Studios is that, although their windows are found widely across the whole of south Wales, few were commissioned for churches in Cardiff. I pointed this out in a footnote to Stained Glass from Welsh Churches on p. 248, noting that windows by the firm in Cardiff were limited to two Anglican churches, a Presbyterian church and a synagogue. As a result of some recent fieldwork, one of these Anglican churches can be crossed off the list. A ‘major early window’ of theirs is mentioned by John Newman in the Pevsner (The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan, 1995, p. 313) at St Mary’s, Whitchurch, and although it is not listed in the appendix of Maurice Broady’s study of the firm (A Vision Fulfilled, 2010), I did not question Newman’s reference as the window was described as ‘signed and dated 1948’.
I recently arranged to visit St Mary’s, which is usually locked, and discovered that this impressive window is in fact signed and dated, but by Powell’s of Whitefriars, and not by Celtic Studios at all.
Reflecting on this, and looking again at post-war commissions for stained glass in and around Cardiff, I feel that perhaps I should have given a little more weight to the number of these commissions that went to Powell’s in the 1940s and 50s, which included the replacement east window for St Margaret’s, Roath (Cardiff), a major work alongside that at Whitchurch and others. These are enumerated in Dennis Hadley’s list of works by Powell’s, compiled from their archives at the V&A in London. But, strangely, the west window at Whitchurch is not among them, although two earlier windows by them at the church are listed.
The most recent issue of the Journal of Stained Glass (vol. 41, 2017, published 2018) was a special issue dedicated to the work and archives of the Glass House in Fulham, which was the hub of Arts and Crafts stained glass in London in the first half of the twentieth century. Primarily the work of Alan Brooks and Peter Cormack, the volume includes a transcription of their business archives and brief biographies of artists whose windows were made at the Glass House.
There is much to learn from this fascinating material and the accompanying essays, and I looked through the listings to see what might illuminate my research on stained glass in Wales. One entry that stood out was a window by Patience Hallward at the little church at Arthog, near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, and as I was giving a talk on the stained glass of Dolgellau and the surrounding area, I arranged to visit the church. The window was one of two stained glass windows at the church dated, but unattributed, in The Buildings of Wales: Gwynedd (2009).
Arts and Crafts stained glass is often associated with colourful and emotive original artistry and imagery, but the business archives are a reminder that the practicalities of earning a living as a stained glass artist can be rather more mundane. Among the listings for the one of the foremost artists of the medium, Margaret Chilton, are entries for the Marble Hall in City Hall, Cardiff, and the plain glazing of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Ewloe, which were commissions for restorations and repairs, and not original works. The window by Patience Hallward at Arthog is a relatively simple memorial window, with the dedication at the centre of the design. It is beautifully executed, with flowers and sheaves of wheat for decoration, and the lovely textured quality to the glass is typical of an interest in materials that characterised the Art and Crafts Movement. The artist had moved to Arthog with her father, Reginald Hallward, who was also an artist and also designed stained glass, so she would have been a local artist to the church in 1952 when the window was made.
The east window at Arthog is also quite unusual. The three-light window depicts the Annunciation to the Shepherds, but the scene is executed in white glass, with a single piece of pale blue glass used in the lower part of the scene to the left. The detail is provided by paint and silver stain, but the effect is rather monochrome. It reminded me of a series of monochrome windows that I came across relatively recently at Halkyn in Flintshire, which were so unusual that I was sorry to have found them too late to include in my Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (2014). These were listed by Malcolm Seaborne in his survey of Victorian and later stained glass in Flintshire and attributed to Heaton, Butler & Bayne, part of a complete glazing scheme provided for the Church of St Mary, Halkyn, in 1878.
On first sight, the east window at Arthog was also reminiscent of the work of the same firm, and I subsequently compared my photographs of the window with those at Halkyn. Not only was there a discernable similarity of style, but I discovered that the same cartoon had been used at both churches. What was different about the two versions was that the scene at Halkyn is entirely monochrome, with no silver stain. This is something that I have not seen in nineteenth-century stained glass anywhere else, although I am sure other similar windows will have been made elsewhere.
I could not easily measure the width of the panels at Arthog, but it looks as though they were slightly narrower than those at Halkyn, judging by the central panel depicting the two angels. At Halkyn, the arm of the left-hand angel is raised at the edge of the panel, but at Arthog there is not sufficient room, and a hand is folded in from the left. This panel also omits the narrow border found on the right and at either side of both of the flanking panels, to accommodate both hands of the other angel, and the complete halo of the left-hand angel.
This could suggest that the design at Halkyn might have been the original and the window at Arthog a reuse of the cartoon. Seaborne confidently dates the Halkyn glass to November 1878 from a newspaper report, while the Arthog window is of uncertain date, but probably early 1877 or later. It could have been made after the version at Halkyn, or the design might have predated both commissions, and adapted for use at both churches. It would be interesting to see whether the design was used for a coloured stained glass window, or whether it was reserved for largely or wholly monochrome windows as found at these churches.
I started this blog four and a half years after publishing Stained Glass from Welsh Churches in summer 2014. The book has now won a prize! It has been awarded the Mrs Foster Watson Memorial Gift, which is awarded every five years to a member of staff of Aberystwyth University for published work that combines scholarship with general interest.
The assessors commented: ‘It is a substantial work of pioneering scholarship, spanning the centuries. At the same time it explains the development of this specialist art-form and craft in terms that the wider audience of cultured readers will understand. It thus fits perfectly the criteria set for the competition and fully deserves the award’.
The news arrived a couple of weeks ago, while I was working with the publishers, Y Lolfa, on an application to the Welsh Books Council to help with publishing a book on the imagery of Welsh saints in Welsh churches. The award was formally recognised at a drinks reception held at Old College, Aberystwyth, 17 December 2018.
Early stained glass is quite rare in south Wales, particularly in comparison with north Wales, and much of the most notable early stained glass in the region comes from overseas. It was with some surprise that, on a recent visit to a number of churches in Monmouthshire, I came across some sixteenth-century heraldic stained glass that I have not seen noted anywhere before.
I arranged to visit the church to see its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century stained glass, but was intrigued by some coloured and painted glass that I found in the chancel windows. The two two-light windows both had roundels containing complete or partial coats of arms, with coloured and stained fragments around the borders. The window on the north side also had an inscription along the bottom, and although most of the paint has been lost, the ‘ghost’ of the letters was faintly visible.
Sometimes early and mid-nineteenth-century stained glass can appear very faded as the paint sometimes deteriorates, and at the time, since I was not expecting anything so old, I wondered whether this was badly-fired nineteenth-century work. But the more I looked, I thought that there must be a good chance that this stained glass was indeed a few hundred years old, particularly given the way in which small parts of glass were leaded together in a rather irregular way. Nonetheless, the fact that I had not seen anything published about this glass weighed against such an assumption. It was not mentioned in John Newman’s ‘Pevsner’ for Gwent/Monmouthshire, and it is not included in Andrew Renton’s survey of pre-1700 stained glass in south Wales, published in Vidimus in 2009, although there are a few other omissions from this list that I have come across. Nothing about them was included in the notes on the building available at the church.
On returning home I checked the Pevsner once again and found the CADW Full Report for Listed Buildings, neither of which mentioned any early stained glass at the church. I then had a look at Joseph Bradney’s multi-volume History of Monmouthshire, to see if it might help with the heraldry found in the windows. In the past I have found this work particularly unhelpful for researching stained glass, but in this instance he does mention some stained glass that was formerly at the church, lamenting that it had only very recently been removed from the church (the book, his first volume, was published in 1904).
He describes the windows in heraldic terms, and it took me a little while to decipher the descriptions (e.g. Argent, a chevron sable between three ravens proper and Argent, a cross moline quarter pierced sable; Sable, a fosse between three escallops or, a crescent for difference), but the four descriptions match what is currently at the church very closely, suggesting that what was taken out in around 1903 has since been carefully restored. The glass was formerly in a three-light window, with a fourth heraldic roundel in a south chancel window, and it must be that the commissioning of the present east window (by Ninian Comper) displaced this pre-Reformation stained glass, which had no doubt hitherto been in its original position. At some unknown date, and possibly quite soon after the new east window was placed there in 1903, the glass was obviously carefully restored to the church: the three roundels from the east window joined by the one Bradney recorded in the south chancel window (but now in the north) in the north and south windows of the chancel.
As well as identifying one of the arms as those of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Charles Herbert, Bradney also transcribes an inscription, which asks for prayers in favour of Sir Charles Herbert and his wife Elizabeth ‘qui hanc fenestram vitriari fecerunt’ (who caused this window to be glazed). I have not yet discovered the date of their marriage, which would give us an earliest date for the window, but Charles Herbert of Troy (1500–57) would have been unlikely to have placed the window much before 1520. The donor suffered a decline in fortunes in the later years of his life, and also remarried, so Bradney’s suggested date of about 1540 seems about right.
The displeasure of an historian such as Joseph Bradney in learning of the recent loss of the windows is not unexpected. Nonetheless, these rather dilapidated reminders of sixteenth-century gentry patronage had probably outlasted their welcome for the congregation, who probably preferred the new modern pictorial window. At least Bradney’s worst fears turned out to be unfounded, and this important historical stained glass has continued to survive more than a hundred years since he pronounced it lost.
I have been writing a booklet about the stained glass at the Church of St Peter in Carmarthen, which is being published this month. The opportunity to write this short study raised a couple of intriguing questions regarding the attribution of two of the windows in the church.
The window on the north side of the nave, depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, had been attributed to the London firm Heaton, Butler & Bayne, but this did not appear to be correct according to what I have seen of their work around this date (1870). In considering other possibile makers of the window, I thought about Joseph Bell of Bristol. This long-lived firm made two windows in the south aisle of the same church, and one at the east end of this aisle, an area formerly used as a consistory court. This big east window was signed by Bell (1864), and the ones on the south side were either attributable to Bell from newspaper reports, or by clear stylistic parallels.
Although the style of the 1870 window is quite different from these earlier works, there were nonetheless parallels with the east window of Trinity College Chapel, Carmarthen, made by Joseph Bell in 1873. In both windows there are some similarities in the poses, lettering, the red halo used for Christ, and they have a darker, richer, palette. The contrast to the brighter colours and Neo-classical style of drawing found in the windows by Bell of the 1860s is nevertheless quite marked, and shows how a window could be very different from another made only six years earlier by the same studio.
A further window at the church posed a more difficult problem. The window is situated between the Crucifixion and Resurrection window and a First World War memorial, which I had been able to attribute to Percy Bacon Brothers from the British Society of Master Glass Painters list of 1930, a detail of which was used in Stained Glass from Welsh Churches (2014). The main scene in the window, depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd with St Peter, looked markedly different from other windows that I have come across from this period, although the Gothic framing around it was very conventional. But I could not find anything else that seemed to match the style and identify the maker.
Finally, I came across a newspaper report of the unveiling service which contained the information that I had sought, which came with a surprise: ‘The design which is in beautiful stained glass represents the Good Shepherd and also St. Peter with the Keys. A suitable inscription on a brass plate at the foot, completes the memorial, which was carried out by Mr W. B. Simpson, of Martin’s Lane, London’ (The Carmarthen Weekly Reporter, 2 October 1903, 4).
At first I thought that this firm had only made the brass plate, but after reading it again it seemed likely that Simpson’s had made the plate and the window. However, I had not heard of the firm before, certainly not as makers of stained glass, so, having found a name, it was an unexpected one. Some further research revealed that they did indeed have a stained glass studio at St Martin’s Lane in London, and also that the artist Lewis Foreman Day had quite a long association with the firm, designing for their products in various media. Whether he was the designer, or how typical the window is of their output, has been impossible to easily assess, as I have yet to find any other images of their stained glass.
The firm was apparently better known as producers of ceramic tiles, making many thousands of them for public buildings such as hospitals and theatres in the late nineteenth century, as well as the London Underground. I also found that I had come across their tiles already in Wales, as Simpson’s firm was responsible for tiles at St Asaph Cathedral, and made the pictorial tiled scheme designed by Horatio Walter Lonsdale depicting scenes from the First Book of Kings for the roof garden of the Bute Tower of Cardiff Castle.
The Stained Glass of the Church of St Peter, Carmarthen, is now available from Sulien Books.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.