Familiar Figures / by Sasha Ward

West window, St. Helen's Church, Welton with Melton, Yorkshire. EBJ                   Malmesbury Abbey, 1901          Click to enlarge

Visiting churches with windows made by the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, and after 1874 by Morris & Company, throws up familiar figures. In St Helen's Church, Welton (about ten miles west of Hull) there are five Morris & Co. windows with figures mostly designed by Edward Burne-Jones who had a local family connection. The large west window has beautiful roundels above and King Ethelbert on the right who I immediately recognised from a recent trip to Malmesbury Abbey , initially by his magnificent leggings.

The St. Nicholas at Welton (below centre) was familiar to me from his facial features: when you look at the earlier window at Beaudesert you see a different portrait of the same figure. I find the background details particularly interesting - ways of depicting underfoot plants, borders and backgrounds. I love the illusionistic dark blue curtains on poles behind the Welton figures - this photo of Mary comes with a real decaying tassel and cobweb in front of the window. 

The Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas from Welton Church, EBJ  : An earlier version of St. Nicholas from Beaudesert

Saints Ursula & Catherine from Welton Church, EBJ & WM                                                       The St. Catherine at Kelmscott Manor

Saints Ursula & Catherine from Welton Church, EBJ & WM                                                       The St. Catherine at Kelmscott Manor

In the same church I stood enthralled in front of St. Catherine, thinking how great the combination of book, sword and beautiful green dress was. Nothing interesting in the background to distract you here. The fun part of window spotting is remembering where you've seen someone before, and this St. Catherine is also on an embroidered brown velvet curtain at Kelmscott Manor, it is one of my favourite items there. I checked by putting the embroidered face on top of the stained glass one that the details are no different, only the size and the colour. Although I am reluctant to believe the guides, all the ones I have consulted attribute this figure to William Morris who supposedly couldn't do people.