I wandered into these two Shrewsbury churches, St. Alkmund's and St. Chad's, by chance. I found two amazing interiors featuring huge and distinctive stained glass windows with the sort of painted detail - soft clouds and hills and panoramas - that has always inspired my own work.
St. Alkmund's has windows of plain glass in wonderful leaded patterns and an enamelled window behind the altar. It was painted by Francis Eginton of Birmingham in 1795 and recently restored. It is based on a painting, The Assumption of the Virgin by Guido Reni, but the landscape and background to the figure are the interesting part and quite different from Reni's painting. Through fabulous purple and yellow smoky clouds you can make out details of scenery, layers of depth and intricate detail.
More than half of the window is sky, the translucent billowing clouds achieved by painting and firing vitreous enamel on layers of glass that are framed in a cast iron gilded grid. The grid seems to work particularly well with the top section where the clouds make a pattern, or an abstract composition.
St. Chad's is the only grade 1 listed circular Georgian church in England, the interior is lofty and decorative. There are many patterned windows, but also a series from the 1840s by a Shrewsbury stained glass artist, David Evans. His windows include one behind the altar that is also based on a painting, Ruben's The Descent From The Cross. Here it was a dazzling little vignette at bottom left that caught my eye. The shape of the hole, the bright light it transmits and the hardly visible painted details seem to me a great use of the medium - again the glass is cut in a rectangular grid. As a contrast, look at the cloud detail above it, a lead line delineating its edge - could anything be less cloud like?
In one of the soft, panoramic landscapes that I particularly like, lead lines also do a bad job around the edge of a hillside (below right). From the same window comes an example where the lead lines are either hidden in the painting or part of an unobtrusive grid, techniques that will be familiar to people taught traditional stained glass. It shows two figures and a tree in front of a blue hole that creates another little eye-catching vignette.