Harry Stammers, Lady Chapel / by Sasha Ward

 On entering St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol                                              Bursting into prayer inside The Lady Chapel

On entering St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol                                              Bursting into prayer inside The Lady Chapel

If you need your faith in twentieth century stained glass restored, go and see Harry Stammers' windows for The Lady Chapel in St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. Even on entering the church the colour is overpowering, the windows are amazing from a distance and so amazing when you are in the chapel that people were bursting into prayer in front of them. I have included a photo of every window here, but still they do not convey how well the stained glass, rich and beautiful both in overall design and in the detailed painting, works in its setting. There is a complete set of five large windows made from 1960-65, the colours becoming stronger from the front to the back (east) wall, where the central nativity window is filled with colour and detail arranged in a satisfying pattern of blocks and columns.

 Nativity window

Nativity window

 Angels at the top of the nativity window

Angels at the top of the nativity window

After much reflection, I chose the red and yellow angels (above) as my favourite part of the scheme: it's the part that sings out from a distance and is full of the silverstain/red flashed glass pattern-making that is a distinguishing characteristic of the work of  Harry Stammers (see Jane Brocket's blog on the subject here).

Other sections that fascinated me were Mary lying on straw (below) painted in exactly the way that I show grass and straw in my coloured glass, and the three blue columns that turn into figures when you look at them closely (below right).

 Details from the centre and the bottom right of the nativity window

Details from the centre and the bottom right of the nativity window

 Windows 2 & 4 (either side of the nativity window)

Windows 2 & 4 (either side of the nativity window)

The other four windows contain large amounts of clear glass, something that I hold against a lot of mid twentieth century stained glass, especially in churches where these types of windows are contrasted with older, less transparent ones. However, here the white and tinted glass sections are not cut into diamond-shaped quarries only, there are some beautifully designed passages where the diamonds change into irregular shapes as they border the blocks of colour.

 South facing window & detail from it

South facing window & detail from it

 North facing window from inside and outside

North facing window from inside and outside

The high ratio of transparent glass, coupled with the crisp linear painting style, also allows some of the images to be read from the outside, at least on the north side where the light shines right through the chapel.

The whole series of windows shows the life of Mary alongside other female saints, figures from familiar bible stories and groups of people dressed in the clothes of the 1950s and 60s. But I find, as usual, that I am more interested in the abstract/pattern-making qualities that you can find in every panel - like the towers of diamonds pointing to the fabulous jade green triangle (below left). Right at the bottom is a section full of shapes covered in a network of lines and brush marks, so that each piece of blue glass is like a beautiful miniature painting.