New Favourite Detail / by Sasha Ward

Carvings around the doors of St Mary, Chilton Foliat

The new favourite detail is from St. Mary, Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire where there was an open door (what a great latch) and smiles on the faces of the carved figures around it. Opposite the south door, in a two light stained glass window made by James Powell & Sons in 1931, is the lovely little interior scene below, showing the young Mary with her mother Saint Anne.

 Lower right hand panel from James Powell & Sons 1931 window

Lower right hand panel from James Powell & Sons 1931 window

The figures are engaging and have just the right amount of illustrative simplicity,  they are set off by a background, with two sizes of chair and a traditional flooring pattern, that is similarly clean and crisp. I kept returning to this window without really knowing why I liked it - it's not my usual type of thing! In this church there are various styles of stained glass in smallish windows and these provide interesting comparisons.

 Vision of St. Hubert by John Hayward 1966

Vision of St. Hubert by John Hayward 1966

First there is this John Hayward window from the 1960s, full of wonderful details but, as usual, so messy in its composition. I love the background figures and the shapes on the ground, the feet of St. Hubert and the stag are shown above covered in subtle layers of paint and sgraffito lines. I have always found this painting style depressing, it amounts to covering beautiful transparent coloured glass with a grey film and then scratching it off to let tiny bits of light through - the opposite of crisp and simple lines.

 St Cecilia, designed by A.E. Buss, made by Goddard & Gibbs in 1976

St Cecilia, designed by A.E. Buss, made by Goddard & Gibbs in 1976

I have included this little St Cecilia window for nostalgic reasons as she looks so 1970s which is when I started making stained glass. But I also find her a bit sentimental - like the little landscape beside her. I hope that's the cottage that Fred, Nellie, Lionel & Elsie lived in, I like the confident way the scene is painted, going across the coloured borders of the glass.

 Blessed Virgin Mary & Baby Jesus by Bell & Beckham 1872

Blessed Virgin Mary & Baby Jesus by Bell & Beckham 1872

We looked at this window for a long time, there's a lot to enjoy in the beautiful rich colours and the ornate pattern making. The inscription below, the canopy above, the background and border patterns all work well together. But the figures with their fixed expressions don't have the charm of those in my new favourite detail.

 Window by Thomas Willement 1844, with memorial to Francis Hugh Leyborne Popham, aged 5 months

Window by Thomas Willement 1844, with memorial to Francis Hugh Leyborne Popham, aged 5 months

Two pairs of windows are made of translucent glass with stencilled oak tree details and red borders, two others have the same vibrant red background and a pattern of vines. Here are two good examples of patterned botanical windows. When seen together, they really enhance the space and provide a wonderful backdrop to the memorials in the church. But it's harder to do a good stained glass window with figurative subject matter as the other windows by Thomas Willement in this church - too ghastly even to photograph - demonstrate.

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 St Luke & BVM in St Michael, Shalbourne 1995

St Luke & BVM in St Michael, Shalbourne 1995

On the way home we stopped at Shalbourne to see this window made in 1995 by Hanry Haig to Karl Parson's design. I knew I wasn't going to like it as I'd seen illustrations of the really floppy and weak-featured BVM in my guide book. It provides more food for thought - how difficult it is to get the figures right. As you would expect from these two artists there are some fabulous details in the painting, texture and use of subtle glass, and the way the emblems (St Luke's bull shown above) fit in to the overall composition.