Ford Madox Brown

The Return of Some Favourite Themes by Sasha Ward

The Great Hall, Manchester Town Hall - between weddings - with 4 of 12 murals painted by Ford Madox Brown between 1879 & 1893. Click on all images to enlarge.

Since I discovered that I have in my bedroom a chair "possibly designed by FMB", see previous blog entry, I have been very keen on Ford Madox Brown. On my recent trip to Manchester I managed - between weddings - to get in to the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall to see the murals that he painted there towards the end of his life. However, as I approached the hall via one of the magnificent staircases, I was so absorbed by others aspects of the building's interior decoration that I couldn't concentrate on the paintings.

Great Hall Foyer, photo by Michael D. Beckwith.  Block of 6 stained glass panels. 

The first thing was the roof, simply glazed to my great delight with "brown and yellow windows", see another previous blog entry, of my favourite type, with no lead just brown paint and silver stain. The inscription on the glass reads "THE MAYORS MANCHESTER FROM THE YEAR OF INCORPORATION TO THE OPENING OF THE BUILDING " with names and dates from 1838 to 2003, well after the opening of the building. The lettering changes over the years but the cotton plant does not.

Staircase windows

Then there are the windows. They admit a beautiful quality of light to the interior of the building, including the Great Hall itself, where there is a complete set of delicately coloured stained glass windows. Here I found a favourite motif, see yet another previous blog entry, the wonderfully decorative horse chestnut leaf.

Details from the 3 window types in The Great Hall (in my order of preference).

Wandering around the corridors and into the public rooms on the first floor I came across mosaic floors, painted walls, textiles, carvings and patterned ceilings. The work was carried out by at least three different firms but all, including the lettering, said to have been designed by the architect of The Town Hall, Alfred Waterhouse.

In the south vestibule, horse chestnut motif around the door frame and original patterned ceiling.

A WM Wiltshire Stained Glass Tour by Sasha Ward

Map of North Wiltshire showing the location of the three churches - it's about seven miles between Sopworth and the other two.

Map of North Wiltshire showing the location of the three churches - it's about seven miles between Sopworth and the other two.

We started at St Mary's Sopworth, where a low, south facing three light window shows Mary Magdalene, The Virgin Mary and Mary of Cleopas. I had never seen a reproduction of this window and was amazed at how beautiful it looked, with lovely colour, detail and organisation of the background space. The figures were originally designed for Bradford Cathedral, the central Mary by Edward Burne-Jones, the outer two by William Morris. The Mary of Cleopas panel is simple and stunning - I've always heard that Morris couldn't do figures, perhaps it's the skilled glass painter's work that I admire the most.

Window in St. Mary's Church, Sopworth and detail of the right hand panel. EBJ & WM 1873. Click to enlarge.

Next we went to Malmesbury Abbey to see a much later Edward Burne-Jones window. These figures I did recognise from their appearance in earlier windows made by the firm of Morris and Company, where Faith was originally St. George, Courage originally King Ethelbert of Kent and Devotion a centurion. The backgrounds and foliage are also quite standard, but fit well with the lofty space of the Abbey. Painted details, especially on the clothes, are as usual fantastic.

The Luce Window, Malmesbury Abbey. Made by Morris & Company in 1901 to designs by EBJ. Click to enlarge.

Three miles south of Malmesbury is Holy Rood Church, Rodbourne, with some small windows made in the early years of the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company. The designs are by Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti; there is also a pelican roundel by Philip Webb in another small window. I love Rossetti's angel and the crucifixion with red background above it. These must have been painted in the period when the firm's paint recipe contained unstable elements because much of the lettering and detail has come off. Strangely the paintwork on the pelican roundel is still perfect, lovingly painted too.

Holy Rood, Rodbourne. Left: The Fall by FMB. Above: Annunciation by DGR.  Pelican roundel by Philip Webb. Click to enlarge.

Eaton Hastings by Sasha Ward

WM commented on the church of St. Michael and All Angels at Eaton Hastings as being a companion in size and layout to those at Buscot and Kelmscott. Looking across the river from Kelmscott Manor, you can see the clump of trees surrounding the church, but it's a winding walk away because of the bridges over the Thames.

Inside are interesting windows, and a tasteful interior as the cushions and kneelers are in the same jade green as the glass borders. I like the white/green and green/white reversal in the first two windows above, and I love the little piece of C18th painted glass above right.

Below are the windows from Morris & Co in the church. Left to right; Christ from a design by EBJ (1877), St. Matthew from a design by EBJ (1872-4), St. Michael by FMB surrounded by angels and Saints Raphael and Gabriel designed by WM but not made until 1935.


Chair, possibly by FMB by Sasha Ward

In Jane's bedroom, The Garden Hall, my bedroom

In Jane's bedroom, The Garden Hall, my bedroom

I recognized the chairs as soon as I saw them in Kelmscott Manor as I have one in my bedroom at home. I had no idea it was a Morris & Co. chair possibly designed by Ford Madox Brown. When I looked through my old school sketchbook trying to find something last week, I came across this drawing of the very same chair. It was drawn in my family's sitting room that was papered with WM Marigold wallpaper in olive green (not included in the drawing!).

From my school sketchbook, 1977

From my school sketchbook, 1977