William Morris

Christ Church, Southgate N.14 by Sasha Ward

North Aisle, left to right: Liberalitas & Humanitas (1899), Prudentia & Justitia (1885), Temperentia & Caritas (1876), Spes & Fides (1876)

North Aisle, left to right: Liberalitas & Humanitas (1899), Prudentia & Justitia (1885), Temperentia & Caritas (1876), Spes & Fides (1876)

I’ve rediscovered my enthusiasm for the stained glass of Morris & Company after visiting Christ Church in Southgate, North London. The windows in this church cover every period of the firm’s production from 1861 until the twentieth century, with designs by William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb and Edward Burne-Jones. The photos I’d seen were mainly those rare early windows designed, made and painted by the partners in the original firm, in the Victorian Medieval style i.e small figures engulfed by patterned borders and backgrounds. But the ones I really liked are shown in the photo below. There are pairs of figures in all the windows of the north and south aisle, they look great from a distance because of this consistency of design and are full of amazing detail and colour. Burne-Jones designed all except the figure of St. Francis which is the latest and is by Henry Dearle (1911).

Left: Detail from Liberalitas. Right: The figure of Justitia

Left: Detail from Liberalitas. Right: The figure of Justitia

The eight figures in the north aisle are all fantastic examples of the firm’s stained glass style as it developed, with gorgeous patterned backgrounds and drapery in Liberalitas and Humilitas (above left) and the use of amazing coloured glass, particularly in Justitia (above right.)

The next two pairs of windows were made earlier, the figures of Temperentia and Caritas are flowing and curvy, with a pair of astonishing babies, shown below left. The earliest two, Spes and Fides are plainer, calmer and they let in a lot more light.

Left: Babies at the feet of Caritas. Right: The figure of Fides

Left: Babies at the feet of Caritas. Right: The figure of Fides

South Aisle, left to right: Patientia & Pax (1909), Martha & Phebe (1903), King David & St Francis (1911), St Peter & St Paul (1865).

The figures on the south side are all much darker, particularly the matching backgrounds. Below are details of two of the figures, with beautifully painted faces, hands and clothes. In the set of windows in this church the faces are all different and quite mesmerising. At the end of the row (above right) are earlier windows of Saints Peter and Paul with wildly patterned surrounds, they are figures familiar to me from other Morris & Co windows.

Left: The figure of Patientia. Right: The figure of Martha.

Left: The figure of Patientia. Right: The figure of Martha.

The other pair of windows that show the designs of EBJ at his flowing best are high up on the north wall of the chancel, apparently the first ones where he used photographic enlargement of drawings to prepare the stained glass cartoons. All in lovely light colours and with a great detail of a rip over the knee of the ragged girl (below right) visible even from a distance.

North chancel: Left, Dorcas. Right, The Good Samaritan (1876).

North chancel: Left, Dorcas. Right, The Good Samaritan (1876).

Some of the Best Stained Glass Sites in London by Sasha Ward

I followed part of the map of the West End in Caroline Swash's recent guide book one morning last week and saw a variety of stained glass sites that were new to me. Three churches, glass panels on the street and one hotel that wouldn't let us in because of a function. It was a great way to spend the morning and good to recognise some of my favourite themes in the work we saw .                                    

Here's how to buy the book

 

Inside All Saints, 7 Margaret Street W1W 8JG: East and West ends of the church

All Saints Church, Margaret Street is a richly ornamented brick church by William Butterfield, built and decorated from 1850 until his death in 1900. Particularly good is the combination of different types of lavish decoration - mosaic inlay, painted ceiling and wall panels, tile panels and stained glass windows - working together to create a wonderful interior that has been recently restored. 

One reason why these elements work so well together is that the figures on the walls and windows are all the same size, scale and style. Both the tile panels and the figurative windows are the work of Alexander Gibbs following Butterfield's designs (for the tiles) and specific instructions (for the glass).

Tile panel opposite window of the Archangels (click on images to enlarge)

Favourite themes emerged during this visit to the first church: model building carried by St. Peter in the tile panel above, and in the stained glass, geometric architectural detail - like building blocks - above the figures.  See details from the window of Saints Katherine and Alban below.

Stained glass in All Saints by Alexander Gibbs 1870s

Stained glass in All Saints by Alexander Gibbs 1870s

The second church, St. Peter's Vere Street, is used as offices for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It took a while to get into the building and then we were only allowed to view the window above the alter. All the other Burne-Jones/Morris windows are partly visible through secondary glazing with badly placed bars, office partitions, furniture and people at work (meaning no access). However, the Burne-Jones angels are beautifull in their pink robes, surrounded by a William Morris vine repeat pattern with tendrils and shaded leaves, a variation that I haven't seen before on another of my favourite themes.

Details from window above the alter in St. Peter's Vere Street, designed by Burne Jones, Morris & Co. 1880

Then on to the street to see exterior glass panels, canopies and screens in new buildings, with whole blocks being rebuilt or refurbished. Alexander Beleschenko's panels in Princes Street (below left) were made in 2004, the workmen were there for another block going up next door. On the CBRE office building on the corner of Henrietta Place and Wimple Street (below right) there is a frieze of model buildings between the first floor windows, a great subject for a decorative scheme in this crowded part of town.

Rushing now to get in and out before a service began, the last church was St. George's Hanover Square, notable for its 16th century Flemish stained glass that was remodelled to fit the windows here by Thomas Willement in the 1840s. However the glass that interested me, the walled city in brown & yellow (two favourite themes in one) is in the side chapel. In her book, Caroline Swash tells you its history and the reason why it looks so new - this is the kind of information I like and so rarely get! 

"In 1926 Sir Arthur's son Reginald Bloomfield made further alterations, adding a side chapel with glass by F.C. Eden. During the Second World War, this was blown out in the bombing of London and later replaced by a copy taken from Eden's original design."

Circular yellow by Sasha Ward

Circular Yellow                                                                  Detail of window in the Morris Room (tearoom), V&A Museum

Circular Yellow                                                                  Detail of window in the Morris Room (tearoom), V&A Museum

"Circular Yellow", as I call it, is the type of ex-front door textured glass that I have hanging around in the studio waiting to be used. I have more often seen it installed in mid twentieth century churches, imparting a machine made and frankly repellent yellow glare. I think of it as the poor relation to crown glass windows, or the circular backgrounds that William Morris and Philip Webb made for the firm's stained glass windows. 

Yellow - or "gold" to make it sound more attractive - can really overpower the other transparent colours. In the most lovely crown glass windows, my favourites are in the Doge's Palace, Venice, rows of pale pastel glass circles convince you they are in the most perfect windows anywhere. 

Inside the Doge's Palce, Venice                                                                         Chapel window, Gualdo Tadino, Umbria

Inside the Doge's Palce, Venice                                                                         Chapel window, Gualdo Tadino, Umbria

However, in Umbria recently, I found three good examples of "Circular Yellow". The first, a chapel window (above right): in combination with other machine textured glass the circles looked good. The second, a view through a connecting bridge (below left): higgledy-piggledy with the direction of the circles but a good yellow/pink combination going on. The third in the huge basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli (beneath Assisi): I was shocked to see lowly "Circular Yellow" in such a lavish interior! However one side chapel (below right) was decorated with all kinds of golds and yellows, the strong glow from the semi circular yellow roof light above was really effective even on a dull day.

Gualdo Tanino                                                                                                   Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli                                                                                                

The Four Marys by Sasha Ward

The Mary Window, St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough 1868

The Mary Window, St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough 1868

I have seen three Morris & Co. windows recently that use the same Burne-Jones cartoon for the figure of the Virgin Mary, in the centre above, and I've written about two other versions, below, in previous posts. This post is called "The Four Marys" in honour of the strip cartoon from "Bunty" magazine and for the other Marys alongside the Virgin Mary:  Mary of Bethany at Scarborough, Mary of Cleopas at Sopworth and Mary Magdalene in both churches. However, I find that I am not particularly interested in the iconography, or the stories that the guidebooks to the churches tell about the artists, possible models and local patrons involved. What I look at is the way that the figures have been inserted into the window shapes and how they contrast with the backgrounds used in each case: richly coloured and geometric at Scarborough, small figures in quite a basic scheme at Beaudesert, popping out of the lancets but with a more sophisticated organisation of the background at Sopworth.

The Mary Window, Sopworth, Wiltshire 1873                                                                  Saints Mary and Michael, Beaudesert 1865

The Mary Window, Sopworth, Wiltshire 1873                                                                  Saints Mary and Michael, Beaudesert 1865

Below, in ascending order of preference, are three shuffled Virgin Marys. What a difference the colour contrasts and patterns used for furnishings and fabrics make to the very same figure whose clothes and lily can be made to join perfectly. The dark iron oxide paint on the later version has lasted much better than the paint recipe that the firm used in its early years.

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.