stained glass

St John The Evangelist by Sasha Ward

Church from the south

Church from the south

This church, at a roundabout where six roads intersect, is a Newbury landmark. It was built of local Berkshire red brick in 1955-57 to replace one completely - and uniquely in the diocese - destroyed by enemy bombs in 1943. I particularly wanted to visit when I read that the stained glass windows were made of fragments of Victorian glass from bombed out churches, including the original St John’s. These windows provide a perfect link to the history of the church as well as being one of my favourite types of decorative stained glass - just look at that startled little face below surrounded by careful borders and gorgeous pieces of pattern.

Detail from a window high up in the east end of the church

Detail from a window high up in the east end of the church

East end with painted ceilings and suspended tester: West end with flat painted ceiling and organ

East end with painted ceilings and suspended tester: West end with flat painted ceiling and organ

Other distinctive features inside the building include the tester suspended over the altar (above left) and the flat painted ceilings with lights forming part of the pattern (above right) - what a joy! The side aisles show off brickwork skills in the vaulted arches, with a row of subtle patterned stained glass roundels in the same restricted colour palette (below).

Side aisle with brickwork arches and stained glass roundels

Side aisle with brickwork arches and stained glass roundels

High up windows, mostly red and blue, one with more yellow glass

High up windows, mostly red and blue, one with more yellow glass

All of the fragment windows are in the east end of the church and high above your head. They are attributed to the church’s architect Stephen Dykes-Bower and the stained glass designer A.E. Buss and were made by the firm of Goddard and Gibbs in Shoreditch. The combination of patterned borders and geometric medallion shapes with the scraps of faces, limbs, inscriptions, buildings and the like is expertly judged. I love the way that order has come from the chaos of the broken fragments, with colours grouped together to make a set of windows that are absolutely perfect for this amazing building.

Two of the three arched windows above the altar

Two of the three arched windows above the altar

Detail from the third window above the altar with expertly arranged fragments and faces.

Detail from the third window above the altar with expertly arranged fragments and faces.

2000 windows by Sasha Ward

On local church crawling trips (which I really prefer to do without a guidebook) you mainly see stained glass windows made either in the nineteenth century or the year 2000. On my last trip across the Wiltshire border and into Berkshire, there were two classic examples of these millenium windows.

Inside St Mary, Kintbury, millenium window by Di Gold to the left of the altar

Inside St Mary, Kintbury, millenium window by Di Gold to the left of the altar

The first is in St Mary Kintbury, a church that is clean and bright and was open on both my visits. The millenium window (above), by an artist I don’t know, is tucked to the left of the altar and partly obscured by something directly behind it in the churchyard. In terms of stained glass, I would call its style naive, with thin paintwork and deliberately wobbly lead lines. You can see what I mean when you compare the figure in it of The Good Woman to the figure of St Peter in a truly accomplished window in the same church by Heaton, Butler & Bayne (below).

(Amusing) comparison of St Peter (H,B&B 1862) & The Good Woman (2000)

(Amusing) comparison of St Peter (H,B&B 1862) & The Good Woman (2000)

In the church are three windows by H,B&B, this one to the right of the entrance door is my favourite. The colour is luminous even through the extensive paintwork, with lovely detail in the sky, water and clothes - there are even drops and stains from the water on St Peter’s robes (click on image below to enlarge).

St Mary, Kintbury with window showing Jesus walking on the water by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (1862)

Inside St Mary’s Hamstead Marshall. Window by Mark Angus (2000) in the nave to the left of the altar.

Inside St Mary’s Hamstead Marshall. Window by Mark Angus (2000) in the nave to the left of the altar.

The second church is in a beautiful spot outside the village of Hamstead Marshall and open on two out of three recent visits. It’s a simple, lovely brick building with a shock of a millenium window at the east end of the nave. This one, again partly obscured by stuff growing outside, is by the instantly identifiable artist Mark Angus. All of the glass is bright, the colour combination is similar to the bottom of my favourite H,B&B window (see below) but unrelieved by any neutral or pale colours. There is some painting and also some screen printing in his literal depiction of the pair of columns that are in the field next to the church.

Left, screen printed detail on column by Mark Angus (what looks white in the photo is really bright yellow). Right, the robes of Jesus by H,B&B.

Left, screen printed detail on column by Mark Angus (what looks white in the photo is really bright yellow). Right, the robes of Jesus by H,B&B.

In the Mark Angus window a bright red X literally marks the spot where Hamstead Marshall sits on a map of the local area. I would call the style of this millenium window typical of the late twentieth century, with disconnected angular lead lines, graphic details and emphatic geometry. Although shocking and incongruous in the church’s interior, I don’t want to be too hard on the composition which is at least bold and may, of course, come back into fashion.

Left, one of several pairs of columns in the adjacent field. Right, another literal Mark Angus detail.

Left, one of several pairs of columns in the adjacent field. Right, another literal Mark Angus detail.

The Appreciation of Stained Glass by Sasha Ward

dorset.jpg

On a beautiful day in Dorset, here I am in front of a cricket pitch on my way into Milton Abbey to appreciate some stained glass. Once inside, the abbey opens into a magnificent tall transept. On the north side is a monument to the Damers underneath a heraldic window bordered by roses and on the south side a huge tree of Jesse window designed by AWN Pugin and made by Hardmans, in typically vivid colours.

Left, south transept window above monument to Joseph & Caroline Damer. Right, Tree of Jesse window by Pugin, 1847.

Left, south transept window above monument to Joseph & Caroline Damer. Right, Tree of Jesse window by Pugin, 1847.

However, I was not in Milton Abbas for the abbey but rather to see a Lawrence Lee window in St James Church in the famous landscaped village street. I’ve never knowingly seen a Lee window, but he wrote a book “The Appreciation of Stained Glass” which was one in the series on the appreciation of the arts published by the Oxford University Press. That was in 1977, the year that I went to the Central School of Art to do my Foundation Course and to learn how to make stained glass properly - in preparation I read Lee’s book thoroughly. Re reading it now I can see where I picked up many of my stained glass dos and don’ts based on the study of church windows - in particular lots of don’ts and harsh opinions on celebrated twentieth century windows.

Left, in front of the 1970 Lee window (I usually need a chair for taking photos). Right, the top of the window

Left, in front of the 1970 Lee window (I usually need a chair for taking photos). Right, the top of the window

I particularly like his chapter on (glass) painting which is one of the few to show an example of his own work, a distinctive head of St. Columba. Just from those few images I would have recognised these figures anywhere, and I’ve concluded that it’s his figures I particularly like, when usually it’s the figures in a window that I hate. These, St Catherine and the Virgin Mary shown below, remind me of inky black and white book illustration of the same period. Here is a passage from the painting chapter that is good to bear in mind when on these church visiting trips :

“The argument will always go on between those who make and those who talk about what is made - and it is very useful to both parties that it should be so. I believe, however, that in the context of this Appreciation of the Arts Series we ought to instruct ourselves to look, filtering out as far as possible any purely mental questions about dates, styles, authenticities and so on (all that is fun afterwards), so that appreciation becomes an impulsion of our physical self toward’s the artists work We must literally pick up from the very point at which the glass painter’s brush left the glass, seeing what he saw as he laid it aside for firing.”

Lawrence Lee details - left, St Catherine and right, The Virgin and child.

Lawrence Lee details - left, St Catherine and right, The Virgin and child.

Tom Denny window, St Mary, Tarrant Hinton 2000

Tom Denny window, St Mary, Tarrant Hinton 2000

Our route home went through Tarrant Hinton, so we made a stop to see a Tom Denny window. I have seen so much of his work recently that it’s beginning to grow on me - the leading patterns so particular that you can spot one in a church even when driving past. The presence of this small window, on a Dorset landscape theme, is huge with an overall golden glow. Here are some wise words from Denny:

“Colour is the most immediate thing about glass; most of your problems are solved if the colour is right for the place. Although I don’t aim to make glass look as if it were made hundreds of years ago, a happy by-product of the way I work - etching, plating and staining - not only enriches the surface, but creates a visual fragility equivalent to old glass.” From an interview with Tom Denny in Contemporary Stained Glass Artists by Kate Baden Fuller A & C Black 2006.

I forgot to take the outside of the Tarrant Hinton window, so I’ve shown one in Leicester (below) from inside and out. You can see the irregular look of the lead pattern, and also the way that he draws his figures (animals in the Dorset window) as if they are knitted in to the backgrounds. That part of his work hasn’t grown on me yet, perhaps it’s the hardest thing to do well.

One of two Tom Denny 2016 windows in Leicester Cathedral from the inside and the outside.

One of two Tom Denny 2016 windows in Leicester Cathedral from the inside and the outside.

From Glass to Needlework by Sasha Ward

Window of the risen Christ and detail showing the little gold head, John Hayward, 1968.

Window of the risen Christ and detail showing the little gold head, John Hayward, 1968.

There’s lots of good twentieth century stained glass in the Church of St Mary and St Bartholomew, Hampton in Arden in the West Midlands. The window shown here is by John Hayward - with the unmistakable figures in profile, some hidden in backgrounds made of crisscross lines on blocks of colour. As usual, I prefer the details and the minor characters, for example the little gold head under Christ’s arm, to the overall composition. But the window looks great in its setting (below) with a wonderful bit of coordinated interior decor (how un church like!) in the embroidered cushions on the long bench leading up to the window.

View of the church interior, looking east from the entrance door, showing long bench on the south wall.

View of the church interior, looking east from the entrance door, showing long bench on the south wall.

There is an impressive information booklet that goes with the needlework, such as you never get for a stained glass window. Not only subject matter - “it depicts the risen Christ, holding aloft the flag, with his angels going out to bring the light of the resurrection to the souls of the departed” - but also details on the design and manufacture, with acknowledgements not only to the donors but also to the frame maker, design tracer, upholsterer and suppliers of the materials (John Cordwell, Robin Watkin, Parkes of Earlsdon and stitches of Solihull). The village needlewomen tell us they made a panel each and the project lasted from 2002-5 (!!!). They write “We were once again privileged to have the inspiration of the Reverend John de Wit, our priest in charge 1994 - 2004, for the design. It was decided that this should link with the window and thus bring the while concept into the body of the church….. One of the challenges has been to maintain the continuity of the designs because they flow from one panel to another and this had to be so exact for the joining of the sections” The concept and the linear version of the design works really well, although inevitably the bench was covered with leaflets and boxes when I was there.

Glass angel by John Hayward, needlepoint angel by Janet Hardcastle

Glass angel by John Hayward, needlepoint angel by Janet Hardcastle

It is interesting to compare the stained glass angels to the needlepoint ones, the hand positions show you which is which. More from the booklet “The canvas on which we worked uses ten stitches to the inch, which made the depiction of the details very taxing. For instance, one stitch in the face of an angel can make a huge difference to the expression!”

Needlepoint angels by Marjorie Iles and Janet Griffiths

Needlepoint angels by Marjorie Iles and Janet Griffiths

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).