A Recreated Medieval Cartoon


St Michael Weighing Souls, Thornhill

Fig. 6. St Michael Weighing Souls, Thornhill

An exciting exhibition of new designs in stained glass scheduled for 22nd September – 31st December will feature a recreated cartoon by the well-known glass painter, Jonathan Cooke, of a panel from the Savile Chapel east window (nII, 2-3b), at the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Thornhill, West Yorkshire.  It shows St Michael weighing souls, and the entry of the Blessed into the Heavenly City [Figs 6, 7 and 8]. 

The severely degraded interior surface of the white glasses of the east window has been the subject of presentations at the History and Heritage Group of the Society of Glass Technology (SGT) in Lancaster in 2009 and Cambridge in 2010, and the ICON conference in York in May 2009.  For the past year the Yorkshire-based team of Jonathan and Ruth Cooke have been monitoring the environment around the east window under the expert guidance of Dr David Martlew and other eminent SGT members, and with funding from English Heritage. Conservation work to the north side windows nIII, nIV and nV is due to start later this year as part of a major restoration of the Savile Chapel, with funding from English Heritage, the Church Building Council and The Glaziers Trust. The deteriorating condition of the east window gives ongoing cause for concern, and will be the subject of further papers at the History and Heritage Group of the Society of Glass Technology’s conference at Oxford in September. 

Prior to the nineteenth-century restoration of the chapel glazing by Burlison and Grylls, as part of the reordering  of the church by the architect G E Street (1834 -1881), tracings were taken of some of the glazing.  These were subsequently discovered under one of the Savile monuments in the chapel and deposited in the West Yorkshire Archives at Wakefield.  In view of the parlous condition of the glass of the east window, Jonathan Cooke offered to recreate a single panel 2b and lower part of 3b based on the tracings and the evidence of the window itself, to give an impression of how it might have originally appeared in 1493; this has been welcomed as part of the ongoing debate by the PCC and English Heritage. Special thanks are due to Thornhill PCC who paid for Jonathan Cooke to spend a day in the Archives studying the Burlison and Grylls cartoons.

Jonathan Cooke working on the cartoon.

Fig. 7. Jonathan Cooke working on the cartoon.

Jonathan Cooke's finished cartoon

Fig.8. Jonathan Cooke's finished cartoon

Following the successful exhibition of Jonathan Cooke’s work at Lotherton Hall, near Leeds, in 2008, there will be an exhibition of his new work, together with that of Helen Whittaker of Barley Studios, at the same venue in the Autumn. 

Entitled ‘Angels and Demons’ , it is planned that the Thornhill cartoon and a new stained glass panel depicting the entry of the Saved into the Heavenly City with St Michael weighing souls will also be exhibited there, after being displayed at Thornhill Parish Church. 


For further information on the forthcoming ‘Angels and Demons’ exhibition at Lotherton Hall, please visit Jonathan Cooke’s website, or email Jonathan Cooke at enquiries@jonathancooke.org, or Helen Whittaker at helen@barleystudio.co.uk.

For information about the church at Thornhill, visit the church’s website.

For images of the stained glass at Thornhill, visit the Picture Archive of the CVMA (GB) website.


The Savile Chapel glass at Thornhill Parish Church was featured in issue 27 of Vidimus.

L.S. Jones, ‘St Michael and All Angels, Thornhill: a catalogue of the mediaeval glass’, PhD thesis, University of York, 1971 

M. Naydenova-Slade, ‘Late Medieval Holy Kinship Images and Family Commemoration: The Evidence from Thornhill, West Yorkshire and Latton, Essex’, in C.M. Barron and C. Burgess (eds) Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England, Harlaxton Medieval Studies, XX, Donington, 2010, pp. 218–33

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