Collaborating with the Neighbours: Netherlandish Glaziers at St Thomas’s Hospital
Although Netherlandish glaziers were responsible for some of the finest stained glass in late medieval England, they faced bitter opposition from traditional English workshops. Mary Bryan Curd of Harrison Middleton University sheds new light on how these immigrant artists survived this deep-rooted hostility.
Pushed by economic downturns in the Low Countries, and drawn by a surge of court-building campaigns instigated by Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey that promised plentiful work, Netherlandish glaziers migrated to England in the early years of the sixteenth century. Most settled around London, where they found themselves in direct competition with English glaziers, who openly resented their presence. The newcomers’ response was to collaborate. Under the leadership of their countryman Galyon Hone (d. 1550/51), they worked in close proximity to one another and were able, for a period of approximately twenty years, to challenge the authority of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers, who controlled the production of stained and painted glass in the City of London.
The Netherlandish glaziers were in great demand, because they had been trained in a painterly, narrative style of glass then fashionable in the courts of Europe and, hence, desirable in the English court. They were highly skilled at creating scenes that told a story across two or more lights or openings, such as the Crucifixion in the east window of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (Fig. 1). This ability gave them an advantage over their English counterparts, who were slow to change from late Gothic styles characterized by single figures contained within one light such as in the ‘Holders of the Honour of Tewkesbury’ from Tewkesbury Abbey (Fig. 2).
Hone, a native of Holland, was in England by 1517, when he was appointed King’s Glazier. He settled in Southwark among the growing community of immigrants from the Low Countries. A mid-sixteenth century map shows Southwark, where glass painters had lived since 1292, as a small community, separated from London by the Thames River, spreading east and west along the river’s bank, and southward from London Bridge (Fig. 3). In the early sixteenth century, residence in Southwark, which lay outside of the jurisdiction of the City of London, allowed foreign craftsmen the freedom to work without being members of the City’s guilds. They remained, however, subject to strictures imposed on aliens by earlier acts of Parliament or edicts of the king. As J. L. Bolton explains, in years when the numbers of foreign craftsmen in London increased, petitions from officials of the guilds of London pressured Parliament to pass a series of laws controlling ways in which aliens could practise their trades. The act of 1523, which confirmed earlier regulation of apprentices employed by foreign artisans and added new restrictions, seems to be a direct result of such pressure. Most onerous for the Southwark glaziers, the act contained a clause that extended the authority of the City of London and the guilds to the suburbs within two miles of the City. This clause placed the workshops of Netherlandish glaziers living and working there under the ‘Serch aud Reformacion’ of the wardens of the guilds and the fellowships of handicrafts within the City of London.
Among those affected by these new regulations were Hone and his associate and countryman, James Nicholson. Contracts show that Hone and Nicholson may have worked at Hampton Court at the same time, and both created glass for King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Hilary Wayment in The Windows of King’s College Chapel Cambridge: A Description and Commentary has attributed passages in several windows to Hone and Nicholson. For example, he credits Hone with panels in the east window showing St John at the Deposition (Fig. 4), a soldier watching dice below the Cross (Fig. 5), and a joiner at the nailing of the cross (see Panel of the Month, Vidimus no. 5 (March 2007)). To Nicholson he attributes panels including the ‘Harrowing of Hell’ in a window on the south side of the chapel (Fig. 6).
Probably motivated by the regulations of the act of 1523 and the need for more workshop space to meet increased commissions, Nicholson and Hone moved to St Thomas’s Hospital in Southwark, leasing spacious dwellings within the hospital’s precincts. Nicholson relocated his workshop in 1526, followed by Hone, who was firmly established there by 1533, according to an entry in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII. A later lease for property within the precinct reported by Alan F. Turner indicates that accommodation at St Thomas’s might include ‘shoppe cellers sollers yarde garden wayes and other appertenances thereunto belonging’. There glaziers could set up set up the small furnaces needed for enamelling or annealing glass (Fig. 7). Moreover, neighbouring workshops at St Thomas’s Hospital would have facilitated the exchange of materials, such as particular shades of pot-metal glass from the Continent, or the borrowing of an assistant to help finish a particularly large order or install a window. Most importantly, these accommodations were within a ‘liberty’, an area controlled by the church and, thereby, not subject to control by the City and the Worshipful Company of Glaziers. With St Thomas’s as a base of operations, Hone, Nicholson and others who joined them challenged the dominance of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers, making forays into their territory to install glass.
Hone’s commissions had increased steadily as Henry VIII continued an extensive building programme in the 1530s. As Phillip Wolf points out, the king ordered the renovation of armorial windows each time he changed wives, necessitating the substitution of the arms and badges of the new wife for those of his former queen. Furthermore, being the king’s glazier put Hone’s skills in demand among members of the Tudor court who wished to emulate the king. In 1533, the same year that records show him established at St Thomas’s, Hone applied for and was granted permission to hire four more foreign assistants than were allowed under the act of 1523. Payments to Hone for glazing projects in addition to the work at King’s College Chapel substantiate his need for extra space and more help. The account records for the glazing at Hampton Court, reprinted by Ernest Law, show that in 1533 Hone was paid for glazing forty-eight lights at Hampton Court, each containing 4½ ft of glass, and others in the lower storey containing 4½ ft 3 in., amounting to a total of 211 ft. In 1535, he received payment for glazing 11 side windows, 2 windows at the end of the hall, as well as 30 of the king’s and queen’s arms, 46 royal badges, and 77 ‘scryptors with the Kynges worde’. Nicholson’s commissions were also increasing. In 1526, when Nicholson moved to St Thomas’s, he had not only signed the indenture at King’s College but was also receiving an increasing number of requests from his primary patron, Cardinal Wolsey. Hone’s and Nicholson’s thriving practices were, no doubt, a thorn in the side of the Worshipful Company.
In 1538, the Worshipful Company imprisoned Hone, Nicholson and others, apprehending them while they were working in a location outside of the liberty of St Thomas’s Hospital and within its jurisdiction. They were released through the intervention of their powerful patrons and continued to defy their competition. It is clear that the Company viewed Hone as the instigator from a later entry in the Star Court proceedings, which shows the wardens of the Company complaining that Hone and others continued to violate the ‘usages of the city’ and that Hone was the centre of this resistance.
Their experience in 1538 and later imprisonments did not keep Hone and the foreign glaziers from collaborating to resist the Company. They found new ways of improving both their efficiency and the overall appearance of the installed glass. For example, David R. Ransome notes that in 1546, the Company complained that the Netherlandish glaziers had ‘practiced devised and made a certen thing called a vice to draw out lead with’, a device which they claimed reduced the quality of the glazing.
With St Thomas’s as a base of operations, Hone, along with Nicholson and other neighbours who shared his culture and craft, were able successfully to manage production and cope with competition. There, led by Hone until his death, they worked to improve their economic position by amassing the cultural capital of their Netherlandish training and artistic ability, economic capital from their profits as glaziers in the growing metropolis, and social capital from their influence with other foreign glaziers. Taking advantage of the shelter and proximity that St Thomas’s Hospital provided, these Netherlandish craftsmen became a formidable force in the field of glazing in mid-sixteenth century London.
Further examples of stained glass windows at King’s College Chapel attributed to Galyon Hone and other Netherlandish glaziers can be seen in the CVMA Picture Archive.
Mary Bryan Curd
Harrison Middleton University
Tempe, AZ, and Chicago, IL
A Note on the Furnace
Figure 7 is an unnumbered plate from Walter Gedde’s Booke of Sundry Draughtes, Principally Serving for Glasiers: And not Impertinent for Plasterers, and Gardiners: besides sundry other professions. Whereunto is Annexed the manner how to anniel in Glas: And also the true forme of the furnace, and the Secretes thereof, published in London (Shoolane at the Signe of the Faulcon by Walter Dight, 1615; facsimile edition, London: Leadenhall Press, 1898). Gedde’s work describes the furnace as a 3½ x 4 x 4 ft brick structure. The important features, indicated by capital letters in the illustration, are the venting holes in each corner (A). Another hole (B), is centered in the top. This opening, 4 inches in diameter, is kept covered with charcoal, which both keeps in the heat and vents the smoke. The pan in which the glass is put (C) must have an open square (D) in the side, 5 x 3 inches, so that proof pieces may be removed to check the enamelling. During the enamelling process the glass is placed right beneath the center hole. A stone (F) that will endure the heat must be shaped to fit the opening shown in the side of the furnace. A cup of soft clay (E) must be kept ready to soften the stone when the glazier wishes to remove it to check the proof pieces or remove the pan at the end of enamelling.
C. H. Ashdown, History of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers of the City of London, otherwise the Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, London: Blades, East & Blades, 1918
J. L. Bolton, The Alien Communities of London in the Fifteenth Century: The Subsidy Rolls of 1440 and 1484-4, Stamford, Lincolnshire: Richard III & Yorkist History Trust in association with Paul Watkins, 1998
J. S, Brewer (ed.), Letters and Papers; Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and Elsewhere in England, 22 vols, London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1862–1929 (reprinted Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1965)
M. Drake, A History of English Glass-Painting, London: T. Werne Laurie, 1912
J. A. Knowles, ‘Disputes between English and Foreign Glass-Painters in the Sixteenth Century’, The Antiquaries Journal, v (1925), pp. 148–57
E. Law, History of Hampton Court Palace, 3 vols, London: George Bell & Sons, 1903
R. Marks, Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993
D. R. Ransome, ‘The Struggle of the Glaziers’ Company with the Foreign Glaziers, 1500-1550’, The Guildhall Miscellan, ii/1 (September 1960), pp. 11–19
‘Thacte Concerning the Takyng of Apprentises by Straungers, 1523’, Tudor Economic Documents: Being Select Documents Illustrating the Economic and Social History of Tudor England ed. R. H. Tawney and E. Power, London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1924, I, pp. 293–94
A. F. Turner, ‘The Southwark Glaziers, 1965(?)’, typescript in the reference collection, Guildhall Library, London
H. Wayment, The Windows of King’s College Chapel Cambridge: A Description and Commentary, CVMA (GB) Supplementary Volume I, London: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1972
R. Willis and J. W. Clark, The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge and of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton, 4 vols, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1886
P. Wolf, ‘The Emergence of National Identity in Early Modern England: Causes and Ideological Representations’, in Writing the Early Modern English Nation, ed. H. Grabes, Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 2001, pp. 149–72