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In Memoriam Alfred ‘Alfie’ Alderson: 5th April 1929 - 20th August 2021

It is with sadness that we note the passing of Alfie Alderson. Many Vidimus readers, particularly those in East Anglia, will be aware of the two volumes written by Birkin Haward on nineteenth-century Norfolk and Suffolk stained glass, and it is particularly interesting to learn of similar work carried out by Alfie in the north of England.((Birkin Haward, Nineteenth Century Norfolk Stained Glass (Norwich 1984); Nineteenth Century Suffolk Stained Glass (Boydell 1989).)) We are grateful to Ruth Cooke for providing the following obituary and to Alfies’s family for allowing us to use three examples of his unpublished illustrations.

Fig. 1. Illustration by Alfred Alderson of examples of architectural work by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake.
(Reproduced by permission. Copyright the estate of the late Alfred Alderson.)

Alfie was born into a large and talented family at Girsby Grange, North Yorkshire and attended the tiny village school before gaining a scholarship to Yarm Grammar School. On his way home from school in the afternoons, he would often cycle through Middleton St George, an important RAF Bomber station, to see the planes that had returned from their night missions, noting any damage they had suffered.  After leaving school, Alfie volunteered for the Royal Observer Corps, and during this time he designed and fashioned a powerful prism for his own binoculars.((The Royal Observer Corps operated in the UK from 1925 until 1995.)) His fascination with aircraft was lifelong. He was a remarkable artist with a keen attention to detail, evident in his paintings of aeroplanes, as well as later paintings of churches. 

Alfie was an active member of the Young Farmers and became well known for his knowledge of local history. He was also a keen and accomplished photographer, compiling records of local events and family occasions. In addition to working on the farm, he developed a successful business as an agricultural land drainage surveyor; the maps he produced for farmers were not only invaluable practical documents but minor works of art in their own right. Alfie established a life-long friendship with his French pen friend from his school days, and together they regularly undertook walking holidays in France and Switzerland until Alfie was in his eighties, latterly combining this activity with photographing stained glass in these two countries.

 

For 46 years, Alfie was the churchwarden at All Saints’ Church, Girsby. On retirement, bringing together his interests, skills and talents he turned his attention to stained glass windows. He meticulously researched, documented, photographed and catalogued stained glass, principally in North Yorkshire but also further afield, recording on film every window in 622 buildings, mainly Anglican churches in the north of England. Alfie adapted quickly to the arrival of digital equipment and imaging and loved to chat at length on this subject. At Alfie’s request, when his eyesight began to fail, we created an electronic summary list and delivered several thousand slides to ChurchCare. These include records of windows since removed or lost.  Currently in the Lambeth Palace archive, it is hoped that this material will be digitised and made accessible in due course.

 

Fig.2. Illustration by Alfred Alderson of quarries by H. Victor Milner.
(Reproduced by permission. Copyright the estate of the late Alfred Alderson)

Alfie was instrumental in resurrecting the early Willement glass at Kiplin Hall. After he found the glass languishing in a barn, it was restored and returned to the library at the Hall. We have fond memories of a picnic lunch in the grounds after inspecting this glass with him; as so often, he had a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye, taking great delight in sharing his discoveries. In 2006 Alfie published Stained Glass in Hambleton District, a useful guide for stained glass restorers and church crawlers alike.((Privately published by Alfred M. Alderson in 2006, ISBN 0-9552452-0-6.)) Dr Michael Kerney referred to this guide as  “…an admirable piece of research, well indexed and attractively presented, and a valuable record of a legacy all too often facing an uncertain future”.((The Journal of Stained Glass vol XXX 2006 p 258-9.)) As always, Alfie gave the matter of presentation much thought and had a unique way of identifying window location within the building – he chose not to adopt the CVMA system, despite my efforts at persuasion! He followed up this volume with a DVD catalogue of stained glass in Ryedale District, including meticulous ground plans for each building.  

 

Fig. 3. Illustration by Alfred Alderson of examples of lettering by Burlison and Grylls.
(Reproduced by permission. Copyright the estate of the late Alfred Alderson.)

Alfie was generous with his resources and the information he had so carefully researched, created and compiled. When a church window on his “patch” had been severely damaged, he would willingly lend his precious slides and later share electronic images for reconstruction purposes. He was often approached by Church Recorders seeking information on makers, stained glass artists, and attributions of windows, and he was an invited speaker for several of their study days.

 

He was a true gentleman, with a methodical passion for stained glass.


Dr Patrick Reyntiens OBE

11th December 1925 — 25th October 2021

It is with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of stained glass artist Patrick Reyntiens OBE on the 25th of October 2021.

Reyntiens was one of the most influential and extraordinary stained glass artists of the 20th and 21st century. He is renowned among the stained glass community and the wider art world, especially for his innovative painting techniques and styles, and is often described as pioneering.

After studying at Edinburgh College of Art, Reyntiens started collaborating on projects with friend and fellow artist John Piper, beginning with Oundle School Chapel, but best known for the monumental Baptistry Window at Coventry Cathedral. Between the 1960s and 1970s, together with his late wife and painter Anne Bruce, Reyntiens ran an international Art Centre at Burleighfield House in Buckinghamshire.

Work by Reyntiens is found at numerous locations throughout Britain, and also in Washington National Cathedral in the USA.  It can be admired by visitors to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Stained Glass Museum, Ely.

 

Fig. 1 Benjamin Britten Memorial Window, at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Designed by John Piper, painted and made by Patrick Reyntiens, 1979-1980. The window depicts three of Britten’s operas, The Prodigal Son, Curlew River and Burning Fiery Furnace. Photo: © Christopher Parkinson.

Fig. 2 The Pilgrimage Window at the Church of St Alban Protomartyr, Romford, London Borough of Havering. Designed and painted by Patrick Reyntiens, made by John Reyntiens, 2002. Photo: © Christopher Parkinson.


New stained glass website

By Peter Hildebrand

Fig. 1 Panel at the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Lambourne, Essex, dated 1631. Photo: ©
Christopher Parkinson.

Earlier this month the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and the BSMGP launched a new website, www.visitstainedglass.uk, aimed at encouraging us all to visit some special stained glass.

The windows highlighted on the site have been selected by a number of leading artists, conservators and authors, who have each selected 10 windows which they think are particularly worthy of a visit.

Typical is a continental glass panel from 1631 (Fig. 1) at the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Lambourne, Essex, recommended by Vidimus co-editor Chris Parkinson. The panel is one of 5 exquisite enamel painted panels dating from 1623-1637. Originating from Basle and installed in 1817, the panels depict: doubting Thomas, the difference between Good and Evil, the Adoration of the Magi, Christ and St Peter in the sea and the Adoration of the Shepherds. The panels contain several other smaller scenes. While continental panels are not uncommon, being collected by the wealthy mainly during the nineteenth century, panels as fine as these are rare.

Demonstrating the wide variety of styles covered by the website is a window by Crear McCartney, the celebrated Scottish artist (Fig. 2) at the Church of St Eval, near Newquay, Cornwall. This extremely powerful memorial window is dedicated to the memory of the lives lost by Coastal Command in the Second World War. It was selected by Michael Swift, who is renowned for his work on stained glass in Cornwall, more details of which can be found at
http://www.cornishstainedglass.org.uk/.

Fig. 2 Window at St Eval’s Church, Near Newquay, Cornwall, by Crear McCartney. Photo: © Peter
Hildebrand.

The individual recommendations are supplemented by a number of themes covering the great cathedrals and museums, as well as more specialised topics, such as a feature by Arthur Rope on the Two Margaret Ropes, and a fascinating essay by Douglas Hogg on Scottish stained glass.

An important feature of the site is the map, which allows the location of highlighted windows to be quickly established, and helps in planning visits. The website has been designed with visits in mind, so only windows in buildings that are regularly open, or where access can be achieved through an email to the church wardens, have been included.

The many hundreds of windows featured, with supporting high quality images, make this an interesting site to browse, but hopefully most of all it will encourage its readers to Visit Stained Glass.


More panels from York Minster’s St Cuthbert Window go on public display

Fig. 1 St Cuthbert with the head of St Oswald, panel 4c, the St Cuthbert Window, York Minster, c. 1440 (post conservation). Photo: the York Glaziers Trust, reproduced by kind permission of the Chapter of York.

Conserved medieval panels of stained glass depicting the figure of St Cuthbert (c. 634-687) returned to York Minster on All Saints Day (Monday 1 November) as part of an exhibition exploring the history and conservation of the window devoted to the life and miracles of one of northern England’s most significant saints.

The figure, which runs over two panels, was removed from the Minster in March 2021 as part of a five-year, £5m project to conserve the St Cuthbert Window of c. 1440 – one of the largest surviving narrative windows in the world – and the stonework of the south-east choir transept (Fig. 1).

Conservators at the York Glaziers Trust have begun carrying out painstaking cleaning and repair work to the 152 panels removed from the window, with a selection gradually being put on display as part of the cathedral’s Light, Glass & Stone: Conserving the St Cuthbert Window exhibition, which opened in June, curated by Dr Helen Rawson, head of Heritage at York Minster, supported by the doctoral research of Dr Katie Harrison, who acted as project consultant.

 

Fig. 2 Detail from panel 4c, the St Cuthbert Window, York Minster, showing attached ‘jewels’ (post conservation). Photo: the York Glaziers Trust, reproduced by kind permission of the Chapter of York.

During the work, conservators found the evidence of the use of a technique first described in the 12th century, demonstrating the high level of glazing expertise and skill in the city around 1440 when the window was created. In a section of his treatise entitled ‘Setting Gems in Painted Glass’ the 12th-century author(s) who adopted the pseudonym Theophilus, advises: ‘decide on the places where you want to set the stones. Then take some small pieces of clear blue, and with them make jacinths sufficient for the number of their setting, and make the emeralds with green glass….. When these have been carefully attached and fixed in their settings, paint a thick colour around them with a paint brush so that none of it runs between the two glasses. Then fire them in the kiln with the other parts and they will stick so firmly that they never fall out’.((C. R. Dodwell (ed), Theophilus: The Various Arts (London 1961), 57-58)) ‘Jewels’ of this kind have been used to enrich the vestments of St Cuthbert, although some, including the one that once adorned the back of his glove, have detached themselves allowing the degree to which they reflect Theophilus’s instructions to be examined (Fig. 2). They were also originally affixed to the crown on the severed head of St Oswald (d.642), held by St Cuthbert in reference to the transportation of St Oswald’s relics in his coffin when the monks of Lindisfarne fled the Vikings in the 9th century, settling eventually at Durham (Figs 3 and 4). Unfortunately, the up-standing vestiges of the paint used to adhere the jewels to the base glass were probably scraped away by the glaziers of the 1930s who fixed the broken head inside double plates of modern glass in order to avoid a web of disfiguring mending leads.

Examples of this ‘jewelling’ technique survive from the 12th century at Regensburg Cathedral and from the 13th century at Heimersheim an der Ahr, both in Germany, believed to be the home of ‘Theophilus’. In York Minster the technique is first encountered in the glazing of the south choir aisle (sIV), but seems to have been known to a number of glaziers in the city, as it is also used outside the Minster in the 15th-century glazing of St Michael Spurriergate.

The work to conserve the St Cuthbert Window, together with the stonework of the South East Transept, started in 2021 and will take around five years to complete. The project includes the installation of environmental protective glazing, replacing external diamond quarry glazing installed in the 1930s, when the negative impact of the environment on the Minster’s medieval glass was already recognised.

Fig. 3 Detail from panel 4c, the St Cuthbert Window, York Minster, showing the head of St Oswald (before conservation). Photo: the York Glaziers Trust, reproduced by kind permission of the Chapter of York.

Fig. 4 Detail from panel 4c, the St Cuthbert Window, York Minster, showing the head of St Oswald (post conservation). Photo: the York Glaziers Trust, reproduced by kind permission of the Chapter of York.


Second edition of ARCOVE La Revista now online

Arcove, the Association for the Restoration and Conservation of Stained Glass in Spain, has notified us that the second issue of La Revista is now online and available to download clicking on this link. The Journal provides an extensive insight into historic stained glass windows in Spain, as well as other news and information in the wider glass world in the Spanish peninsula. A highlight of this new issue is an interesting article on dalle de verre windows in the Canary Islands.

All articles are published in Spanish, but there are some helpful English summaries. It is also possible to view and download the previous issue of La Revista by clicking on this link.