‘The Grisaille and Heraldic Glass in the Chancel at Norbury Church, Derbyshire’, by John E. Titterton, FSA, FHS, in: The Coat of Arms: Annual Journal of the Heraldry Society, Series 4, Volume 6, Number 240, 2023, pp. 51-82. Reviewed by David King FSA, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (Great Britain) 

The glazing of the eight side windows of the chancel at Norbury in Derbyshire is one of the best-preserved and extensive displays of heraldic glass and grisaille in England, despite being in a humble parish church. The glass has been studied before, the most useful account being that of Peter Newton in his doctoral thesis of 1961.((P. A. Newton, ‘Schools of Glass Painting in the Midlands 1275–1430’ (unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of London, 1961), vol. 2, pp. 65-78 and plates. Accessible online: https://www.cvma.ac.uk/resources/documents.html#d6769e617)) He dated the heraldry to c. 1300-1306/7 and saw the grisaille glass as being in-situ. Titterton, appropriately for the journal in which he is writing, concentrates on the heraldry, consisting of the 24 shields of arms set at the top of the main lights, plus two at the base of light a. He suggests the possibility that the grisaille glass may have been displaced, on account of the asymmetry of the four different designs seen in the eight windows. Although his identifications of the shields and the dating of 1299 to before 1306 correspond closely to Newton’s conclusions, what is added here is a much more detailed discussion of which members of the families represented in the heraldry were likely to have been intended (although sometimes more than one possibility is suggested), and what was the possible motive for the choice of these individuals. He sees the series centring on and commissioned by the patron of the church, Sir Henry Fitzherbert, whose arms appear twice. At least 17 of the shields are for soldiers who served in the wars against Scotland in the period 1291–1301, and although Fitzherbert and one or two more of the knights represented at Norbury do not occur in the heraldic rolls of the period which related to service in Scotland, Titterton suggests tentatively that the patron did serve there and was commemorating in the glass his commanders and comrades. This is a very plausible but not proven suggestion, and its limitations are fully acknowledged by the author. The illustrations are good, with a few exceptions, and the argument is almost always clear and well-documented.

There are few minor points to make. His dating of the glazing of the side windows in the chapel at Merton College follows that in the 1290s of Newton, but this has been superseded by that in the first decade of the fourteenth century in Tim Ayers’ masterly account of the glass in his Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi volume.((T. Ayers, The Medieval Stained Glass of Merton College, Oxford, Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (Great Britain) Volume Oxford, 2013, vol. VI, part 1, pp. lxxvi-lxxviii.)) Titterton claims to follow the window and panel numbering used by the CVMA, but is in error when he says that the lights of a window are numbered in that system alphabetically from that nearest the altar; they in fact read from left to right in each window. There is only one reference to the Dictionary of British Arms (DBA) in the article. This is an important tool for heraldic research, and it may be that further use could have improved matters; for example, he gives no reference in the rolls for the Grandison arms, but the DBA, IV, p. 283 has one from the William Le Neve Roll of the reign of Edward 1, and the discussion of the arms of John de Hodeboville would also have benefited from the use of this source. Overall, however, this is a welcome addition to the rather scarce publications providing a full treatment of heraldic glass.

Comments are closed.