The Grisaille and Heraldic Glass in the Chancel at Norbury, Derbyshire

John E. Titterton FSA, 30 pages, paper covers, 8.3 x 5.7 inches, colour illustrations, 2006. Copies on sale at the church: £5. Copies by post: £5.75 including p&p from Mr David Coxon, Finewood Croft, The Hollow, Roston, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 2EF.

The parish church of St Mary and St Barlock at Norbury in Derbyshire includes several schemes of medieval stained glass. The earliest dates from the opening years of the fourteenth century and consists of eight windows in the chancel, which show shields set in grisaille unaccompanied by any figures.

This booklet is an important contribution to discussions about this scheme, proposing a date of c.1300 for its installation, identifying the shields displayed in the glass, and suggesting why they may have been brought together by the patron of the church, Sir Henry Fitzherbert (d. c.1315). The dating evidence has four parts: comparisons with architectural features elsewhere; comparisons with the borders, grisaille patterns and heraldry in the glazing of York Minster chapter house (c.1290) and the parish church of St Mary and All Saints at Checkley (Staffordshire); documentary evidence, which points to Sir Henry rebuilding his manor between 1292 and 1300; and finally, details from the heraldry depicted in the glass that help to date the windows to between 1299 and 1306. As one of the UK’s leading experts on medieval heraldry, the author is particularly well placed to explain the latter.

The twenty-six shields show twenty-five different arms, with those of the Fitzherbert family represented twice. The windows incorporate the arms of three groups of medieval society. At the pinnacle is the royal family, with the arms of King Edward I (reigned 1272–1307), his wife Queen Margaret (France), his nephew, Thomas Earl of Lancaster, and other magnates. At the next level are six barons, including Robert de Bruce (1274–1329), the Scottish earl who fought alongside the English until he foreswore his oath of fealty to the English crown, became King of Scotland and defeated Edward II (reigned 1307–1327) at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Finally, there are twelve knights, the lowest rung in the armigerous class.

What linked those individuals, and why were their arms chosen to appear in Sir Henry’s chancel? Possible explanations – such as assertions of status, local connections, remembering donations to the church, and personal friendships – are considered but discounted as not completely fitting the bill. Instead the author proposes that the choice of arms constitute the equivalent of a military roll in stained glass, a record of Sir Henry’s long military career with the arms of his commanders and those of his comrades from the wars against Scotland 1291–1301 and possibly other campaigns in Wales and Gascony, remembered forever in the church where his monument still resides.

Colour illustrations of all eight windows, brief biographies of the individuals commemorated in the glass, and helpful footnotes to the preceding text complete an extremely useful publication.

Roger Rosewell

Further Reading

Military rolls are discussed briefly in Professor Richard Marks’s study Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages (London, 1993, p. 87), in which the inclusion of heraldic arms in the east window of Gloucester Cathedral is cited as possibly representing some of the magnates who took part in the c.1346–49 French campaign of Edward III (reigned 1327–1377), or his Scottish expedition of a few years earlier.

Images of the glass at Norbury are available in the CVMA (GB) Picture Archive.

Brian Clarke, Life and Death

Brian Clarke and Stefan Trümpler, exhibition catalogue, softback, 80 pages, main essay in French, German and English, numerous colour illustrations, Benteli and Vitromusée Romont, 2010, price CH 30; available on line from the publishers.

This book accompanies the exhibition of the same name currently showing at the Vitromusée, Romont, Switzerland, until 3 July. It consists of illustrations and descriptions of the glass and paintings displayed in the exhibition, together with an essay by Stefan Trümpler exploring Brian Clarke’s work. Among the themes he discusses are Clarke’s production of panels in the context of the museum’s famous collection of single panels from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries; Clarke’s handling of materials, especially lead; and some of the ways that Clarke uses modern technology to create images that are not only stunning in themselves, but which also incorporate ideas about mortality and life. A bibliography adds to the pleasures of this publication.

For more information about the Brian Clarke exhibition, visit the museum’s website.

Roundel Solution

This month’s panel shows the martyrdom of St Barbara and the death of her evil father, Dioscurus, by lightning or heavenly fire [Fig. 1].

The martyrdom of St Barbara and the death of Dioscurus

Fig. 1. The martyrdom of St Barbara and the death of Dioscurus.

The story of Barbara can be found in Vincent of Beauvais’ thirteenth-century history of the world, the Speculum historiale (XII, 64) and in later versions of the Golden Legend.

St Barbara

Fig. 2. St Barbara, parish church of St Walstan, Bawburgh, Norfolk. © Mike Dixon

St Barbara, parish church of St John, Rownhams

Fig. 3. St Barbara, parish church of St John, Rownhams, Hampshire. © Geoffrey Lane

According to these accounts, Barbara was a third-century Christian martyr. She was the beautiful daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, who kept her locked up in a tower. Before going on a journey, he ordered a private bath-house to be built for her use and during his absence, Barbara had three windows inserted, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally planned. When her father returned, she declared herself to be a Christian. After being tortured by the local prefect of the province, Martinianus, she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death sentence. As a punishment for this crime he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body reduced to a pile of ash. Barbara was buried by a Christian nobleman called Valentinus.

St Barbara was a popular female saint in medieval Europe. Her attribute in art is a tower. A good example survives in an English fifteenth-century tracery light at the parish church of St Mary and St Walstan at Bawbugh, Norfolk. A Netherlandish roundel with similar iconography can be seen at the parish church of St John at Rownhams (Hampshire) [Figs 2 and 3].

Further Reading


William Cole, ‘A description of the Netherlandish glass in the church of St Peter, Nowton, Suffolk’, in P. Moore (ed.), Crown and Glory, Norwich 1982, pp. 40–47


For information about the glass in this church, visit the CVMA (GB) digital publication pages.

To see other medieval glass at Bawburgh, visit the Norfolk Stained Glass website.

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