For God and the King – Richard Butler’s 1637 windows in Winchester Cathedral
In his fine book Ancient Glass in Winchester, J. D. Le Couteur noted several ‘pieces of seventeenth-century glazing, consisting of golden rays upon a blue field, and of a small cherub, also upon a blue field’ in the north transept of Winchester Cathedral. Further on in the same book, published in 1920, he wondered if these ‘portions of rich enamel work’ might be connected with the coats of arms of Charles II and Queen Henrietta Maria displayed in a window of the deanery. Another book, The Diaries of Dean John Young, which might have provided Le Couteur with an answer, appeared eight years later, but by then the glass historian had already died, aged only 42. This article attempts to supply a solution to the problem he posed.
John Young (1585–1654) kept a diary for most of the three decades that he was dean of Winchester, from 1616 until ejected by the Puritans in 1645. He served under four bishops, principally Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Neile and Walter Curle, Anglican churchmen who favoured reverence for sacred buildings that in previous decades had suffered neglect or worse arising from extreme Protestantism. Young’s diary records his own efforts to restore order and decency to his cathedral, under the growing influence of William Laud, especially after the latter became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633.
Two brief diary entries relate directly to a glazing project, but both are enigmatic. On 6 December 1631, Young wrote:
That day we vewed the church windows and wt [writ] in the tops of thrie are to have S. Trin Gloria, and the church arms in the middle pairs of 4, and the rest plaine glasse, except they put under J.Y. STD. D. et capit.
Almost six years later, on 28 August 1637, he wrote:
Payed to the Glasiers hier for white glass 5 lib [£5] to Mr Butler for painted glasse 5 lib. I ame to pay him 9 lib moir in toto 14 lib., besides some consideration for his journey to Winton [Winchester].
The editor of the diaries, Florence Goodman, concluded that in 1631 Young had envisaged a scheme of seven windows; as for Butler’s work in 1637, she wrote, ‘no details had been recorded and the windows, if they ever materialised, are no more’. But her verdict ignores the seventeenth-century glass noted by Le Couteur, and in any case she may have misinterpreted the 1631 entry. This seems to refer to four windows at most: three would have ‘Sanctae Trinitatis Gloria’ in the tops (i.e., a dedication to the Trinity in their tracery), while the same three and one other would also have the cathedral arms in two of their main lights – the ‘middle pair of 4’ – the difference maybe depending upon what medieval glass was already present. As an optional extra, they might also display an inscription at the base, crediting the dean and chapter with the work.
In fact, the fragments Le Couteur observed – in the tracery of the southernmost east window of the north transept – suggest that Butler did create at least one window much as Young had envisaged in 1631. Bearing in mind that the cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, as well as to Sts Peter, Paul and Swithun, we might call this Young’s ‘Trinity Window’. The ‘golden rays on a blue field’ are the remains of two ‘glories’, one above the other in the tracery openings (Figs 1–2). Their circular centres are now blank, but they could well have invoked the Holy Trinity, either in words, as Young had proposed in 1631, or symbolically, as in the tower vaulting inserted three years later, or perhaps both. Despite a difference in hair-style, the surviving cherub (Fig. 3) is strikingly similar to a pair in the chapel of the Red House at Moor Monkton, Yorkshire, where Butler had worked back in 1621 (Fig. 4).
The glass in the corresponding window of the south transept and in the deanery however suggests that by the time Butler made his way to Winchester in 1637 there had been a change of plan – one that reflected the growing involvement of Charles I in church affairs. The Long Gallery in the deanery was not built until the 1670s, but its window contains two complete panels of royal arms for the king and Queen Henrietta Maria (figs 5–6), plus a single ostrich-feather rising from the cross of a coronet – all that remains of a third panel in similar style, for the Prince of Wales, the future Charles II (fig. 7).
Le Couteur wondered if these royal panels might also have come from the north transept window, but they are too wide for its five relatively narrow lights; perfect, however for the wider openings of the three-light south transept window in what is now the Venerable Chapel. This window, as Le Couteur noted, displays the arms of the see of Winchester and Dean Young’s arms in two versions, one original and finely executed, the other an oddly elongated modern copy (figs 8–10). The bits and pieces surrounding them not only include more of the ‘golden rays on a blue field’, but also sections of decorative foliate material that match strips still attached to the base of the royal arms panels. This particular chapel is precisely where we might expect to find Young’s arms. He seems to have regarded it as his own personal space – it also contains a stone bearing his arms impaling those of the see, which Florence Goodman says was inscribed ‘JY 1621’ (fig. 11), and another in memory of his only daughter, Sarah, who died in 1636 aged only 19. Had the Civil War not intervened, Dean Young himself might well have been buried here, as indeed his daughter-in-law Mary Young was in 1687.
If Dean Young did indeed commission a ‘Royal Window’ in 1637 to balance the ‘Trinity Window’ in the other transept, his ideas had evidently changed considerably since 1631. As well as celebrating the Holy Trinity, his vision now also embraced the king and the royal family. The same change of emphasis can also be observed in other developments over which Young presided in the years between 1631 and 1637. In 1635, the cathedral bells were rehung, and a painted wooden vault inserted in what had previously been an open lantern tower. The circular panel through which the bells were hoisted was decorated with a symbol of the Trinity, surrounded by groups of winged angel-heads, and with the name of God (the tetragrammaton) at its centre. A legend around the rim, adapted from Isaiah XLIX, 23, reads ‘SINT DOMVS HVIVS PII REGES NVTRITII, REGINAE NVTRICES PIAE” (‘Pious kings shall be the nursing fathers of this house, and pious queens its nursing mothers’, fig. 12). The letters appearing here in bold are painted red and enlarged; when interpreted as Roman numerals they add up to 1635, the date of completion. Bosses in the vault display a portrait of the king and queen (fig. 13), royal emblems, and the arms of those behind the scheme, including Dean Young, Bishop Curle, and Archbishop Laud. The vault itself was supported by statues of the royal family, now in the cathedral museum. Soon afterwards (1636–37), Inigo Jones was commissioned to create a new choir screen in classical style, with niches to accommodate imposing bronze figures of James I and Charles I by Hubert le Sueur. The screen was dismantled in 1820, and the statues now stand below the great west window (fig. 14).
Both these significant projects were intended, in the taste of the day, to grace the cathedral crossing. It is surely no coincidence that they were destined for the same part of the cathedral as the modest windows commissioned by John Young in 1637, on the one hand glorifying the Holy Trinity, and on the other stressing the role of the increasingly embattled king as Defender of the Faith and ultimate patron of the cathedral. They were to prove Butler’s last known commission – he died in December 1638. Young lasted a little longer, long enough to attempt a partial restoration (or repair) of the great west window in 1640, two years before it was wrecked by Parliamentary troops. He died in 1654 at Over Wallop in Hampshire, where he had once been rector.
An expanded version of this article recently appeared in Winchester Cathedral Record 2012 No. 81. Photographs are by the author, Margaret Burgess and Roger Buchanan. The author thanks the dean and chapter of Winchester for permitting photography in the cathedral, and in particular the dean, the Very Reverend James Atwell, for allowing him to photograph the glass in the Long Gallery.
Graham Parry, Glory Laud and Honour: The Arts of the Anglican Counter-Reformation, Woodbridge, 2006
Florence R. Goodman (ed.), The Diary of John Young, S.T.P.: Dean of Winchester 1616 to the Commonwealth, London, 1928
J. D. Le Couteur, Ancient Glass in Winchester, Winchester, 1920
Mary Callé, Winchester Cathedral Stained Glass, Winchester, 2008
Angela Smith, Roof Bosses of Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, 1996