Recording of Glass in Hertfordshire Gathers Pace

Hazel Gardiner reports

Fig.1. St Paul's Walden, Tower, West Window WI, (inv no. 027705)

Fig. 1. St Paul’s Walden, tower, west window (WI).

Although one of the smallest counties in England, and not rich in medieval stained glass, Hertfordshire does hold some significant and interesting examples in its parish churches. Although many Hertfordshire monuments are still to be recorded for the British CVMA, a taste of those investigated so far is now available in the Picture Archive of the CVMA (GB) website.

Having initially worked in Hertfordshire as a researcher for the Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland, a sister project to the British CVMA, I volunteered some time ago to photograph stained glass in the county. I began, armed with the Hertfordshire volume of Pevsner’s Buildings of England, the Hertford Victoria County History (VCH), and invaluable notes on Hertfordshire stained glass kindly loaned by Richard Marks. Most of my initial trips were by motorcycle, which always added a sense of adventure, although requiring careful attention to the weather. Photography in damp leathers in chilly churches is something to be avoided, as I’d learned through many site visits for the CRSBI.

Fig.2. St Paul's Walden, Tower, West Window WI (027710)

Fig. 2. St Paul’s Walden, tower, west window (WI).

So far, 69 sites where medieval stained glass had previously been recorded have been identified. Some of this glass may not have survived, so any descriptive or pictorial evidence of now-lost glass will be compiled for the British CVMA in due course. At present, 278 images from 18 sites have been uploaded to the CVMA website (inv. nos. 027433–027710). The sites are

Abbots Langley
East Barnet
Furneux Pelham
Little Hadham
North Mymms
St Albans, St Peter

Fig. 3. Barkway, Nave, south aisle sIV, (inv no. 027452)

Fig. 3. Barkway, nave, south aisle sIV.

Highlights so far include an early 14th-century panel depicting the Virgin and Child, at St Paul’s Walden (027705). There is some loss of detail, particularly to the face of the Virgin, and some unsympathetic repairs, but a sense of intimacy is conveyed by the composition of the figures and their delicately drawn features. The clear strong colours are striking, and details such as the dove of the Holy Spirit, wing in hand with the Child are a further delight (027710).

Another important example, and in a better state of preservation, is the remains of a mid-14th-century Tree of Jesse at St Mary Magdalene in Barkway. The panel stands between two others comprising fragments of later (15th- and 16th-century) compositions, and has the limited palette and dominant yellow stain typical of the mid-14th century (027450; 027476). The outer panels form a colourful jumble and above, in the tracery, are 15th-century musical angels (027451; 027452).

One of the most light-hearted examples of draughtsmanship in Hertfordshire stained glass must be in the quarries of the east window of St Mary, Clothall. The depictions of birds, some species readily identifiable, are painted in a loose freehand manner and are lively and naturalistic. They are among just a few examples in the country (027561; 027569). Other quarries, possibly by the same hand, are found at St Mary, Clipsham in nearby Rutland.

Recording work is ongoing and will no doubt reveal further treasures.

Fig. 4. Barkway, Nave, south aisle sIV, (inv no. 027451)

Fig. 4. Barkway, nave, south aisle, sIV.

Fig. 5. Clothall, Chancel window I, (inv no. 027561)

Fig. 5. Clothall, chancel, east window (I).


The Ancestors at Canterbury Cathedral

Fig. 1. Abraham. © Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral.

Fig. 1. Abraham. © Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral.

As reported in Vidimus 88, twenty-one mostly life-sized figures from the Great South Window of Canterbury Cathedral will be on show inside the cathedral from 18 May until 25 August 2015. The exhibition of the stained glass will be accompanied by a series of Friday evening lectures, which explore the history, iconography and medieval technology that created the Canterbury Ancestors.

22 May 2015, The Archives

‘Before the Ancestors: the clerestory windows of the early 12th century’
Sandy Heslop BA FSA FRHistS, Professor of Visual Arts, University of East Anglia

5 June 2015, Cathedral Lodge Auditorium

‘Safeguarding the Ancestors: The Renewal of Canterbury’s Great South Window’
Canterbury Cathedral’s own heritage team: Jo Deeming BArch (hons), DipArch, MArch, RIBA, SCA, AABC, Surveyor to the Fabric; Heather Newton, Head of Stone Masonry and Conservation; and Léonie Seliger, Director of Stained Glass Studios

12 June 2015, Cathedral Lodge Auditorium

‘Making glass for windows in the Middle Ages’
Ian Freestone BSc, MSc, PhD, FSA, FGS, Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technology

‘An experiment in light’
Léonie Seliger, Director of the Stained Glass Studios

24 July 2015, The Archives

‘Series of Ancestors, Series of Miracles: The Glazing of the Trinity Chapel’
Dr. Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor of Medieval History, York University, Toronto

For more information, visit the cathedral website.

Meet the York Ancestors

Fig. 1. York Minster, GEW, panel 1d before conservation.

Fig. 1. York Minster, GEW, panel 1d before conservation.

This summer the immense task of returning John Thornton’s stained-glass Apocalypse cycle (together with the donor and other figures in row 1) to the Great East Window of York Minster will begin. Ninety panels of stained glass, meticulously conserved by the York Glaziers Trust as part of the HLF-funded project York Minster Revealed will once again illuminate the choir. Before they return to their rightful places, five panels from the base of the window, depicting the donor, Bishop Walter Skirlaw of Durham (d.1406) and some of the historical figures – kings, archbishops and popes – who flank him, will be on display at ground level in the Orb, allowing visitors to see at close quarters some of the finest glass-painting in the whole window. Drawing on chronicle sources that had only recently been composed when the window was executed, as well as on much older histories, especially Bede’s famous Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the designers of the Great East Window offered a carefully edited version of English history from pre-Roman times that stressed York Minster’s place in the history of universal salvation and its importance in the evangelization of the north.


Fig. 2. York Minster, GEW, panel 1d after conservation.

Fig. 2. York Minster, GEW, panel 1d after conservation.

Legendary figures such as the British King Lucius, founder of the first church in York, mingle with real figures from English medieval history, including King Edward the Confessor (illustrated) and Edward III, who married in the minster in 1328. To the right of Skirlaw sit some of the key ecclesiastical figures from this illustrious history, including St William of York (d.1154), enshrined nearby.

The panels can be viewed until the end of May. See the York Glaziers Trust website for more information on the Great East Window and the row 1 panels.

Forthcoming Lecture by Professor Ian Freestone: ‘Yesterday’s Progress, Today’s Problem: Medieval Stained Glass and its Deterioration’

On 7 May 2015, Ian Freestone, Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technology at UCL, will present a lecture entitled ‘Yesterday’s Progress, Today’s Problem: Medieval Stained Glass and its Deterioration’ for UCL’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage. The lecture will take place at G01, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, 6–8pm.

Fig. 1. ‘Yesterday’s Progress, Today’s Problem: Medieval Stained Glass and its Deterioration’

Fig. 1. ‘Yesterday’s Progress, Today’s Problem: Medieval Stained Glass and its Deterioration’

While a Roman window pane from an archaeological excavation may appear almost pristine, medieval glass that is a thousand years younger may be entirely deteriorated, transformed to opaque flakes. This poor durability is particularly apparent in standing buildings with stained glass. Churches and cathedrals are obliged to undertake major campaigns to conserve their fragile inheritance in stained glass, which constitutes a major source of medieval imagery.

Professor Freestone’s talk will explore the extensive research that is being conducted into the materials science of medieval stained glass, to determine its origins, its composition, and its vulnerability to decay. This research is yielding new insights into glazing practices, the sources of raw materials, the technologies of glass production, and the practices of the glass-makers that have caused the glass to be vulnerable to decay. It is clear that as the glass-makers strove to balance the demand for more glass in a wider range of colours against the cost and availability of raw materials, they made decisions of short-term benefit which have proved to be problematic in the longer term.

Ian Freestone studied geology and was awarded a PhD in earth sciences from the University of Leeds. He joined the Research Laboratories of the British Museum in 1979, where he investigated artefacts and materials from a wide range of times, places and cultures, specializing in ceramics and glass. He became Deputy Keeper of Conservation and Science at the museum, then moved to Cardiff University in 2004, as a professorial fellow. Following a stint as Head of Archaeology at Cardiff, he returned to London to join UCL in 2011. Ian’s interests lie in the science of early materials – their production, use and behaviour, and how they can inform us about the people of the past. He is a recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s Pomerance Medal for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology and was a member of the Geography, Environmental Science and Archaeology sub-panel for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which evaluated British academic research over the previous six years. A previous Vice-President of the Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, he has a special interest in high-temperature materials, which links his current research into glass with his early work on volcanic rocks.

For information and to register to attend, please visit the website.

Events at the Stained Glass Museum

Stained Glass in Essex Churches – Tour

Tuesday 30 June 2015, 9.30am – 6.00pm
Clavering, Little Easton, Great Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Newport

Fig. 1. Newport, St Mary’s Church, window nIX, St Catherine.

Fig. 1. Newport, St Mary’s Church, nIX, St Catherine.

This group of relatively unknown churches includes 15th-century stained glass at Clavering (restored by Lowndes and Drury in the 1920s), 17th-century glass by Baptista Sutton at Little Easton, and a variety of Arts and Crafts stained glass at Great Dunmow. The group will travel by coach and be guided by Christopher Parkinson and Jasmine Allen.

A coach will depart Ely at 9.30am and return by 6pm. Those travelling by rail from the south/London can join at St Mary’s Church, Newport, for 10.45am. Newport is an hour by train from London’s Liverpool Street Station, and it is just a ten-minute walk to Newport Church from the station. The coach will also make a drop-off at Newport at the end of the day for 5pm.

Cost: £30 per person, including coach travel and tea. A lunch break will be at Saffron Walden, where members of the group may buy lunch or eat a packed lunch.

Book online at the museum’s website.

For further information, or to book in person, please contact 01353 660347 or email

Capturing Magic – The Making of Stained Glass

The Stained Glass Museum has recently completed an educational video on stained glass in partnership with the Stained Glass Centre, York. The eight-minute long film shows the materials and methods used for making stained glass from medieval times to the present day. Footage for the film was shot on location in Ely Cathedral, The Stained Glass Museum in Ely, York Minster, York Glaziers Trust, the Salisbury Stained Glass Studio, and the workshops of English Antique Glass in Wolverhampton. It reveals the ancient processes of glass-blowing and lead casting, as well as the traditional glass-painting and leading techniques used to make stained-glass windows.

The project was begun in 2008 as a collaboration between The Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral and Anglia Ruskin University, under the expertise of Laurence Vulliamy, FRSA (television producer, director and series producer), and Dennis Borrow (a distinguished film and television lighting cameraman). It was funded by the Barbara Whatmore Trust, the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, and Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire. The editing of the footage was completed in March 2015 by Historyworks, Inc. under the guidance of the two partnership institutions The Stained Glass Museum, Ely, and The Stained Glass Centre, York.

The video can currently be viewed on the museum’s website and will be available for visitors to watch in the museum gallery later this year.

Spring Lecture at the Stained Glass Centre

The Stained Glass Centre at St Martin cum Gregory, Micklegate, York will be holding a Spring Lecture on Thursday 14 May at 7.30pm.

Fig. 1. The window. © English Heritage/ Bob Smith.

Fig. 1. The window. © English Heritage/ Bob Smith.

The lecture, given by Susan Harrison of English Heritage, is entitled ‘Stained Glass by Henry Gyles from Belsay Castle’.  Susan Harrison is the Collections Curator for English Heritage (North of England), based at the Helmsley Archaeology Store.  A previously unknown window by the eminent glass-painter Henry Gyles of York (1645–1709) was recently discovered at Belsay Castle (see Vidimus 80).  This lecture will reveal more about its discovery, research, significance, conservation and display, appropriately in the church where Gyles’s father Edmund, a glazier, was church warden, and where Henry Gyles was baptized and buried.

Doors will open at 7pm, and refreshments will be available.  Tickets, available on the door, are £6; concessions £5; free for Friends of the SGC.

Conference at Wells Cathedral

Fig. 1. Detail from window (c) Holy Well Glass.

Fig. 1. Detail from window (c) Holy Well Glass.

To mark the completion of the conservation of the Jesse Window, and as part of a Celebration Weekend on 16 and 17 May, Wells Cathedral is hosting a specialist conference.  The Conference will be held on 16 May, and speakers will look at the significance of the window in the Quire, the theology underlying windows depicting the Tree of Jesse, and the process of conservation.  The talks will include ‘History of the Jesse Window Project’ by Jill Kerr Channer (Medieval Glass Historian and member of the Wells Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee); ‘The Importance of the Jesse Window in Fourteenth-century English Art and Architecture’ by Professor Tim Ayers (History of Art Department, York University); and ‘Resisting Restoration – The conservation of the Jesse Tree Window at Wells’ by Steve Clare (Stained Glass Conservator – Holy Well Glass, Wells)

A limited number of tickets is available to the day conference at £15 each (inclusive of lunch).  Tickets can be purchased from the Cathedral Shop Box Office (01749 672773).  Free stained glass tours will take place on both Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 and these include a free cup of tea in the Cathedral Cafe.  Places are limited and must be pre-booked via the Cathedral shop or Wells Cathedral Website

The Kapel: A Very Modern Stained-Glass ‘Chapel’

Fig. 1. The Chapel (c) Filip Dujardin

Fig. 1. The Chapel.  (c) Filip Dujardin

In 2011, a collaboration of Geert De Groote Architecten and Katrien Mestdagh of Atelier Mestdagh resulted in the design and execution of a fully demountable stained-glass chapel, simply called de Kapel (‘the Chapel’). The project was selected to participate in Diafaan V, a festival devoted to the glass arts, which took place on the historic site of the Sinte-Elisabeth beguinage near Ghent (Belgium) where the Chapel was beautifully positioned in the middle of the green area between the church and the old hospital chapel. The Chapel was recently part of an exhibition at STAM, the Ghent city museum, entitled ‘Models. Imagining on scale’ (14 November 2014 – 26 April 2015).

In terms of form and design, an idiom was used whereby every part of the Chapel is a geometric simplification of a symbol or architectural element. Specifically, the curved shape refers to the pointed arches of the Gothic period, the round stained-glass panels to traditional rose windows, and the structural composition and the interweaving of the circles to the structural rib vaulting within churches. Although the structure is a chapel in the classical sense of the word, anchored in the history of religious architecture, and inspired by historical forms, this is not its intended function, nor is it experienced by the public in that way. The Chapel affords an opportunity to reclaim public space for the celebration of private moments – such as births, weddings, funerals – and is meant to be a meeting place for anyone, at any time.

Fig. 2. The Chapel (c) Filip Dujardin

Fig. 2. The Chapel. (c) Filip Dujardin

The Chapel is a prototype, a structure that emerged in an experimental way. A steel tube with a diameter of 530mm was cut into discs 30mm thick. Each disc was perforated in six places to facilitate connections. They were then attached to one another by butterfly screws and bolts, forming a structural steel network. All steel elements were galvanized to prevent corrosion. Seven different transparent glass types were chosen, the colours being consciously kept to neutral tones. The chapel is built out of eighty-one round panels, each of which is made of twelve pieces of textured, white or coloured glass, held together with lead. All of the 1458 pieces of glass were cut by hand. The leading, soldering, and puttying of the stained glass were carried out in a traditional way. The round panels were assembled on, and are supported by, the steel discs, creating visually interconnecting curved lead lines that leave the impression that the circles are interwoven. Two laser-cut steel plates close the interior space at one end, and function also as a wind-brace.

Fig. 3. The Chapel (c) Filip Dujardin

Fig. 3. The Chapel. (c) Filip Dujardin

Until September 2015, the Chapel will be undergoing a few changes in order to perfect its structure and to make it easier to dismantle. It awaits a final and definite location and owner, but in the meantime will be relocated from one public space to another.