Christopher Parkinson reports on his project to photograph all the stained glass of Essex for the British CVMA. The project was inspired by Kerry Ayre, author of Medieval English Figurative Roundels (CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 6, Oxford, 2002), who was working on the county survey of Essex when she sadly passed away. See Vidimus 31 for an appreciation.
During Christmas 1912, Frederick Sydney Eden – whose life and work featured in Vidimus 74 – wrote in the preface of his book Ancient Stained and Painted Glass: ‘Several of the illustrations are taken from the county of Essex, which is generally supposed to be below average in remains of old painted glass, and I may add that it would not be difficult to illustrate all the styles in painted glass by fine specimens from Essex alone.’ I am sure Kerry Ayre too would have echoed Eden’s observation as she undertook her survey of the extant medieval glass in Essex.
It was at the start of 2011 that I commenced the task of making a photographic record of stained glass in Essex, not restricting myself to pre-1550 glass, but recording all stained-glass windows made right up to the present. It was intended from the start that these images would be uploaded to the CVMA Picture Archive, which until recently was somewhat short of images relating to Essex.
Now approximately 1,500 images from 90 churches and other buildings in Essex have been uploaded to the website. Work to associate metadata with these images is proceeding apace, and as Vidimus went to press, about half of the newly uploaded images are available for public viewing. The rest will be available shortly, and Vidimus readers will be kept up to date with progress.
When Kerry Ayre was working on her survey, she took the four Essex volumes of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (RCHM) survey as her starting point. These volumes are based on surveys carried out in the early decades of the 20th century and identified approximately 200 locations, parish churches in the main, where old stained glass could be found. I have made visits to half of these buildings and hope to visit the remaining locations during 2014. At several of the churches visited, the glass mentioned in the relevant RCHM volume has been reset in different windows and in one case, a different church! Unfortunately, several churches appear to have lost their glass. Since I am endeavouring to record glass from all periods, after visiting the locations identified in the RCHM volumes, I am planning to visit all buildings in Essex that may contain stained glass; with luck, this will throw up any omissions from the RCHM volumes. With some 600 churches in the Anglican diocese of Chelmsford alone, without counting churches of other denominations, this could take some time! The current batch of images has CVMA inv. nos. in the range 025038–026661, and a browse by number or by site will give examples of some of the ‘fine specimens’ referred to by Eden.
• 12th-century French glass at St Mary and All Saints, Rivenhall (featured in Vidimus 70) and the almost complete Tree of Jesse of c.1450 at St Margaret, Margaretting
• substantial remains of 15th- and early 16th-century glass at Thaxted, St John the Baptist, and Clavering, St Mary and St Clement
• a fine set of roundels of 16th-century and later date at East Mersea, St Edmund King and Martyr
• a panel, probably 17th-century Flemish or Netherlandish, of St Peter with flies painted next to the saint’s face, at Belchamp Walter, St Mary
• the arms of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, at the Siege House, Colchester. These arms were partly the cause of his being imprisoned in the Tower on charges of high treason. He had put a label argent in the first quarter instead of the second or subsequent quarter. The death of Henry VIII a few days before his execution probably saved his life.
• the east window at Messing, All Saints, attributed to Abraham Van Linge, of c.1640
• four panels of early Morris glass at Frinton, St Mary the Virgin, of c.1862
This is a small selection of what is currently available. More will become available in the next few weeks and months. While Essex may not be as rich in glass as its East Anglian neighbours, it certainly does not lack in quality.