Thomas Willement On-line

An important book by the nineteenth-century heraldry expert and stained glass artist, Thomas Willement (1786–1871) can now be read on-line hereA Concise Account of the Principal Works in Stained Glass That Have Been Executed was published by Willement in 1840 and contains a record of his work from 1812 when he undertook a commission for the Trevanion family in Cornwall, up to 1840 when he made two large windows for Cambridge University Library.

Willement was a pioneering stained glass artist in the early nineteenth century, experimenting with medieval techniques. The book lists many of his commissions and gives valuable insights into the subjects he painted and the clients for whom he worked. By around 1834, his wide knowledge of heraldry saw him appointed heraldic artist to George IV and later ‘artist in stained glass to Queen Victoria’. By this time he had already published several works on heraldry. In 1840, he made four heraldic windows for the choir clerestory of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, work which later extended to the choir aisles, the Beaufort and Lincoln chapels, and the chapter room. In 1844, he published a description of the restoration of the great west window at St George’s Chapel.

In 1843, he was employed to make an armorial window for the great hall at Hampton Court Palace, on the outskirts of London. As Penny Hebgin-Barnes’ recent CVMA volume (The Medieval Stained Glass of Lancashire) reveals, he seems to have removed some of the original sixteenth-century glass during the course of this work for subsequent re-use elsewhere (see Vidimus 29, May 2009).

In 1840, Willement joined the famous gothic architect and designer A.W.N. Pugin (1812–1852), to make the east window of the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, Handsworth, Birmingham. The relationship foundered after Pugin complained in 1842: ‘I believe that Willement thinks only of making money … I will never work with Willement again for I have had immense trouble drawn everything out in detail and then at the last he charges twice as much as anybody’.

In 1842, Willement worked on the restoration of the Temple Church in London and later the church of the round church of the Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge, which had been restored between 1841–43 by the architect Anthony Salvin (1799–1881). In 1845, he purchased Davington Priory, Faversham (Kent), and in the same year also painted the ceiling of the Chapter House at York Minster and the vault of the Lady Chapel of Wells Cathedral. Additionally, he re-leaded the centre window of the Lady Chapel and provided several new figures of prophets. Willement’s prolific output continued into the 1850s and 1860s, including for St Luke’s, Chelsea; St Lawrence’s, Ludlow (Shropshire); the continuation of the work at St George’s Chapel, Windsor; and other windows and painted decoration at Windsor Castle. His last commission, at the royal chapel of the Savoy, London, was completed in 1865. He died on 10 March 1871 at Davington Priory.

An extended version of the book - A Chronological List of the Principal Works in Stained Glass Designed and Executed by Thomas Willement of London FSA from the Year 1812 to 1865 Inclusive - can be found in the British Library, BL., Add. MS 52413.

Further Reading

S.A. Shepherd, ‘Willement, Thomas (1786–1871)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.  We are indebted to Dr Shepherd’s entry for the compiling of this item.

S.Brown, ‘So Perfectly Satisfactory: The Stained Glass of Thomas Willement’, in Sarah Brown (ed.), A History of the Stained Glass of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Historical Monographs Relating to St George’s Chapel, Vol. 18, pp.109–145 (Windsor, 2006)

H.T. Kirby, ‘Thomas Willement: an Heraldic Artist’s Note Book’, Apollo, Vol. 43 (1946), pp. 47–48
H.T. Kirby, ‘Thomas Willement: an Heraldic Artist’s Note Book’, BSMGP Journal, Vol. 9, No. 4 (1946) pp. 127–33
M. Harrison, Victorian Stained Glass (1980)
T. Willement, Regal Heraldry: the Armorial Insignia of the Kings and Queens of England, from Coeval Authorities (1821)
T. Willement, Heraldic Notices of Canterbury Cathedral; with Genealogical and Topographical Notes (1827)
T. Willement, Facsimile of a contemporary roll with the names and the arms of the sovereign and of the spiritual and temporal peers who sat in parliament held at Westminster AD1515 (1829)
T. Willement, A Roll of Arms of the Reign of Richard the Second (1834)
T. Willement, An account of the restorations of the collegiate chapel of St George, Windsor, with some particulars of the heraldic ornaments of the edifice (1844)

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