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For the past few months conservators from the York Glaziers Trust have been working on the tracery lights and upper section of an important window – nV – from the chapel of New College, Oxford. [Fig. 1] The tracery lights are a precious survival of the original glazing scheme made in the late 14th century while the main light glass is part of a commission completed in 1774 by the York glass painter William Peckitt (1731 – 1795). YGT Director Sarah Brown explains the conservation of this window and its remarkable history. The photographs are © the York Glaziers Trust.
St Mary College of Winchester in Oxford, otherwise known as New College, contains some of the finest glass in England. It was founded by Bishop William of Wykeham (1324–1404) in 1379 as the senior of two educational establishments intended to restore the numbers and calibre of the clergy following the ravages of the Black Death (the other institution being Winchester College itself). The chapels of both institutions were glazed by the same man, Thomas Glazier of Oxford and significant remnants of his original work can still be seen, especially in Oxford where the chapel consists of a choir (known as the chapel) with transepts and crossing (known as the antechapel), based on a design established at the end of the 13th century at Merton College, Oxford. [Fig. 2] The chapel has no east window, as it was built ‘back to back’ with the college hall.
The Medieval Glazing Scheme: Main Light Subjects
The windows of the chapel choir were originally filled with 80 figures under architectural canopies. On the north side 40 patriarchs and prophets represented the Old Law while, on the south, 40 saints were symbolic of the New Dispensation made possible by Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Some of these choir figures were subsequently used to fill gaps in the antechapel glazing. Others have been lost. It is thought that Wykeham chose the saints and patriarchs for the chapel windows from a manuscript written c. 1031, the Liber Vitae of New Minster (Hyde Abbey) in Winchester, (London, British Library, MS. Stowe 944) which includes many of the identifiable figures surviving at New College.
The tracery lights portrayed different subjects. The tracery lights of the easternmost windows in the choir depicted the Wise and Foolish Virgins while those of almost all the other windows were filled with depictions of the Nine Orders of Angels. One of these – The Order of Powers – (see Note below) – is depicted in the window we have been cleaning – window nV. [ Fig. 3] Smaller openings in the scheme were filled with bust-length figures of queens, grotesques and foliate decorations.
The Post-Medieval Fate of the Chapel Glazing
Despite the injunctions against imagery represented in stained glass issued in the reigns of King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I, there is no evidence of significant damage to the New College windows in the years immediately after the Reformation. The exceptions were four images of the Crucifixion, which were probably removed in 1564. Substantial repairs involving the provision of new faces for some figures took place in the 1620s and 1630s, a period in which glass-painting enjoyed a short-lived revival in Oxford.
By the early 18th century, the chapel glazing therefore remained substantially unaltered but in following decades the windows were, in the words of the glass historian Christopher Woodforde, ‘smitten so hard by three waves of enthusiastic generosity, that the College is fortunate to have retained any medieval glass at all’. Between 1735 and 1740 the London glass painter, William Price the Younger, was paid £84 per window to make new windows ‘of equal goodness’ for the south side of the chapel. Attention next turned to the west window. In 1765 William Peckitt of York was paid for an entirely new west window, filling it with figures of saints. The window was not judged to be entirely successful and before he was allowed to work on the three westernmost windows on the north side of the choir, Peckitt was required to secure the services of a draughtsman of greater competence: Biagio Rebecca (1735–1808), a fashionable Italian-born artist working in England, was brought in to do the job. Each new window, of eight large Old Testament figures, was to cost £250.00. This price did not cover the replacement of the medieval tracery lights, which remained largely untouched until the 19th century. Despite the College’s growing dissatisfaction with Peckitt, the three windows of the north wall of the choir, including nV, were completed in 1774 (the date appears beneath the figure of Adam in the lower register of window nV) and he was paid the balance of his fee in 1775.
The Conservation of Window nV
In contrast to the condition of the medieval glazing of much of the ante-chapel, the tracery lights of the chapel windows are exceptionally well-preserved. Many panels are almost entirely intact, while others have only a small number of insertions, meaning that very little original glass has been moved out of its original location within the panel. Most of the tracery lights are constructed predominantly of white glass, decorated with generally well-preserved glass paint and a lemony yellow stain. Flashed ruby and potmetal blue are employed in the backgrounds to the architectural canopies. Where original glass has been lost, the stop-gaps are medieval New College glass from unknown locations, cut in to match the surrounding glass.
When the panels were examined the glass was found to be extremely dirty and disfigured by the past application to the interior surface of a brownish varnish which was peeling off in numerous places. In addition fractured glass had been sandwiched inside plates that had been neither contoured to match the medieval glass, nor sealed against the ingress of moisture and dirt. Moreover the glass had suffered heavy corrosion on the exterior surface and much of the flashed ruby was of uneven quality as a result of the corrosion of the thin ruby layer. Within the white glasses there was a significant dichotomy; some remained white and translucent while the rest had darkened, reducing light transmission. These differences could be seen within single panels and even within single figures, presumably reflecting the differing chemical composition of different batches of glass used by the medieval glaziers. The College has agreed to allow minute pieces of glass to be sampled by the University of Cardiff as part of the Leverhulme-funded research project described in the April issue of Vidimus. [Fig 4]
The medieval glass has now been cleaned, fractured pieces edge-bonded and releaded where necessary. The inserted medieval fragments have been retained, having been selected with care by an earlier restorer. During the conservation programme, the YGT found small amounts of medieval lead surviving in two panels. [Fig 5]
Elsewhere, the medieval lead structure had been mended with 18th-century lead calmes marked with the name ‘I. Oliver’ and the date 1769. [Fig. 6]
John Oliver is a well-documented maker of lead mills and details of this interesting discovery will be published in due course. The historic lead was all conserved, recorded and retained in situ The glass was also found to have numerous glaziers’ sorting marks, adding to a growing number of such marks identified at New College. These will also be the subject of a publication.
The conservation of Peckitt’s figures of Baruch, Hosea, Daniel and Ezekiel in nV presented their own challenges. [Fig. 7]
The glass he used is characterised by its relative thinness and regularity. Pieces are large and generally well preserved, with little if any corrosion or deterioration of the glass surface. A relatively small number of cracks had been repaired with lead calmes at some earlier date (perhaps the 1930s). Most of these leaded repairs are unobtrusive, although a small number of cracks had been repaired in situ more recently in a clumsy fashion. Pot metal coloured glass is used in places in the window (especially in the draperies), although the greater part of the window is constructed of white glass cut in rectangular pieces, decorated with glass paint, yellow stain and a variety of coloured vitreous enamels
The glass has been painted in an exceptionally complex and sophisticated manner [Figs. 8 & 9].
Thus while glass-paint and yellow stain are used in a traditional manner, they are also used in unusual ways (yellow stain applied to the interior surface, for example). These traditional pigments are also found applied in layers and used alongside a range of vitreous enamels in several colours, applied in places with great delicacy and subtlety in a manner reminiscent of watercolour painting. It is as yet unclear how Peckitt was able to fire these paint/enamel combinations with such success. The windows also contain examples of Peckitt’s renowned ruby stain and unusually, the enamel pigments have been applied to both internal and external surfaces.
Initial concern as to the stability of the enamels proved largely unfounded. Under deep layers of loose dirt, much of the pigment was found to be well-adhered. The exception is the blue enamel, which in places has detached from the glass surfaces and has been lost, leaving white patches that from a distance read as ‘holes’ in the glass. [Fig 10]
In a past restoration, cold paint had been applied in an attempt to darken these areas of halation. These areas of cold paint had themselves now failed and were peeling away in an unsightly fashion. The blue enamel had ‘retreated’ further, isolating the areas of peeling cold paint and demonstrating that the deterioration was a continuing problem. Some areas of enamel required consolidation, but careful cleaning of the glass under the microscope restored the brilliance of Peckitt’s palette of enamel colours and revealed the full virtuosity of his painting skills. It was decided to remove the failing cold paint, which no longer served to disguise the lost enamel. Conventional pigmented backing plates were no solution in this instance as Peckitt has frequently applied enamel to both surfaces of the glass. Deputy Senior Conservator Rachel Thomas’s ingenious solution to this challenge has been the successful application of ‘floating’ patches of thin pigmented glass, supported by copper wires attached to the exterior leads, so that they do not touch the surface of the Peckitt glass.
The Peckitt panels have not required releading and the conserved window will return to New College later in the year with full benefit of protective glazing. [Fig 11] It is hoped that this protection from damaging cycles of condensation will ensure the longevity of William Peckitt’s exceptional work.
* C. Woodforde,The Stained Glass of New College, Oxford, Oxford, 1951
* T. Brighton and B. Sprakes, ‘Medieval and Georgian Stained Glass in Oxford and Yorkshire: The Work of Thomas of Oxford (1385–1427) and William Peckitt of York (1731–95) in New College Chapel, York Minster and St James’, High Melton’, Antiquaries Journal, 70 (2), 1990, pp.380–411
Medieval theologians believed that the Nine Orders of Angels were grouped into three ‘hierarchies’: first, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; second, Dominations, Virtues, Powers; third, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.
To see more images of New College Chapel stained glass see the CVMA website.
This month we are delighted to publish a pioneering gazetteer of pre-Dissolution glass in England’s most south westerly county: Cornwall. In the early 16th century the Cornish church included six monasteries, two friaries, three collegiate churches, some hospitals and 209 parishes or parish – like areas, together with numerous chapels, some linked to private houses. There are over 215 ecclesiastical medieval buildings or sites.
We are extremely grateful to Dr Joanna Mattingly, a specialist on Cornish churches and a member of the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee, and to Michael G. Swift, the stained glass advisor to the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee, for kindly allowing us to publish a copy of their important gazetteer which lists forty-nine public sites in the county with early glass, far more than previously thought. In all cases, the location of the windows and some indication of their subject-matter, where known, are given. Illustrations of some of the glass can be found in the Picture Archive of the CVMA website.
Although our survey for the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee found traces of medieval glazing in nearly fifty Cornish churches (or just under a quarter of the total), only three now contain complete pre-Dissolution windows: St Neot, St Kew and St Winnow. In view of the importance of these windows, some brief introductory words might be helpful.
The most impressive scheme is at St Neot which contains significant remains of its original glazing. The earliest window (remains of the east window appears to date from the early to mid-15th century. Further windows were glazed as funds were raised including the Old Testament windows which date from the 1480s or very early 1490s. The rest of the south aisle windows at St Neot are from the 1500s–10s, while the north aisle was glazed during the 1520s and early 1530s (on the basis of three of the last windows there being dated 1528–30).
The St Kew Passion of Christ window probably date from the 1480s or very early 1490s. A Jesse window in the south chapel may also date from the 15th century. The St Winnow’s window can be assigned to the 1460s.
All these glazing schemes were part of a major rebuilding/refurbishment campaign which transformed the appearance of Cornish churches during the 15th and 16th centuries. St Kew seems to have been finished around 1500 while St Neot was still being completed as the Reformation unfolded. Surprisingly in view of the comparatively early date (in a Cornish context) of its south chapel, St Winnow was left unfinished (it still retains its north transept of 13th or 14th century date). Of these churches, the glazing schemes at St Neot most closely reflect the pattern of enlargement of many Cornish churches. Documents show that short gaps between projects allowed for recovery before a fresh surge of fund-raising. Documentary evidence suggests that most of Cornwall’s medieval windows probably survived the Reformation with just a few faces and controversial images being removed. Major iconoclasm was delayed until the third Civil War period – 1650–1 – when Parliamentary soldiers went on a well documented glass-breaking spree. Eighteenth century neglect and Victorian restorations led to further losses, while choice fragments were also given to visiting antiquarians. Information about lost glass has been largely ignored here.
Joanna Mattingly and Michael G. Swift
Altarnun: St Nonna
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery – St John the Evangelist (from Crucifixion).
Blisland: Sts Protus and Hyacinth
* n2. North chancel, chapel: east tracery – three rosettes.
Boyton: Holy Name
* 1. Chancel, east: 19th century medley window with six medieval fragments.
Breage: St Breaca
* s2. South chapel, south: tracery – head of donor?
* s4. South transept, east: tracery – fragments.
* North transept, north: tracery – head.
Cothele: St Dominic
* 1. Chancel, east: Annunciation in tracery, Crucifixion and armorials.
* South nave, 1: St Anne (teaching Virgin to read), St Catherine.
Creed: St Crida
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery – Christ’s hand pierced by nail, fragment of crown, crown of thorns.
* s2. South chapel, east: tracery – soldier awoken at the Tomb.
* s3. South chapel south, 1: tracery – eagle on gold shield.
* s4. South chapel south, 2: tracery – armorial.
* s5. South aisle, 1: tracery – three figures, two at prayer.
* s6. South aisle, 2: tracery – winged ox of St Luke.
* s7. South aisle, 3: tracery – foliate and canopy work; finch with chain of office.
Davidstow: St David
* Tower, west: four armorial fragments.
Egloskerry: St Keria
* s2. South aisle, east: tracery – Holy Trinity?
Fowey: St Finbarrus
* North aisle, 1: Agony in Gethsemane (transferred from Rashleigh Town House).
Golant: St Sampson
* North aisle, 1: Sts Antony and James the Great, plus fragments
Goran: St Goranus
* South aisle, east: tracery – head of apostle or Christ
Helland: St Helena
* s2. South aisle, east: tracery – including sacred monogram and arms of Giffard and Heale.
Lamorran: St Morren
* s2. South transept, east: medley window of various fragments, including part of Golgotha and coat of arms.
Landulph: Sts Leonard and Dilph
* s3. South chapel, east: armorial, Lower family – 17th century?
* s4. South chapel, south: armorial.
Laneast: Sts Sidwell and Gulvat
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery and central light – part of crucifixion, tracery fragments of roses and crowns, unidentified face. [Fig. 1]
* s2. Chancel, south: St Christopher, St Etheldreda of Ely. South aisle tracery – roses.
Lanivet: Parish church, dedication unknown
* n3. North chapel, 2: tracery – fragments and sacred monogram.
* n2. North chapel, 1: tracery – coats of arms.
Lanivet: St Benet’s chapel
* Tower: three armorials including Chiverton arms.
Lanlivery: St Brevita
* s5. South nave: tracery – rosette.
Lanteglos-by-Camelford: St Julitta
* n2. Chancel north: armorial, head of St Christopher, grapes.
* s3. South nave: tracery – Solomon and St Mary Salome; Joachim and Joanna.
* s4. South nave: tracery – Sts Peter, James the Great and Andrew. [Fig. 2]
* s6. South nave: tracery – Sts Jude and Bartholomew.
* s7. South nave: tracery – vine leaves and grapes, including St Luke emblem.
Lanteglos-by-Fowey: St Wyllow
* South aisle, east: Annunciation Coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary, rose.
Launceston: St Thomas
* South aisle, east: arms of Launceston priory.
* Also, main light of border of crowns and tracery white roses.
Linkinhorne: St Melor
* n2. North aisle, east: tracery – rose.
* n3. North aisle, 1: tracery: three roses, crown.
* s4. South aisle: God the Father.
Luxulyan: Sts Circius and Julitta
* w1. Tower: tracery and central lights fragments; left and right lights armorials.
Michaelstow: St Michael
* n2. North aisle, east: tracery – head of BVM?
Minster: St Merteriana
* Tower, west: Trelawny arms.
Morwenstow: St John the Baptist.
* n2. North aisle, east: tracery – sacred monogram?
Mullion: St Melina
* Tower, west: fragments.
Poundstock: St Neot
* n3. North chapel, north: canopy work, including Luke’s symbol.
* s3. South transept, east: tracery – canopy work. [Fig. 3]
* Two roundels: arms of Priory of Bodmin and Thomas Vivian’s initials.
Royal Cornwall Museum: see Truro
Quethiock: St Hugo
* n4. North aisle: tracery – Annunciation.
St Blazey: St Blaise
* Tower, west: St Blaise in centre light; tracery – roundels of chalice and host, animal with chain round neck.
St Breocke: St Breock
* South aisle, 5: tracery – BVM Annunciation and inscription.
St Enoder: St Enoder
* Southeast: head of female saint, sacred monogram and armorial.
St Kew: St James
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery – roundels of Sts Michael, Lawrence and two bishops; tracery – sacred monograms and crowns with roses.
* n3. North chapel, east: twelve episodes of the Passion, Nativity and donor figures; tracery armorials of Pentire, Carminow and Bere. [Figs. 4 and 5]
* n5. North aisle, 2: tracery – angels with symbols of evangelists.
* s3. South chapel, east: Jesse section, sacred monograms, saint with staff, sacred monograms, figure in tabard, sacred monograms; tracery eight angels.
* s4. South chapel, south, 1: tracery – three armorials, arms of Arundell, Bishop of Exeter and Lanhargy?
* s5. South chapel, south, 2: tracery – rose and angel with Agnus Dei.
St Keyne: St Kayna
* n2. North chapel, east: tracery two armorials.
St Mabyn : St Mebena
* s2. South aisle, east tracery – Green Man/grotesque face.
* s4. South aisle, 2: tracery – angel face
* s5. South aisle, 3: tracery – foliate.
* s6. South aisle, 4: tracery – angel face.
* s7. South aisle, 5: tracery – angel face.
St Martin-by-Looe: St Martin
* s2. South chapel, east: tracery – roses and crown.
St Mellion: St Mellanus
* 1. Chancel east: tracery – rose, bishop, St Peter.
St Neot: St Neot
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery – arms of Valletort and Luccombe. Annunciation and two female saints.
* n2. North aisle, east: tracery – Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Sts Catherine and Barbara.
* n4. North aisle, 1: Sts John the Baptist, Gregory, Leonard znd Andrew; Harys (glazier) and possibly Courtney and other glazier donor figures.
* n5. North aisle, 2: St Mabena, Blessed Virgin Mary, Christ, St Meubred; ‘Wives of the western part of the parish’ donor figures. 1528.
* n6. North sisle, 3: Sts Petroc, Clair, Manac, God holding napkin of souls (All Souls or All Saints); ‘Sisters’ donor figures. 1529. [Fig. 6]
* n7. North aisle, 4: twelve scenes of the life of St Neot. Given by ‘Young men’ of parish. 1530.
* n8. North aisle, west: twelve scenes of the life of St George.
* s2. South chapel, east: fifteen scenes of the Creation. Tracery nine orders of the angelic host.
* s3. South chapel, south, 1: eight scenes of Noah of an original 12.
* s4. South chapel, south, 2: Sts Christopher, Neot, Leonard, Catherine, and sacred monograms and armorials. Borlase donor figures; tracery – crown and sun borders.
* s5. South aisle, 1: Blessed Virgin Mary, Crucifixion, Sts John the Evangelist and Stephen, with donor figures; tracery – crown and sun borders. s6. South Aisle 2 : Sts Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Tracery – chalice.
* s7. South aisle, 3: Sts Lalluwy, German, John the Evangelist and Stephen, with Callaway and Tubbe donor figures; tracery – St John the Evangelist, Risen Christ, St James the Great. Tracery – Annunciation and Holy Spirit.
* s8. South aisle, 4: Sts Peter, Paul, Christ and James.
St Teath: St Thetha
* 1. Chancel, east: Passion instruments – spear, wounds, sacred heart.
* n3. North aisle: tracery – armorials.
* n6. North aisle: tracery – armorials.
* s4. South aisle: tracery – fragments.
* s5. South aisle: fragments.
* s6. South aisle: tracery – Passion – cross, ladder, spear, post, crown of thorns, lantern.
St Tudy: St Tudius
* 1. Chancel, east: tracery – John’s symbol, sacred monogram, face.
* s2. South chapel, east: tracery – chalice and roses.
St Winnow: St Winnow
* 1. Chancel, east: Crucifixion with Blessed Virgin Mary and St John.
* s2. South aisle, east: Tracery arms of Kayle, Archdekne and Courtenay and. Sts George, Blessed Virgin Mary and Child, Sts Christopher, Michael, bishop saint, St Mary Magdalene, Blessed Virgin Mary (from Annunciation), Sts Winnow?, and Leonard; donor figures of Courtenay and Archdekne. [Fig. 7]
Sheviock: Blessed Virgin Mary
* n2. North chapel, east tracery – BVM head and Courtenay arms?
Sithney: St Sithney
* s2. South aisle, east: arms of Penrose – 17th century?
* s4. South aisle, 2: heads only of angel, Gabriel, Blessed Virgin Mary, bishop and two others. [Fig. 8]
South Petherwin: St Paternus
* s3. South chapel, south: tracery – Tregadock and Tremayne arms, and empty shield.
Trelowarren : chapel
* n1., n2., s1., s2.: tracery – roundels of Vivian arms from Rialton. [Fig. 9]
Truro Cathedral : Blessed Virgin Mary chapel
* St Mary’s aisle, 8: tracery – fragments including head.
* St Mary’s aisle, 11: tracery – fragments.
* St Mary’s aisle, 12: tracery – Agnus Dei.
Truro: Royal Cornwall Museum
* Two panels from St Neot: Warning to Sabbath Breakers and St Mary Salome.
Withiel: St Clement
* s2. Lady Chapel, east: tracery – Vivian arms.
* G.E. Doble, ‘Medieval Stained Glass in Cornwall and Brittany’, Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters 4 (4), 1932, pp. 183–86
* J. Pike Hedgeland, A description accompanied by sixteen coloured plates, of the splendid decorations recently made to the church of St. Neot, in Cornwall, at the sole expense of the Reverend Richard Gerveys Grylls, published in 1830, Printed for J.P. Hedgeland (London)
* R. Marks, Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages, London and Toronto, 1993
* J. Mattingly, ‘Stories in the Glass – Reconstructing the St Neot Pre-Reformation Glazing Scheme’ in Royal Institution of Cornwall Journal (JRIC) New Series, 3, 2000, pp. 9–55 and ‘A Tin Miner and a Bal Maiden – further research on the St Neot windows’ JRIC 2001, pp. 96–100
* J. Mattingly, Looking at Cornish Churches, Redruth, 2005
* J. Mattingly, ‘Pre-Reformation saints’ cults in Cornwall – with particular reference to the St Neot windows’, in J. Cartwright (ed.), Celtic Hagiography and Saints’ Lives, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003, pp. 249–70
* N. Orme, Cornwall and the Cross: Christianity 500–1560, Victoria County History publication, Chichester, 2007
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