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In 2006 over half of a largely unknown collection of English and continental sixteenth-century roundels was severely damaged by arsonists who broke into St Mary and St Eanswythe’s in Folkestone, a medieval church overlooking the English channel.
Although the damage to the church itself was limited, local parishioners were horrified when they saw the shattered and blackened glass. Most believed that it would be impossible to repair.
This fascinating report by conservators from the Cathedral Studios in Canterbury explains how ‘Mission Impossible’ was accomplished and the shattered fragments reconstructed so that they can be displayed again.
The roundels were given to the church by a local parishioner and benefactor in 1955. According to notes made at the time, they came via Nackington House near Canterbury, a large seventeenth-century mansion which was demolished in 1919. Shortly after their donation to the church, the panels were installed in a quarry-glazed partition in a newly built vestry annexe. Because of their location they were not seen by the public and remained largely unknown. They were not described in William Cole’s, A Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain, Corpus Vitrearum Great Britain, Summary Catalogue 1, Oxford, 1993. To the best of our knowledge they have never been published previously.
Description of the Panels
The roundels can be divided into two groups: three figurative roundels of continental origin and four heraldic roundels, almost certainly English. Fortunately, and significantly for this story, they were professionally photographed by Halksworth & Wheeler, a well-known firm of studio portrait photographers in Folkestone, before they were installed in the vestry. Without the existence of these excellent photographs, our task would truly have been impossible. The photographs show:
Roundel 1: The Archangel St Michael and the dragon surrounded by an ornamental border. Dark brown glass paint and pale lemon silver stain. The border or frame is later and includes two replacement sections. The style is Netherlandish or French, c. 1500. Size: approx. 395 x 315 mm. [Fig. 1]
Roundel 2: St Luke the Evangelist surrounded by an ornamental border. The saint sits in his study holding a crucifix. His evangelist symbol of the winged ox nestles on the floor to his right. A lavabo hangs above a fire behind him. No restoration replacements. Netherlandish or French. c. 1510 -20. Size: approx. Ø 300 mm. [Fig. 2]
Roundel 3: St George and the dragon surrounded by an ornamental border. Only one of the border pieces dates from the sixteenth century, the rest are restoration replacements. French or Netherlandish, possibly mid-sixteenth century. Size approx: Ø 305 mm. [Fig. 3]
Roundel 4: A coat of arms per pale, (1), sable a bend Or (gold) on a canton sinister argent (silver), a Lion’s mask Or, (2) sable a female Gryphon (or griffin) rampant argent.
Black paint and orange silver stain, no enamels, early sixteenth-century with a Renaissance-influenced garland border. Size: approx. Ø 320 mm.
In 1955 a cathedral archivist suggested that these arms might show Isacke of Ickham/Patrixbourne and Colkyn of Boughton-under-Blean, families and villages in the vicinity of Canterbury. Dr Richard Baker, FHG, the Vice-Principal of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, has recently confirmed that the dexter (left hand) coat is certainly that of the Isacke family of Patrixbourne, and that the Colkins of Boughton did indeed use a griffin for their arms. He has also drawn attention to references in the International Genealogical Index which allege that there was a marriage between Edward Isacke (son of William Isacke and Margaret Haute) and Margaret Griffin at Patrixbourne in 1542-ish . The Griffin families, including the Griffins of Braybrooke, also bore a similar coat of arms. [Fig.4]
Roundel 5: Coat of arms [unidentified] argent. On a chevron sun between three Lion’s heads erased, (argent or natural colour), crudely executed and surrounded by an ornamental border with the date 1565, probably extraneous. Middle sixteenth century [?]. One old restoration to the border. Yellow silver stain. Size: approx. 420 x 325 mm. Once again Dr Baker has been extremely helpful, citing a close match with the Jephson family of Froyle, Hertfordshire and Mallow, Co. Cork – who bore ‘Argent, on a chevron sable between three lions’ heads erased gules bezanty a sun in splendour or’ (the lion heads were red with gold spots). He has also noted that there is a similar coat of arms for Johnson in which the sun is replaced by an estoile and the lion heads are red. [Fig.5]
Roundel 6: The rebus of Prior Thomas Goldstone II (the penultimate Prior of Christchurch, Canterbury, subsequently Canterbury cathedral, 1495 – 1517) with the initials T and G flanking a crozier rising from a gold stone. Inscription: non nobıs d[omi]ne non nobis sed nomíní Tuo da gloriam which can be translated as: Verse 1 of Psalm 115 (or verse 9 of 113B in the Septuagint , the Greek version of Hebrew bible) : ‘Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your own name give the glory’. This verse also appears as an inscription on the buttressing arch between the western pillars of the central tower of Canterbury Cathedral. It is attributed to Prior Goldstone II by Joseph Cowper, The Memorial Inscriptions of the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, 1897, Cross & Jackman (Canterbury) p. 251, on the grounds that Goldstone built the central tower. There is another Goldstone rebus on the Christ Church Gate of Canterbury Cathedral, just above the postern. Brown-black glass paint and a wide range of silver stain variations. Similar in style, colour, condition of glass and paint to Roundel 7. Three restoration replacements. Size: approx. Ø 365 mm. [Fig.6]
Roundel 7: The rebus of Prior Thomas Goldwell showing a mitre and crozier rising from a gold well head flanked by the initials ‘T’ and ‘G’ and with the inscription sit laus Tíbí gloria Tibi graciarum accío[in saecula sempiterna]o beata Trinítas, translated as ‘To you, O Blessed Trinity be praise, to you glory, to you the giving of thanks from age to age’. Similar in style, colour, condition of glass and paint to Roundel 6. One old restoration. Size: approx. Ø 365 mm.
(Dr) Thomas Goldwell was the last Prior of Christchurch Priory, Canterbury [r. 1517– 1540], before it was dissolved by Henry VIII and the priory converted into a Cathedral. The Goldwell family had a house in Great Chart (Kent) and similar, but earlier, designs to this rebus can be seen in repeated quarry designs in the parish church, sII, see CVMA site (Kent). A similar design to the Folkestone rebus is now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and is illustrated in Penny Hebgin Barnes’ recently published CVMA catalogue of The Medieval Stained Glass of Lancashire (OUP 2009) p. 169/70. [Fig. 7]
In September 2006 the vestry of St Mary and St Eanswythe was attacked by arsonists during a break-in. The fire was started close to the vestry screen and as a result the roundels were badly damaged.
The St Luke and St George panels escaped serious damage and stayed within their lead matrix. The other five panels disintegrated and ended up on the floor in hundreds of small fragments, mixed up with the remains of glass from the quarry background, molten lead, and the charred remains of vestments and furnishings.
In the aftermath of the fire the churchwardens and members of the congregation sifted through this debris and collected the larger fragments on trays. Most of the remaining charcoal, lead and glass mixture was swept up and saved in two buckets.
Assessment, cleaning and locating fragments
The roundels which had survived in situ were removed by the Cathedral Studios shortly after the fire for cleaning and repair. The two buckets of fragments arrived at the studio some time later.
In April 2008 the condition of the glass was assessed in detail. As a result of sifting through the debris buckets many more fragments were found, some of them very small and others firmly embedded in molten lead. Several large lumps of lead had to be melted down to release the fragments hidden within. [Figs. 8 and 9]
Thanks to the excellent black and white photographs of the roundels taken in 1955, see Figs 1 – 7 above, it was possible to enlarge these images to the approximate size of the panels and to print them onto clear acetate film. Without these translucent full-size images the next painstaking step, finding the right place for every fragment, would have been impossible. Of the fragments that were recovered from the church, only 25 tiny pieces of glass could not be identified and accurately repositioned because of their total lack of any distinguishing features.
After having repositioned the surviving glass over the acetate film, the state of the five shattered roundels looked like this: [Figs. 10 - 14]
Once the fragments were in their correct positions, the extent of the problem became clear: about 20% of the glass had been lost and most of the losses were not contiguous, but scattered across the roundels. Moreover, although the surface paint of the roundels proved to be relatively stable, this was more than could be said for the glass itself: apart from having shattered into hundreds of fragments, many of the individual fragments also displayed the craquelé of small stress fractures so typical of fire damage.
Traditional repair and infill methods were impossible due to the complex shapes and patchy survival of the historic glass. In many cases releading the breakages was also technically impossible.
The solution was found in the innovative use of resin casts. First, we made a cast to match the size of the original piece of glass with pockets for the fragments created by wax placeholders. After the resin had set the wax was removed and the original fragments were inserted into each pocket where they are held in their pre-damage position. Next we painted the missing parts of the roundel (with inside painting to minimise parallax distortions) onto a new sheet of thin glass which was ‘plated’ over the resin casts and leaded up as a ‘sandwich’ in the traditional manner. [Fig. 15]
Using Roundel 5 as an example, the process can be seen in Fig. 16.
This technique allows the glass to be read again, while still giving the viewer some indication of the catastrophic damage suffered by the objects. At the same time, the intervention is completely reversible. Without this treatment the fragments would probably have been destined for a dark drawer or a museum somewhere far away from the place where they belong. [Fig. 17]
The seven panels will not be re-installed into the vestry screen; rather the aim is to display them in a more accessible place within the church, together with information about their history and conservation.
Thanks to Andrew Rudebeck for advice on art historical matters; Dr. Mark Bateson, Canterbury Cathedral Archives for the identification and translation of the inscriptions; Penny Hebgin Barnes, Veerla de Crom and Dr Richard Baker for their help with the heraldic descriptions, Robin and Taeko Fleet for additional photography.
This month sees the 100th birthday of one of Britain’s most important post-war stained glass artists. To commemorate this happy event Vidimus asked the stained glass artist, Philippa Martin, to pay tribute to Lawrence Lee’s lasting contribution to twentieth-century stained glass.
Lawrence was born on 18 September 1909, in the Chelsea Hospital for Women. His father, William Henry Lee, was a chauffeur and an exceptionally gifted engineer who subsequently owned a garage near Brooklands in Surrey. His mother, Rose Laura, was a deeply religious woman, verging on the puritanical, who entertained some strange mystical beliefs. Lawrence’s encyclopaedic knowledge of biblical symbolism, evident in all his church windows, was probably due to the continual presence of the Bible on the table at home.
He attended the local elementary school at which he showed outstanding talent in painting and drawing. At fourteen his mother, desperate that he avoid following his father into the motor-trade, enrolled him, without his knowledge, into the Kingston School of Art on a three years’ scholarship. There his extraordinary gifts were recognised and he won a Board of Education scholarship to the Royal College of Art. One of his tutors, and mentor, was Martin Travers (1886 – 1948) who had a profound influence on the young Lawrence and suggested he complete another year for further studies. After College he was invited to join Martin Travers’ studio as a stained glass assistant. He combined his new position with teaching responsibilities at Kingston and Bromley Schools of Art and was briefly a member of the ‘Kingston Group’, and an artistic co-operative with James and Lilian Dring. A portrait he painted of a young friend was also accepted at the Royal Academy.
He would, like many young poets and artists of the era, disappear into the countryside for days, quite alone, walking, sleeping rough, and enjoying an empathy with nature.
This strong mystical side to his nature drew him to the monastic life and he spent a year as a novice monk.
He volunteered after war broke out in 1939 and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, subsequently training as a gunner where his skills in mapping and organisation were immediately recognised. In 1940 he married Dorothy Marion Tucker and this proved to be a lifelong love. In 1942 Lawrence was posted to North Africa and despite the homesickness he must have felt for his wife and newborn son, Stephen, the dramatic light and landscape he encountered affected him powerfully. Some of the sketches and drawings he made during that time are held in the Imperial War Museum. At the end of the British Army’s campaign in North Africa Lawrence was promoted to Captain and transferred to the Education Corps in Italy where he was put in charge of ‘art and cultural education’ for the troops. During his time in Naples Vesuvius erupted and he was able to execute an on the spot painting of the drama.
After 1945 Lawrence returned to Martin Travers’ studio as chief assistant in the stained glass department. The bombing and destruction caused by five years of war meant the workload was very heavy with rebuilding and restoration for years ahead. At this time he also started to teach at the Royal College of Art. In 1947 his second son, Martin (named after Travers), was born.
In 1948, at the age of sixty-two, Martin Travers unexpectedly died of heart failure. Lawrence inherited all Travers’ stained glass commissions. It was a daunting task, but as Travers’ assistant and friend for over twenty years Lawrence was well equipped for the challenge. In 1951 he set up at studio in Sutton, Surrey, and a year or so afterwards bought a fine Edwardian house in New Malden where the music room was converted into his studio.
Lawrence employed assistants throughout his working life – and some for many years. They all remember him for his unfailing generosity and support and he, in turn, was proud of their successes. In an unusual gesture he included their initials within his own glassmark.
In the mid 1950′s the architect Basil Spence visited an exhibition at the Royal College of Art and was so impressed by the work on display that he decided to commission past and present students to design the nave windows for the new cathedral in Coventry for which he was the architect. As Head of the Stained Glass Department Lawrence was asked to mastermind the design of ten nave windows, set at angles. Basil Spence had orientated the new Coventry Cathedral with the altar facing north to south, and it is a controversial feature of design that the nave windows can only be seen fully from the altar. Lawrence himself designed three lights; Geoffrey Clark and Keith New, then students, designed three each and the final light was a collaboration between all three. It was a massive undertaking. At a hundred foot high it was impossible to see the project at any one time. However, a gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum was taken over for much of the construction and just before the final installation at Coventry all the windows were exhibited in the Mural Department of the V & A. After the dedication of the cathedral in 1962 a photograph appeared on the cover of the satirical magazine, Private Eye, with the caption ‘OK God, you can come in now!’. [Fig 2 ]
Throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties, Lawrence carried out commissions for many parish churches in the UK and abroad, including ten impressive windows for the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal, Canada. He also made windows for Southwark Cathedral, The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst (Berkshire), and Guildford Cathedral. Other highlights include the Tradescant window at Lambeth Palace Garden Museum, and a particularly fine window, known as the Becket window, in St. John the Baptist, Penshurst, Kent. In 1967 he made an east window in St. James, Abinger, Surrey, which was warmly praised by the architectural writer Ian Nairn as: ‘Much the best modern glass in the county, portraying the Living Cross in vivid abstract colours’. [Fig 3]
In 1965 Lawrence left the Royal College Stained Glass Department in a College restructure. Two years later the first of his three books appeared, Stained Glass, a paperback handbook for artists. In 1976 his second book was published. Written with George Seddon and Francis Stephens, Stained Glass, an Illustrated Guide to the World of Stained Glass with photographs by Sonia Halliday and Laura Lushington. remains one the best – and most attractive – books published for general audiences.
In 1977 the Oxford University Press published his third – and most personal – book, The Appreciation of Stained Glass. Students can learn much from his scholarship, his descriptions of the vision necessary for the making of art, his admiration for other craftsmen and their skills, and his appreciation of the beautiful materials necessary to create a work of stained glass.
In 1974 he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and was instrumental in introducing practicing stained glass artists in the Company at an affordable rate, as most of the members had hitherto been wealthy businessmen.
Lawrence remained a working artist until 1994. His last window is in the library of Chew Valley School, Avon, Bristol, in memory of his beloved grandson, Alexander, who died in a car crash, aged seventeen, that year.
Following the death of Dorothy in 1996, he now lives with his son, Martin, daughter-in-law Caroline and his three grandchildren in East Sussex.
As an artist Lawrence drew most from the medieval period. His composition, which developed over the years into his own personal style, owed far more to medieval configuration and colour than the rigid Victorian influences surrounding him, despite his traditional training in Martin Travers’ studio and a deep admiration for his mentor’s work. His knowledge of history, history of art, and fascination for science is vast and lends an extra dimension to all his design. His distinctive semi-abstracted figures weave and intertwine through heraldry and foliage, in most of his windows, each piece of glass etched, painted and stained. This is well illustrated in his Becket window, at Penshurst, where every tiny section works by itself. Even the borders receive special treatment often printed with specially designed stamps. The jewel-like colours are enhanced by the liberal use of ‘whites’ and the very small size of the cut pieces. The touch of the master is seen in the expressive painting, especially the faces. All Lawrence’s windows were realised in his own studio and he always oversaw the work from design to fitting.
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