- New Curator Sought for the Ely Stained Glass Museum
- New Exhibition in Coventry
- New Shire Book on Stained Glass
- Stained Glass from Chicksands Priory
- Reminder: Study Day about the Medieval Stained Glass in the Savile Chapel at Thornhill (Yorkshire)
- York Master-Class
- The Brandiston Hall Roundels
New Curator Sought for the Ely Stained Glass Museum
The Stained Glass Museum based at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire is seeking a new Curator. Founded in 1972, the museum houses one of the most important collections of stained glass in Britain and in 2010–11 had almost 16,000 visitors. It also organizes educational workshops and visits, and hosts a series of ground-breaking lectures. Part-time and voluntary staff play an invaluable role in ensuring the museum’s success, and the Friends Group has well over 200 members.
As the sole full-time professional on site, the curator needs energy, commitment, and excellent interpersonal and management skills. The post provides a unique opportunity to manage a specialist museum, ably supported by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Board of Trustees.
The post is particularly suited to art historians or stained glass practitioners. A salary of around £23,500 is offered depending upon qualifications and experience.
For further information, please email the museum, or telephone 01353 660355.
The closing date for applications is 3 August 2012.
New Exhibition in Coventry
A new exhibition featuring medieval glass from the pre-Second World War Coventry Cathedral will open on 6 August at the city’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Jordan Well.
Called Faces in Glass Live it features some of the thousands of pieces of mainly fifteenth-century glass that have been discovered in recent years and which were featured in Vidimus no. 33.
Visitors will be able to watch conservators from the Crick Smith consultancy at work, and each Thursday at 3.00pm a conservator will give a 30-minute talk about the glass. An exciting bonus is the application of software technology designed to piece together shredded Cold War documents to suggest possible matches and alignments for the shattered fragments; similar technology was used at Princeton University to help reconstruct original scenes from equally jumbled fragments of ancient frescos at Akrotiri (Cyprus).
When the glass has been conserved, it is hoped that a selection of pieces will be displayed in the crypts below the former cathedral. Funding is being organized by the World Monument Fund (Britain) and the chapter of Coventry Cathedral.
Admission to Faces in Glass Live is free, but the event will close on 31 October. For more information, visit the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum’s website.
New Shire Book on Stained Glass
A new history of stained glass in English churches has been published in the popular Shire Books series.
Written by own indefatigable News Editor, Roger Rosewell, the book traces the history of stained glass from its origins in Anglo-Saxon England to the present day. Separate chapters describe Norman glass; developments in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; the impact of the Renaissance; the destructive frenzies of the Reformation and the English Civil War; the reappearance of stained glass in the nineteenth-century; and the achievements of twentieth-century artists. Other pluses include chapters of how medieval viewers saw stained glass, and the relationship between stained glass and other arts in the pre-Reformation church. A gazetteer lists over 600 places where glass can be seen.
The book is published in softback only, A5 format. It has 88 pages and over 100 original colour photographs, UK £7.99 or US $12.95. Copies can be purchased from bookshops or on line from Shire Books and other outlets. Signed copies can be purchased from the author via his website.
Stained Glass from Chicksands Priory
Chicksands Priory in Bedfordshire was founded as a Gilbertine house in c.1150. It is one of the best surviving examples of thirteenth-century monastic architecture in England and is certainly one of the few such structures that are still occupied. The Gilbertines, the only monastic order of English origin, were founded by St Gilbert of Sempringham, and were unique in having both nuns and monks on the same site (although the two did not mix). Chicksands soon grew into the third largest of the order’s twenty-five houses in England. By the Dissolution in 1538, there were two cloisters at Chicksands, with a church between them and various other buildings. By 1600 however, the northern cloister (perhaps that of the nuns) and the church had disappeared, and the estate was in the hands of the Osborn family. The Osborns lived there until 1936, when the priory passed into government hands. During the Second World War, the site was used by the RAF as a listening station (an X-station), feeding intercepted German signals to Bletchley Park. Chicksands was subsequently home to US forces performing a similar task during the Cold War. The priory building is currently the officers’ mess for the UK Defence Intelligence and Security Centre. The Friends of Chicksands Priory was formed some twenty years ago to research the priory and its history, and to organize public tours of the building, which was extensively renovated in 1997.
During their tenure, the Osborn family made many changes to the building; notable changes were made by the architects Isaac Ware (in the 1740s) and James Wyatt (in the 1810s). Wyatt’s extensive alterations were initiated by the fourth baronet, General Sir George Osborn (1742–1818) and included a new staircase and rooms that extended the house into the cloister garden. There were several new large windows looking out onto the garden, and these were apparently filled with stained glass. Although there are many photographs of the interior dating from the 1890s, there is unfortunately no record of the glass. The building stands today much as he left it after the work of James Wyatt was completed.
Sir George fought in the American War of Independence as a General before returning home and becoming an MP. He was an avid collector of anything and everything. He collected much stained glass and had it ‘reassembled’ in various windows in the building. Each panel contains many pieces of glass, some of them dating to the thirteenth century. An oriel window containing three such panels can still be seen on the first floor. One of these contains a glass sundial that is almost identical to ones attributed by Geoffrey Lane to the glass-painter John Oliver (d.1701) and discussed in a recent issue of Vidimus. At the top of the main window in the King James Room is a memento mori, a roundel showing a skull with the inscription ‘SPECULUM VERISSIMUM’ (‘the truest mirror’). Similar panels of glass were installed in the staircase and surrounding windows at the time of the Wyatt rebuilding.
These latter panels were removed from the window frames in 1940 ‘for their own safety’ and stored in crates at Chicksands until c.1974. It seems that they were moved to the Society of Antiquaries in London and then to G. King & Son in Norwich, at which time, one panel was damaged by a workman’s boot! During this period, they were photographed, and a descriptive brochure was written by St John Onslow Gamlen [Fig. 4]. King & Son used parts of the glass to assemble a new window in the chapel at Audley End House, which can still be seen, and the firm’s archive contains several monochrome photographs of some of the original panels and their constituent pieces after they had been disassembled, but by no means a complete record.
The Friends of Chicksands Priory would like to restore the windows at Chicksands to something approaching their original condition. The first step is to try to track down where the residue of the glass has gone, as this appears not to have been recorded in the archives of King & Son. The window areas at Chicksands seem to be much larger than the area of stained glass in the window at Audley End. Two significant roundels mentioned by Gamlen are now in the Audley End window, and are catalogued there in Kerry Ayre’s Medieval English Figurative Roundels (CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 6, Oxford, 2002, pp. 26–27). One, at the foot of Gamlen’s plate 1, depicts a monkey sitting backwards on a lion, holding the lion’s tail and playing a flute [Fig. 5]. This roundel fragment was made up by King & Son into a medallion. The second is a sixteenth-century roundel depicting February [Fig. 6], which shows a youth in courtly dress holding out a large cloak and emptying jugs of water. Gamlen suggests that this is unusual for the rank of the youth, as peasants would more typically be seen carrying out such tasks. Ayre notes that this panel in fact appears to combine a Labour of the Month for February with sign of the zodiac (Aquarius). There are however many other pieces that are not found at Audley End.
Any further information on the fate of the glass from the priory following its removal would be appreciated by the Friends of Chicksands Priory. Please contact Stuart Laing.
Reminder: Study Day about the Medieval Stained Glass in the Savile Chapel at Thornhill (Yorkshire)
A study day on the important fifteenth-century glass in the Savile Chapel at the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Thornhill (Yorkshire), will be held on 13 October 2012, 11am – 3pm.
The glass in the east window of the chapel includes a rare depiction of the Heavenly City. As reported in Vidimus no. 49, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between different experts has resulted in the decision to create a replica window and display elements of the ancient glass within the Savile Chapel. Some of the glass was featured as the Panel of the Month in Vidimus no. 27.
The study day aims to examine the how and why of this uniquely fascinating project, and to promote informed debate. Speakers include Sarah Brown, chairman of the CVMA (GB); Dr David Martlew, chairman of the Society of Glass Technology; and the well-known glass-painter Jonathan Cooke, ACR. Admission is £10 (students £5), which includes a buffet lunch, tea and coffee. For more information, and to reserve tickets, please visit the church’s website, where a full brochure and booking form are available.
A master-class in glass-painting will be held in York 24–26 September this year. ‘Painting on Light: Glass Painting Master-Class’ with Jonathan Cooke, ACR, will take place in a custom-designed stained glass workshop at the University of York’s historic King’s Manor building, opposite High Petergate. The master-class is limited to eight participants, allowing a high level of personal mentoring. For further information about how to register, please email Brittany Scowcroft, or telephone 01904 323910.
The Brandiston Hall Roundels
Last month we reported the reappearance of the fine series of English medieval roundels depicting eight Labours of the Months that used to be in Brandiston Hall, Norfolk, and which had not been seen since the mid-1980s, when the house was sold. Four of the roundels have now been acquired by Norwich Castle Museum, two by the Victoria & Albert Museum, and two by a private collector. David King takes up the story …
In his 1950 book The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century, the stained glass historian Christopher Woodforde published the Brandiston Hall roundels in his chapter on the Labours of the Months. They are the most complete series to survive in England, and are of high quality compared with other sets. They also retain their original borders with relieved foliage diaper and a painted loop at the top, suggesting that such roundels were sometimes hung in front of windows.
As Kerry Ayre pointed out in her Medieval English Figurative Roundels, English sets of the Labours of the Months, whether painted on quarries or on roundels, probably derived their design from Continental illuminated manuscripts, but adapted the choice of tasks and occupations depicted to local practice; as a result, the choice of labour for each month varies considerably. Although they are at first sight secular in nature, they did appear in sacred contexts, in the calendars of illuminated service books, often alongside signs of the zodiac. They could also be seen in ecclesiastical stained glass, as for example in the splendid series by André Robin of c.1451–54 in the north rose window of Angers Cathedral, but in England the surviving examples are as far as is known overwhelmingly from domestic contexts, although a few have been in churches at some stage.
The Brandiston Hall roundels are not labelled with the name of the month, and we cannot be sure which month each panel illustrates. We do however know quite a lot about the provenance of the glass. Woodforde recalls Marsham Church as the roundels’ traditional home before they came to Brandiston Hall, but they were not part of the glass described there in the eighteenth century. They were very probably made for Pykerell’s House in Rosemary Lane, Norwich, built for Thomas Pykerell, merchant, who was sheriff in 1513 and mayor in 1525, 1533 and 1538. He is first recorded in 1498/9, when he took up the freedom of the city as a mercer; in 1540 he paid £20 to be dispensed from being mayor for a fourth time. He died in 1545.
His house was probably the one described by the early eighteenth-century antiquary John Kirkpatrick, who saw two large windows, one with roundels depicting the Labours of the Months and another with the Nine Heroes. Woodforde suggested that two of the Nine Heroes were those at Bolwick Hall, Marsham, and that they were removed from the church at the same times as the Labours of the Month roundels went to Brandiston Hall. The Nine Heroes panels, representing King David and Judas Maccabaeus, have since gone to Marsham Church [Fig. 7].
According to Pevsner and Wilson, Pykerell probably added the front range of his house in about 1525. This was the year in which he became mayor for the first time, and many windows in Norwich churches were glazed by mayors – reaching the highest civic office often seems to have been celebrated by the commissioning of a window. Both the Nine Heroes panels and the Labours of the Months roundels would suit a date of c.1525 stylistically (though the latter could be a little earlier), but the two series are in very different styles. The former represents the dying gasps of the local linear style, which had developed around the middle of the fifteenth century and by the sixteenth century had become tired and provincial. They may be compared with figures of the Four Evangelists of 1522 in the east window of St Peter Hungate in Norwich [Fig. 8]. The Brandiston Hall roundels on the other hand, although probably of local work, show the influence of Flemish and/or French art of the period and are much more sophisticated in technique, although they do retain a certain gaucheness in the handling of perspective.
Several series of the Labours of the Months, mainly of fifteenth-century date, can be linked with Norwich, and there is one intriguing historical reference that may indicate a particular interest in this iconography in the medieval city. A civic disturbance known as Gladman’s Insurrection (on or around 25 January 1443) was claimed by the city government to have been no insurrection, but merely the usual Shrove Tuesday ‘disport’, involving the King of Christmas riding in a procession through the city accompanied by others disguised as the twelve months of the year. The city fathers muddled the dates, but the important aspect is the customary procession of the Labours of the Months.
Here is a list of the Brandiston Hall roundels and their current whereabouts. They are illustrated as they were in Brandiston Hall [Figs 9–12].
Norwich Castle Museum
A King Feasting – December or January [Fig. 9, above]
A man pruning a tree – March? [Fig. 10, above]
A man sheltering from the rain – April? [Fig. 10, below]
A man picking grapes – September? [Fig. 12, below]
London, Victoria & Albert Museum:
A man warming himself before a fire – January or February [Fig. 9, below]
A woman bathing – May or June [Fig. 11, below]
A private collection:
A labourer scything – July? [Fig. 11, above]
A woman reaping – August? [Fig. 12, above]
The author would like to express his thanks to Francesca Vanka of Norfolk Museums Service and Sam Fogg for their help.