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Posted By ltempest On November 18, 2012 @ 7:21 pm In | Comments Disabled
Our last issue included a feature about twelve important sixteenth-century German demi-figures of prophets in the west window at Holy Trinity church, Hatton (Warwickshire). Thanks to the efforts of Dr Michael Kerney it is now possible to chart when and how this glass was acquired for the church.
The story seems to have begun sometime in 1810, when the then vicar, Dr Samuel Parr (1747–1825), corresponded with Seth William Stevenson (1784–1853), the Norwich-based businessman who together with John Christopher Hampp (1750–1825), ran a successful partnership importing and selling Continental glass to British collectors.
Parr had lived in Norwich in the 1780s, when he was master of the local grammar school, and may have met Stevenson around that time. Although some letters have been lost, it seems reasonable to assume that the two men had been in correspondence previously about the possible acquisition of some stained glass, as on 19 December 1820 Parr wrote to Stevenson:
Dear Sir. Your letter reached me today, and deeply do I regret that the delay of an answer to my enquiries has compelled me … to take measures very different to those I should have adopted if I had been fortunate enough to hear from you before. I have no windows large enough to admit the day of Judgement. My stock of Money is nearly exhausted … But I am very unwilling to have no dealings with a person whose Taste and Ingenuity are so well known to me as yours are. On considering the contents of your letter I find it possible to avail myself only of what you say about the figures of the Prophets. Pray tell me what you ask for each square. I can only dispose of eight. They must be placed in windows the form and sizes of which admit of no alteration. I have already told you the dimensions. When you let me know what is your charge for each figure I will give you a speedy and plain answer. Will you permit me to add that I should like to know what is the expense of furnishing each compartment with rich Glass. I do not like Lozenges. Nor can I introduce Coats of Arms. I am very sorry to give you this trouble, & yet more sorry, that I have lost the opportunity of giving you more. Say at once what I am to give you for each figure of the Prophets. I am dear sir your obedient Servant
I will take a ninth figure if I can afford it.
Stevenson replied immediately
Dear Sir. In reply to yours received Yesterday, I beg to say that the Figures of the Prophets, which are very rich (and the only Things in My Collection likely to suit the places which you have sent me the Dimensions of) are 4 Guineas each in their present state. And that you may have every information I may give you I have by this Post written to Mr M who will give you slight Sketch of one and his charge for making them into the form of your Compartments. And if they come within the expence you propose to go to, every attention shall be paid to your Commands. The Compliments you are pleased to pay me I receive with the Respect which is due to You, and beg leave to repeat the good Wishes of the Season …
Matters now came rapidly to a head. Parr wrote back on the 26 December 1810.
I feel very great pleasure from considering, that the intended decorations of my Church will have the benefit of being in part furnished by a man of your taste. I readily accede to the demand of four Guineas, for each figure of the nine Prophets.
Further correspondence between the two men confirms that Parr subsequently increased his order from nine to twelve prophets and also acquired the two angel figures now in the east window of the vestry.
The glass was installed in the church by Joseph Hale Miller (1777–1842), a talented glass-painter and glazier, who is credited with inspiring Charles Winston’s interest in stained glass. Miller seems to have had an arrangement with Stevenson whereby he restored and set glass for the latter’s clients. In some instances he also made copies of missing pieces. Some of his work can be seen on the website of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
For more information about Parr and Stevenson’s correspondence and the life of Joseph Hale Miller, see M. Kerney, ‘Joseph Hale Miller (1777-1842) and the revival of Gothic glass painting’, The Journal of Stained Glass, xxxiii, 2009, pp. 62–79.
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