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Frederick Sydney Eden was a prolific writer on the subject of stained glass and an excellent draughtsman. Anyone who knows Eden’s work will be intrigued by research undertaken by Hugh Murray and published in The Journal of Stained Glass: ‘Sydney Eden – A Man with No Past’. Eden became interested in glass in his mid-forties, but his life before then had previously been a closed book.
Vidimus readers who enjoy this outline of Murray’s work are encouraged to go to volume in which the original article was published, details of which may be found in Vidimus no. 53.
We are fortunate to possess a fairly complete list of Eden’s many writings, which appeared as an article in an issue of the Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters for 1942. With this piece, the author Christopher Woodforde – the editor of the Journal and the subject of a previous article in the Vidimus series on British scholars of stained glass – had hoped to initiate a series of bibliographies of author writing on stained glass, but it was to be the only one of its kind.
According to Eden, his interest in stained glass was roused in the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century, when he was about 45 years old. He began to explore the stained glass of Essex churches in the summer of 1909, and had completed the western part of the county by 1911, in which year he started working for the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) on a voluntary basis. This work was probably facilitated by the RCHME’s secretary, George Duckworth, as RCHME employees were expected to do their own recording: Eden received only allowances.
Eden’s skill as a draughtsman lead to his being invited to write a volume on stained glass, and Ancient Stained and Painted Glass appeared in 1913, in the Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature series [Fig. 1]. Like nearly every other article and book by Eden, the work is illustrated with the author’s own drawings of glass. These constitute valuable records of glazing from the period before photography became the norm for recording stained glass. In some cases it is not clear however whether Eden recorded glass in the state in which it was, or whether he ‘completed’ it for the reader [Figs 2 and 3]. The book was well received, and an enlarged and revised edition of the book appeared in 1933. The drawings were deposited at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Eden continued researching stained glass, and turned his attention to churches in London, Middlesex and Hereford. The drawings he made for these areas were also deposited at the Victoria & Albert Museum, with the exception of those of stained glass in the City of London, which were deposited at the Guildhall Museum (now part of the Museum of London). During the First World War, Eden worked for the Ministry of Munitions, his position there perhaps facilitated by George Duckworth, the ministry’s deputy director.
In 1922, Eden was elected an honorary fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. There followed a veritable flood of articles – more than eighty – over the next decades for several journals and magazines (see below). Those for The Connoisseur earned him £10 apiece. Eden would also produce The Collection of Heraldic Stained Glass at Ronaele Manor, Elkins Park, Philadelphia (London, 1927, privately printed), and Ancient Stained and Painted Glass in London (London, 1939). As with his earlier book, the latter also features Eden’s drawings, and though a slender volume, contains a useful overview of stained glass in London before the Second World War and information taken from antiquarian sources [Figs 4 and 5]. For example, at least some of the 17th-century glass listed for the north and south windows of St Luke’s Church in Charlton (pp. 12–13: an ox of St Luke, a sun, and three cherub heads in each window) appears to have been lost in the war: the south window is now empty, and the north window tracery contains four cherub heads and no ox. Eden also designed windows. Murray mentions a rose for Pagham Church (Sussex), an imitation of a fifteenth-century window for the south aisle at Staveley (Derbyshire), and a window (perhaps no executed) for the Hoker Library at Gray’s Inn; the Victoria & Albert Museum also holds two designs for London churches (St Mary’s Church in Barnes and St Philip and All Saints, East Sheen).
Eden struggled to support himself however. In 1923, when he was already 64, Duckworth secured a grant for him from the ‘Royal Bounty’, a fund established to relieve those in distress. Duckworth continued to champion Eden’s cause, writing to the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution (who felt Eden was not of sufficient importance), the Victoria & Albert Musenm (who felt likewise), and the Royal Literary Fund (which granted £50). He wrote to the Prime Minister on several occasions, and was successful in obtaining further grants from the Royal Bounty. After Duckworth died, Eden had to fight his own corner, and following a change of heart at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Eden was granted a pension from the Civil List, which was increased in value more than once.
Eden was 91 when he died, which means that he was born in 1859, but readers may have noticed that no day or month of birth is given in the title to this piece. This is because we do not have any records relating to his birth; in fact until recently there was a complete dearth of information about the first decades of Eden’s life. This is where we are endebted to Hugh Murray’s detective work. Murray was able to establish that Eden was not Frederick’s birth name: his surname was originally Waddington, Eden being his paternal grandmother’s family name. With this insight, Murray was able to delve into Eden’s early career, which turned out to be somewhat colourful …
The young Eden studied law, and evidence for his antiquarian interests around this time is found in Notes & Queries, to which he was a regular contributor and through which he asked questions. Among other things, he made enquiries about the Eden family, perhaps hoping to establish a link with an aristocratic family of the same name. Eden also took an interest in folklore and parish registers. So far so unsurprising, given Eden’s publication record in later life. He married twice, and by his second wife had three children, all of whom had also adopted the Eden name by the time of the 1911 census.
What comes as a shock are the events of 1898. At this time, the firm for which Eden worked was struggling to meet debts. Waddington (as he then was) was declared bankrupt, and he would not be released from his financial obligations in this regard for nearly thirty years. The bankruptcy trial however revealed something else: Waddington had obtained money fraudulently. He had had power of attorney for a lady who died in April 1897, and was the sole executor of her estate. Although the estate was duly processed, it was found that Waddington had not included in it a large sum that he had previously obtained from his client. Waddington was struck off as a solicitor, and was convicted of fraud at the Old Bailey; his partner in the firm was convicted of aiding and abetting him. Waddington was sentenced to six years in prison, and served his sentence at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight [Fig. 6]. Eden must have worked hard for the rest of his life to keep his criminal record secret.
These are now held by the Victoria & Albert Museum (Essex, London, Middlesex and Hereford), the Museum of London (City of London), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a few other museums in the United States of America.
Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters
Grays and Tilbury Gazette
Southend and County Pictorial
The Catholic Fireside
Notes & Queries
Article printed from Vidimus: http://vidimus.org
URL to article: http://vidimus.org/issues/issue-74/feature/
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