This book presents a study that is an attempt to understand the phenomenal
increase in the production and demand for stained glass between about 1835 and
1860. The book provides both history and context for thousands of Victorian
stained-glass windows that exist in churches across the country. It aims to: ask
why people became interested in stained glass; examine how glass-painters set up
their studios; and understand how they interacted with each other and their
patrons. To understand why so many windows were commissioned and made in the
Victorian period, readers need to understand how buying a stained-glass window
became a relatively ordinary thing to do. In order to examine this, the book
focuses on those who wrote or spoke about stained glass in the formative years
of the revival. It is important to look at the production of stained glass as a
cultural exchange: a negotiation in both financial and cultural terms that was
profitable for both glass-painter and patron. The history of Victorian stained
glass allows an examination of many other areas of nineteenth-century cultural
history. Readers can learn a lot about the aesthetics of the Gothic Revival,
ecclesiology, the relationship between 'fine' and
'decorative' art, and the circulation of art history in the 1840s.
While many interesting glass-painters have necessarily been omitted, the author
hopes that the case studies in the book will provide a point of reference for
the research of future scholars.
This chapter illustrates some of the ways in which stained glass fitted into
the mid-Victorian world. Although there was quite a lot of interconnection
between the leading members of the Gothic Revival in Europe, it is difficult
to find any direct European influences on the English stained glass market.
Ecclesiology undoubtedly stimulated the market for stained glass, but it
also created problems for aspiring glass-painters. From 1845, a small but
steady stream of monographs concerned with stained glass began to appear.
The influences contributing to the revival of stained glass were social,
religious and economic. Church-building was clearly a major influence on the
revival of stained glass but cannot explain it alone: it is of course quite
possible to erect a church with plain glass. The Oxford Movement was a
theological renaissance that reinterpreted the identity of the Church of
England in terms of its pre-Reformation roots.
The stained glass studio established by Joseph Bell in Bristol presents an
ideal case study: many of Bell's windows survive intact and rare
archival information about the firm survives. In addition to the jobs book
Joseph Bell's notebooks have survived, allowing a unique insight into
how a glass-painter educated himself in the early Victorian period. The
importance of Bell's technical knowledge in the early 1840s is
underlined by the type of commissions he received during this period.
Bell's connection to the Bristol and West of England Architectural
Society (BWEAS) set him in the middle of a group of patrons keen to build,
restore and decorate their churches. The availability and proximity of the
archaeological information seems to have had a dramatic effect on
Bell's glass. Some of the early stylistic labels that Bell attached to
his products had nothing to do with the Gothic Revival.
The Beer family made stained glass from the earliest days of the Victorian
Gothic Revival and did not cease until the last years of the nineteenth
century. This chapter concentrates on the extant corpus of glass produced by
Robert and Alfred Beer and the network of patrons that they served. Running
a glass-painting business in a city like Exeter gave the Beers several
potential advantages over a glass-painter like John Toms, who worked from a
small market town. Toms's relationship with the Exeter Diocesan
Architectural Society (EDAS) was probably distant at best; he did not enjoy
the connections with architects and ecclesiologists that the Beers profited
from. Many of Robert's early windows bear a strong resemblance to John
Loveband Fulford's tracings of medieval glass. In 1850, when Alfred
started doing the bulk of the figure work for the Beer studio, he was only
twenty years old.
This chapter examines how the enthusiasm for stained glass spread from
clerical circles into a more secular territory. The fact that the market for
stained glass grew enormously in the 1840s and 1850s is not in dispute, but
the ways in which it spread needs clarification. To see a display of the
work of over thirty different stained glass studios in a secular context was
unprecedented, and has important implications for the relationship between
stained glass and Victorian culture. Exhibitions were held quite regularly
before the Victorian period but they were normally small-scale shows
designed to promote the work of one glass-painter. The consistent Gothic
style in the Medieval Court must have provided just the context that many of
the other English glass-painters needed, though the glass was not as well
lit as that in the stained glass gallery.
This chapter examines a few of the glass painting operations and assesses
their significance within the early Victorian market for stained glass. It
illustrates whether Thomas Willement's glass was installed in
ecclesiastical or secular contexts. William Wailes ran the most successful
stained glass studio in early Victorian England. John Hardman was the only
glass-painter allowed to exhibit in the Medieval Court and he was the only
Englishman to win a prize medal for stained glass. There is some basis for
suspecting that William Warrington was prejudiced against Wailes, and this
too can be traced to the lower prices that Wailes charged for his glass.
James Henry Nixon worked on the restoration of the famous medieval stained
glass at St Neots in Cornwall as early as 1829. Eighteenth-century Gothic
did, in fact, create considerable enthusiasm for stained glass.
John Toms inhabited a different world from the people who produced the
ecclesiological discourse on stained glass. Toms was a multi-skilled artisan
who carried out a wide variety of tasks. Toms's market was largely
concentrated on Wellington and its surrounding parishes. The iconography of
Toms's glazing schemes seems to have depended largely on the religious
alignment of his patrons. The majority of Toms's commissions can be
traced back to the Sanfords through personal links. The materials Toms had
at his disposal, or, more accurately, chose to use, did not alter radically
from 1848 to the end of his glass-painting career in the early 1860s.
William Warrington stands out as an example of how the materials so
criticised by Charles Winston in the late 1840s could be used to create very
attractive windows, though this required a refined painting technique.
St Michael and All Angels, Sowton and St Mary the Virgin, Ottery St
This chapter explores how windows were used in two specific ecclesiastical
interiors and what aspirations patrons and architects had for the stained
glass in these churches: St Michael's Church at Sowton and St
Mary's Church at Ottery St Mary. St Michael's Church at Sowton,
near Exeter in Devon, is a rare survival: a remarkably complete
ecclesiological interior. The restoration of St Mary's Church at Ottery
St Mary presented a series of difficulties to its coordinator, John Duke
Coleridge. The link between paternalism, Gothic and church patronage is
physically built into the layout of the church and signalled by the interior
fittings. The evangelist symbols represent an oblique allusion to John
Garratt's evangelical activities through his reconstruction of the
church. Coleridge was asserting an opinion about the nature of Anglican
churches, and to him a church was for worshipping God through the
performance of the sacraments.