Art, Architecture and Visual Culture
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.