18th July 1786. To the Glory of Whom-Man or God?

Kings Cambridge

King’s  College Chapel, window, Cambridge.

When most windows in medieval Britain had at the most coverings of linen or parchment, cathedral, church and abbey were acquiring some of the most exquisite coloured glass, produced in a process which was difficult, dangerous and expensive.

Medieval glass art lacked perspective and was stylized, and technically was of varying thickness and not free from air-bubbles, but it was the varying translucency despite imperfections, and the colour variations, which give it a glow never repeated.(see Addenda).

Most early glaziers are forgotten, except where employed by monarchs, as at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, where the Flemish craftsmen Barnard Flower and Galyon Hone were employed, to the disgust of the glaziers of London.

The glass at King’s reflects changing times from the Catholic Gothic tracery to the Humanism of the Renaissance, becoming  under Henry VIII, a celebration and kaleidoscope of the Tudor Dynasty. The Boleyn ‘Falcon’ was for example, discreetly changed to the Seymour ‘Phoenix’.

One of the best examples of medieval glass, though French, can be seen at the parish church of Twycross, Leicestershire, brought over at the time of the French Revolution and given initially to William IV, whose wife Adelaide, was a constant visitor nearby.


Twycross window.

However under Edward VI, an ardent Protestant, much decorative glass was destroyed.

Under the later Puritans and Commonwealth, glass was plain, as the rare example at Halifax Parish Church shows, and this continued into the Classical and Christopher Wren era.

However a new age was on the horizon when Today in 1786 ‘The Father of Victorian Stained Glass’,Thomas Willement was born in St. Marylebone, London.

He up to the 1860s was to have great influence on the rather sentimentalised stained glass we are familiar with in British churches and the older municipal buildings.

It was a time when medieval glass once prized, was now being discarded by the likes of James Wyatt in his restorations, for instance at Salisbury Cathedral where, ‘whole cartloads  of medieval glass, regarded as old-fashioned’, was dumped in the town ditch.(1)



Rose Window,Waltham Abbey.

Rose Window, Waltham Abbey. Essex.

The 19th century also saw fine church glass being designed by the Arts and Crafts Movement: Edward Burne-Jones, at Waltham Abbey Church (first consecrated on Holy Cross Day 31.5.1060) and the William Morris designed and crafted  at Tamworth Collegiate Church, and parish church at Wirksworth, Derbyshire.

(1) In 1860, for instance, when G.E. Street, when restoring St Mary the Virgin in Stone, Kent, regretted that the newly installed glass made by William Wailes, in imitation of the 12thc glass, in the quire of Canterbury Cathedral, did not in brilliancy of colour, ‘by any means equal the old school of painters in glass’.


Imported ‘Pot Metal‘ was the term used for the window glass coloured in its manufacture.

Before the diamond cutters of about 1500, glass was cut by drawing a hot iron across the surface and snapping it. It was trimmed with ‘grozing irons’, giving a bitten appearance.

Even more delicate was the refinement of ‘jewelling’ by which a hole was bored in a piece of glass using a bow-drill and a piece of a different colour fitted. This gave bright colour to the clothing of a saint, or as at Fairford, Gloucestershire, the eyes of a demon.

Colours apart from those provided by ‘pot metal’ came from fusing paint containing metal oxides and ground glass, added to the glass in the furnace. From the 14thc silver stain produced yellow and from the 16thc coloured enamel paints were used.

Ref: flickr.com/rose window image.

Ref: Daily Telegraph.stained glass at King College. Article Thomas Marks reviewing King’s College Glass Carola Hick. 29.12.2009.

Ref: ofchoristers.net/image of King’s College Glass.

Ref: professor-Moriarty/twycross image.

Ref: Stained Glass Roger Rosewell (Shire).

Ref: It is said by Howse that ‘the presence of images of donors was not to bring fame and status, but I would suggest that it was more a case of begging favouritism with the ‘almighty’ as the money spent on chantry chapels would suggest.’ Christopher Howse, Sacred Mysteries, Daily Telegraph. 14.7.2012.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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