The recent BBC 4 documentary, Britain’s Most Fragile Treasure, is one of the programmes commissioned as part of the BBC’s year-long collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, Handmade in Britain: A BBC and V & A Partnership. In Britain’s Most Fragile Treasure, Historian Dr Janina Ramirez unlocks the secrets of the East Window at York Minster. A Medieval masterpiece of 311 stained glass panels and measuring 78ft high. Built between 1405 and 1408 during the golden age of stained glass production. The Medieval artist had an important role to play in generating religious imagery to educate and instruct a largely illiterate viewer. From the end of the 14th century glass painting became increasingly sophisticated and faces appeared more lifelike. Coventry master glazier and stained glass artist John Thornton designed the York window. He painted the images using a painterly soft technique, favoured in North West Europe and also known as The International Gothic style. This technique resulted in work of the highest quality. The master glazier did not work alone, there were many employed in his workshop. Natural minerals were added to the glass to obtain the desired colouration.
The 12th Century Listed Church of St. Andrew’s in Mottisfont, Hampshire has a fine example of 15th Century stained glass in its own east window, above the altar. Considered by many to be one of the best examples of its kind in Hampshire. The glass was restored in 1875 and thought to have originally come from the Chapel of the Holy Ghost in Basingstoke but the attachment of St. Andrew’s to York does go some way to explaining the design. The left-hand panel depicts St. Peter, the central panel shows the Crucifixion and the right-hand panel contains an image of St. Andrew.
On the edge of the picturesque town of Wilton in the heart of Wiltshire, stands the striking Romanesque style church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas. Faced with stone ashlar and designed to imitate a Lombardic basilica. Built by architects Thomas Henry Wyatt and David Brandon between 1841 and 1845, on the same site as the original Medieval church of St. Nicholas. The interior contains numerous important architectural features but of particular note are the stained glass windows. The above image, featuring St. Nicholas and mitre, is from one of the 16th century Flemish panels, located in the North Aisle, near the Cloisters. Originally brought in 1840 for St. George’s, Hanover Square, London and is from a church in Antwerp that had been closed down by Napoleon. In its original setting, the image was viewed as God the Father and not St. Nicholas.
One of the Victorian stained glass windows that caught my eye, in St. Mary and St. Nicholas Church, was the panel dedicated to Jane Merriel by her children dated August 1852 but completed in 1853. The panel is in the North Aisle and depicts three biblical acts of healing, Lazarus raised from the dead, the only son of the Widow of Nain brought back to life from the bier and the final image showing the daughter of Jairus being brought back to life from her bed.
Wimborne Minster in Wimborne Dorset is built on consecrated ground that dates back to circa A.D. 705. Originally dedicated to St. Cuthburga, sister to King Ina, King of the West Saxons. St. Cuthburga founded a Benedictine Nunnery on the site and there was also a monastery erected on the same site. The Nunnery was destroyed in 1013. A majority of the church was built by Normans between 1120 and 1180. The Minster was substantially restored from 1855 to 1857 and most of the stained glass windows date from this period. The Warner Clogstoun Window in the North Aisle is dedicated to the memory of Thornton Warner Clogstoun who was born circa 1843 in Trinidad, West Indies. The stained glass depicts David King of Israel and Jonathan Son of Saul. It has been suggested that the face of Jonathan is that of Clogstoun.
The Druitt Window is a five-lighted window dedicated to the memory of physician Dr William Druitt, FRCS and his wife Ann, paid for by their children in 1892. The imagery is dominated by biblical references to curing and healing of the sick. The Druitt family are worth a more detailed mention here. Dr William Druitt was the brother of famous surgeon Dr Robert Druitt (1814-1883) who authored The Surgeon’s Vade Mecum. First published in 1839, it soon became the standard work for every trainee surgeon for the next century. Between 1839 and 1878 over 40,000 copies of the tome were sold. Dr William Druitt lived at the grand Westfield House in Wimborne, now converted into flats. The Druitts were a well-respected medical family and had practiced medicine in this small Dorset town since the early 1700s. William’s second son and third child, Montague John Druitt (1857-1888) is thought in adulthood to have been Jack the Ripper. The well-educated Montague worked as a teacher and barrister. He died early December 1888, his body found floating in the River Thames and a verdict of suicide recorded. The Ripper murders ceased immediately following his death whether this is just coincidence or a significant fact, Ripper scholars are divided and speculation continues to this day on whether Montague Druitt was indeed responsible for committing these heinous crimes.
The Lace Window at Wimborne Minster is located in the Trinity Chapel, South Chancel Aisle next to the organ. This is my favourite stained glass window in the Minster due to its intricate design and striking colour scheme that casts beautiful, light patterns onto the masonry. Created in 1857 by the well-known master glaziers Heaton & Butler. The pelican on the right is shown in her Piety and according to legend the bird fed its young with blood from its own breast. In the Middle Ages the pelican was used to represent Christ. The left window has the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) with the banner of victory.
The final stained glass window I have selected can be found in The Royal Chapel on the site of the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley in Hampshire. Created circa 1874 it is dedicated to the memory of Dr George Stewart Beatson who died at Simla on the 7th June 1874. He was Queen Victoria’s Honorary Physician, Surgeon General of the Army Medical Department and Surgeon General to the Indian Army. His son, Colonel Sir George Thomas Beatson, was the pioneering Oncologist who developed a new treatment for breast cancer. After graduating MD in 1878 George Thomas also worked for a time with Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery.