Kempe and Pevsner (ii)

Posted By Adrian Barlow / February, 20, 2014 / 0 comments

Kempe Hereford S transept apostlesI have to keep reminding myself that not every comment in Pevsner’s Buildings of England series comes from the pen of Nikolaus Pevsner himself, any more than every window designed and made in the Kempe Studio had necessarily been overseen by Kempe in person. Pevsner’s assistants – who became his friends, colleagues and successors – shared his vision but had their own opinions. And some of them admired Kempe a lot.

I own many Pevsners (though there are gaps in my collection) and I greatly admire Pevsner the man for what he achieved with Buildings of England. All the same, as I suggested in my previous post – Kempe and Pevsner (i) – there are blind spots and inconsistencies. What Pevsner found hard to accept was, first, that Kempe’s work was grounded in the late mediaeval glass of the 15th and 16th centuries rather than the earlier glass of the 12th and 13th centuries – the glass of Chartres, Canterbury or York. Second, he convinced himself that the style of Kempe glass got stuck early on and never developed.

In the introduction to Yorkshire: North Riding (1966) Pevsner writes:

Kempe started his stained glass shortly after Morris. The North Riding has very much of it, too much for one’s enjoyment. The earliest … are a little more Pre-Raphaelite than he was to be later, but the characteristic colours and curly hair are already there, and these Kempe never gave up; nor did his partner and later successor, Tower.

Here is Pevsner parading his prejudices and getting some of his facts wrong – Tower was never Kempe’s partner – but at least he is correctly identifying early Kempe. My own rule of thumb is that ‘Kempe’ ceases to be ‘early’ by 1883 – the last year in which Wyndham Hope Hughes worked for Kempe (the Four Rivers window at Monmouth); the following ten years are ‘middle Kempe’; from 1893, when John Lisle becomes Chief Draughtsman, up to Kempe’s death in 1907 is ‘high Kempe’. Everything thereafter is Kempe and Co.

I’m sure that when Pevsner began Buildings of England, he knew almost nothing about Kempe. He could record the existence of so many Kempe windows by drawing on on the lists of Victorian glass compiled by the former Director of the British Museum, Sir Thomas Kendrick. Pevsner couldn’t tell the difference between early and later Kempe, as he proved in his entry for the church of St. Swithin’s, Patney (Wiltshire) where he dated an Annunciation window as 1873 –which was merely the date of death of the person commemorated. This window, actually installed in 1893, has nothing in common with Kempe glass of the 1870s (e.g. Annunciations at Much Marcle, Herefs., or Southwell Minster, Notts.), and belongs clearly to the period I’ve called ‘High Kempe’.

Still, it’s what he sees as Kempe’s failure to move forward that gets Pevsner. Writing about the windows in St. Mary the Virgin, Cottingham, on the outskirts of Hull, he notes:

 N and S aisles, 1895, by Kempe and N aisle W, 1930, Kempe & Co. exactly like the Kempe of forty years before, an almost uncanny force of inertia.

 Yet in the same volume (Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, Pevsner and David Neave eds., 2nd. ed. 1995), the entry for St. Giles, Hull, records: ‘E window by Kempe, 1905, Good’ – praise indeed. And there is yet more: for St. James, Sutton-on-Hull, Pevsner (though I suspect this is Neave writing) we read:

Nine mediocre windows of 1870s-80s, including E window, 1874, by Ward and Hughes. The N.E. window, 1906, by C.E. Kempe is far superior.

 In a later post, I shall challenge this idea that there is no stylistic development in Kempe , or even in Kempe and Co. But for now, let me say that other volumes of Buildings of England have unexpected and valuable asides, useful for Kempe research. Here’s an example from Wiltshire (2nd. ed. 1975, Kempe and Cherry). Writing about the glass in St Bartholomew’s, Corsham, Pevsner, or Cherry, notes that the ‘N Chapel E window, 1878, [is] copied from the Flemish C16 glass in the Lady Chapel of Lichfield Cathedral.’ If true, this is important: Kempe himself would restore and reinstate some of the Lichfield Lady Chapel glass some twenty years later. Here is the first suggestion I have encountered that he was already familiar with – and actually copying – this glass in windows of his own as early as 1878.

But of all the comments on Kempe by Pevsner that have puzzled me for over thirty years, the one that seems the most blinkered, is his dismissal of the great S window in the S transept of Hereford Cathedral, the largest window ever produced by the Kempe Studio. I call this piece – especially when seen on a fine late afternoon with the sun slanting through it – a wonder, now.  It depicts the Tree of the Church, and you have to read it from the bottom up, starting with the Apostles. In terms of scale, composition, clarity and colour (it carries the monogram of Alfred Edward Tombleson, Kempe’s master glass painter and the man, too, who would have supervised this enormous window’s installation) it is a masterwork. And when you remember that, in the same year, the Kempe Studio also completed and installed the great S transept window in Lichfield Cathedral, you realize that 1895 was Kempe’s annus mirabilis.

Hereford Kempe shieldEven so, Pevsner isn’t impressed. He prefers the window in Hereford’s N transept: ‘The N window is a Victorian piece to be proud of. It is by Hardman, of 1864. Two very large medallions, going through three lights each, and twenty smaller medallions.’ Indeed, that too is a fine window, in style echoing European cathedral glass of the early 13th century. Hence Pevsner’s preference.  So when he turns to confront Kempe’s S transept window, all he can do is to mutter, ‘It’s curious how parochial, i.e. how un-cathedral, his glass is.’ Parochial? Hardly. The scale, ambition and achievement of this window is immense – but Pevsner just doesn’t see it.

Adrian Barlow

[illustrations: figs. I and II are details from the S Transept window in Hereford Cathedral.

The Annunciation window from St Swithins Church, Patney, to which I refer above, has been in the news recently. Click here.

 

 

 

Pevsner and Kempe (i)

Posted By Adrian Barlow / February, 2, 2014 / 0 comments

Hucknall E window (detail)The mid-20th century decline of interest in the work of the Kempe Studio, and of its successor, C.E. Kempe and Co, can be blamed on several factors. Here are a few: the general reaction against all things Victorian in the arts and architecture; the fact that even before 1934, when the firm closed, Kempe’s distinctive style had come to seem old-fashioned, and to be dismissed as derivative and debased. Genuinely modern glass in Britain only really entered the public consciousness with the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, John Piper’s Baptistry window appearing in every sense like a new dawn.

At this time Victorian and Edwardian glass had few champions, and the fact that one of them was John Betjeman was no advantage: most churches – certainly most clergy and churchwardens – were indifferent to, or entirely unaware of, the Kempe windows under their care.

I want to make a controversial claim, however: that one of the people who did most to create a revival of interest in Kempe glass was Nikolaus Pevsner. His Buildings of England series, launched in 1951, usually made a point of noting when windows were by Kempe, even if the entry was limited to the four words, ‘Stained glass by Kempe’. Of course, Pevsner himself was responsible for some serious inaccuracies, notoriously inventing the firm ‘Kempe and Tower’; and when he did comment on particular windows he often sounded less than enthusiastic. ‘An unusually good window’ was a rare and ambiguous  compliment. Nevertheless, until the publication of Margaret Stavridi’s pioneering book, Master of Glass (1988), indeed before the appearance of the Kempe Society’s Corpus of Kempe Stained Glass (2000), the most reliable way of locating Kempe windows was by scouring the pages of Pevsner.

Pevsner did not actively dislike Kempe glass, nor did he dismiss all things Victorian: after all, with books such as Victorian and After he championed the serious revaluation of Victorian architecture and design. It was he who, half a century ago, was calling it ‘a disgrace’ that there was no book-length biography or scholarly assessment of the architect George Frederick Bodley, Kempe’s friend and early mentor. (There is still no such book, though – mirabile dictu – Michael Hall’s eagerly-awaited biography of Bodley is due to appear later this year: I shall review it when it does.)

Pevsner allowed that some Kempe glass was on its own terms good, particularly what he loosely described as ‘early Kempe’, but he was usually clear about his reasons for preferring Morris’s windows. Here, for instance, and as early as 1951, are his comments on the windows of St Mary Magdalene, Hucknall:

 Visually the predominant feature of the church is … the twenty-five stained glass windows by Kempe, of his best, early, period, beginning with the E[ast] window of 1883, and then mostly of 1888-90, with his dark blues and brownish-reds, his plenty of  vegetation, and his unmistakable faces. If you want to study late Victorian stained glass at its most competent (not the genius, the innovations, the aesthetic purity of Morris, but the accepted High Church medium), Hucknall is one of the best places to go. (Nottinghamshire, 1951, p.86)

 This is the first time Pevsner directly contrasts Kempe with Morris, but it’s significant that, while he can’t suppress his excitement about Morris’s glass (‘genius … innovations … aesthetic purity’), he acknowledges the importance of Kempe stained glass within what he describes as ‘the accepted High Church medium’. This is surprisingly close to the celebrated judgment of Owen Chadwick, cherished by all Kempe enthusiasts, that ‘the art attained its Victorian zenith not with the innovations of William Morris or Edward Burne-Jones but in the Tractarian artist Charles Eamer Kempe.’

In his Introduction to the Buildings of England Shropshire (1958), Pevsner admits that by the 1880s Kempe had become ‘a serious competitor’ to Morris:

 His early work has perhaps more body than the contemporary work of Clayton & Bell or Hardman’s, but it lacks the clarity, the sensitive simplification of design, and the purity of colour which made William Morris a pioneer of the C20. (p.44)

What exactly did Pevsner mean by these qualities he admired in Morris’s work and found lacking in Kempe’s? I think he considered Kempe windows too cluttered, too heavily painted, over-complex in the range of colours used and (perhaps particularly) over-reliant on silver staining; by contrast, Morris – who used silver-staining only sparingly and almost never for the faces and limbs of his figures – allowed (Pevsner thought) more light to shine undistorted through unpainted glass; hence ‘purity of colour’.

These are my words, my own understanding of what Pevsner valued in Morris’s stained glass, but Pevsner himself had this to say in Pioneers of Modern Design (1960):

 Although it must certainly be admitted that there is more detail-realism than we would now approve of for ornamental purposes, it must not be forgotten that when Morris began, stained glass windows were just illustrations with plenty of figures, buildings, and spatial recession, and with a large quantity of colours and shades. His is the merit of having gone back to simple figures, simple attitudes, simple colours, ornamental backgrounds. (p.53)

 Here, I think, is the explanation of ‘clarity’ and ‘sensitive simplification of design’. Pevsner Fairford interior 2admires Morris’s reaction against what he sees as the merely illustrative qualities of mid-19th century glass. Even more revealing is his description of what such glass contains: ‘detail-realism, plenty of figures, buildings and spatial recession’. This surely is the key to Pevsner’s lack of real sympathy with Kempe: the glass he disparages is the glass of the 15th century – precisely the era of stained glass design Kempe had admired. You have only to visit Fairford parish church (Gloucestershire)– where Kempe made detailed and carefully-annotated full-size drawings right at the start of his Studio’s existence – to see early 16th century windows where full-length figures, elaborate architectural settings, detailed interiors and perspective accentuated by chequerboard floors exactly match Pevsner’s description.

 

I shall explore the significance of this in my next post.

 

Adrian Barlow

 

[illustrations: (i) Detail from the E window of St. Mary Magdalene, Hucknall (Notts.); (ii) Fairford (Glos.): Jesus appearing to his mother after the Resurrection.  Photographs © the author and the Kempe Trust

Kempe and St. Joseph

Posted By Adrian Barlow / January, 6, 2014 / 0 comments
Jospeh and the Angel

Joseph and the Angel (Chalvey, Bucks, 1879)

Joseph was an old man
   And an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary
   In the land of Galilee.      (The Cherry Tree Carol)

I’ve been trying since Christmas to redress a wrong. In all my years of studying Kempe stained glass I have rarely looked closely at the way St. Joseph is depicted. He doesn’t of course appear in Annunciation scenes. In Visitation windows, where Mary greets her cousin Elizabeth, he is sometimes – but by no means always – shown in the background looking on with Zacharias: two old men baffled by their wives’ sudden fertility. Next, in Nativity scenes, Joseph is often edged into the background or the bottom corner by the Shepherds, the Wise Men or the ox and ass.

He comes into his own however, in scenes dealing with the post-Nativity life of Jesus, from the Presentation in the Temple onwards. In St. Peter’s, Chalvey (Bucks.) there is a rare siting of Joseph asleep and dreaming, being warned by an angel to take Mary and the child and escape the wrath of Herod.  The Flight into Egypt itself is relatively uncommon as a theme in Kempe windows, though it appears twice in St. Bridget’s, West Kirby (Cheshire). That church (which houses one of the finest sets of Kempe windows: 25 in all, between 1870-1908) has an 1881 scene of the child Jesus in the Temple conversing with the Doctors; the same cartoon was re-used the following year at St. Mary’s, Monmouth, an interesting instance of the Kempe Studio’s ensuring that windows based on the same cartoons were kept at a safe distance from each other.

Tradition has it (though there is no mention of this in the Gospels) that Joseph was not just older than Mary, but actually an old man. Kempe of course follows this tradition. In all the windows mentioned so far, Joseph is depicted as an old man: stooped, often balding or bald, and heavily bearded. In a 1903 window in St Michael and All Angels, Cherry Burton (E. Yorks.) he is depicted with a drooping, overgrown moustache so ill-kempt it hangs down in fronds over his mouth, and the only other old man I have seen thus disfigured is Noah in an 1899 window at St. Mary’s, Bromsberrow (Glos.).

Joseph and Jesus in the Carpenter’s Shop (detail): Gloucester Cathedral 1878

Joseph and Jesus in the Carpenter’s Shop (detail): Gloucester Cathedral 1878

Both these windows were designed when John Lisle was chief draughtsman at the Studio. But there are some interesting interpretations of Joseph that considerably pre-date these, particularly in scenes of Jesus in the Carpenter’s Shop. There is an unusual window of 1878 in Gloucester Cathedral, unusual because (according to the Commission Registers) it was designed by the architect John Dando Sedding and not by one of Kempe’s own draughtsmen. Perhaps no other Kempe window shows Joseph more alert and active – less old, indeed – than this one: in the act of sawing (with a rather modern-looking crosscut saw, though a traditional frame saw hangs on the wall) he still keeps a caring, professional eye on Jesus. The face is finely and expressively drawn, by contrast with the rather bland face of Mary who looks in through the workshop window. What goes on at the bench is men’s work, and Mary is here shown to be literally in the background while it is Joseph who takes on the job of preparing his son for adult life. (In a later, 1895, window at Eton College Lower Chapel, Mary is shown sitting at a spinning wheel while the men get on with their carpentry.)

Jesus in the Carpenter’s Shop

Joseph and Jesus in the Carpenter’s Shop (detail): Chalvey, Bucks, 1879

It is interesting to contrast this image with another carpenter shop scene from the following year (1879). Here (again, at Chalvey, Bucks) the setting is both similar to, but different from, the Gloucester window. Mary looks into the carpenter’s shop, as before, but this time she leans over a wooden, half-opened stable door. The upright, spars and beams of the building indeed seem reminiscent of the stable; and, whereas the walls of the 1878 shop were well-laid brick, now the emphasis is on a rough dado, where the wood and the nails are prominent, and the carpenter’s tools hang from the wall: all as if in deliberate anticipation of the crucifixion. The young Jesus is himself planing a long piece of wood, almost as if preparing his own cross. In so doing, he looks not at Joseph but away from his parents and out of the picture towards us. Yet his eyes do not meet ours. They are fixed on a future only he can see. Joseph, meanwhile, rests upon a T-shaped auger (another prefiguring of the Cross? In the Eton College window Joseph actually holds up a cross-shaped piece of joinery). Old and exhausted, the Chalvey Joseph supports himself by leaning heavily on an upright.  His weary expression suggests he knows his son has already left him far behind.

This window, with its heavy symbolism, owes something to Millais’ celebrated 1849-50 painting, Christ in the House of his Parents. Stylistically, though, in terms of the depiction of the faces of Joseph and Jesus, and in the costumes and the use of silver staining, it is characteristic of the work of Wyndham Hope Hughes, Kempe’s chief glass painter at this time.

Adrian Barlow

Comments: I welcome responses to my blog, including corrections, disagreements and further information. To respond, just click on ‘Comments’ at the head of each post.

Illustrations: please note that all illustrations published on my blog are © Adrian Barlow and the Kempe Trust, unless otherwise stated.

George Herbert’s ‘brittle crazie glasse’

Posted By Adrian Barlow / December, 8, 2013 / 0 comments
Picture of George Herbert

George Herbert in a window in Bishop Burton Church, E. Riding

Some time ago I went to Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, to give a lecture on the stained glass of Charles Eamer Kempe. The lecture was entitled ‘Espying Heaven’ and the title derives from George Herbert’s poem, ‘The Elixir’:

      A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

It was a happy chance that just outside Beverley, in the village church of Bishop Burton, I came across an intriguing stained glass window by Kempe depicting George Herbert (1593-1633). It’s a good portrait, owing something to the only known engraving of him. The poet stands holding a book which carries the neatly inscribed text, ‘Lord I have loved the habitation of thine house’, and it is as if Herbert himself has just written these words with the quill pen held in his right hand. In fact they come from Psalm 28 but they are absolutely appropriate to Herbert, whose chief book was his collection of poems published posthumously as The Temple.

The quotation, though, is puzzling: ‘the habitation of thy [it is ‘thy’ not ‘thine’ in both the King James Bible and the Prayer Book] house’ sounds tautologous, unless either ‘house’ here means family (as in ‘House of David’) or ‘habitation’ means the act of inhabiting a house rather than the house itself. This is actually the first meaning of ‘habitation’ given in the OED, and you could well imagine Herbert agreeing, ‘I have loved inhabiting the house of the Lord’. However, though in his own poetry he frequently uses ‘habitation’ he always means a place to live in:

My God, I heard this day
That none doth build a stately habitation
But he that means to dwell therein. (‘Man’)

In the Bishop Burton window Herbert is portrayed alongside Archbishop Laud, and perhaps Kempe (or the patron who paid for the window) wanted to suggest that Herbert shared Laud’s views on liturgy and doctrine. Which he may have done – though only so far, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has pointed out. Herbert’s own notion of church ceremonial gave greater emphasis to preaching than Laud’s ever did: his church at Leighton Bromswold in Huntingdonshire was re-ordered during his time as rector in absentia with not one but two pulpits. It is not for nothing that the nearest we have to a contemporary portrait of Herbert shows him wearing a Geneva gown of the kind usually worn by post-reformation preachers. For conducting services he may have worn a surplice and stole, as in this window, but he certainly would not have worn a purple cassock underneath, as he does here: look at his left sleeve peeping out. In other windows where Kempe* has depicted Herbert (there are at least five) he is always shown begowned. At All Saints, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, he stands, an austere black-gowned figure, in front of the Great Court of Trinity, his old college. The inscription for this window is also taken from Herbert’s poem ‘Man’:

Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him.

Sad to say, someone in the East Riding has taken a pot shot at Herbert, the airgun pellet narrowly missing his shoulder but leaving a nasty crack across his face. It reminds us just how fragile stained glass is – as Herbert knew only too well. In his poem ‘The Windows’ he speaks of ‘brittle crazie glasse’, which puts it perfectly. He weaves a powerful conceit around stained glass:

LORD, how can man preach thy eternall word ?
He is a brittle crazie glasse :
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie,
Making thy life to shine within
The holy Preachers, then the light and glorie
More rev’rend grows, and more doth win ;
Which else shows watrish, bleak, and thin.

Doctrine and life, colours and light, in one
When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and aw : but speech alone
Doth vanish like a flaring thing,
And in the eare, not conscience ring.

Herbert W Kirby window

George Herbert: vestry window at St. Bridget, West Kirby

A preacher, says Herbert (and he is, as always, talking to and about himself), has the great privilege of being a window through which his congregation may ‘the Heav’n espy’. But this will be possible only if the Christian story is ‘anneal’d’ – that is, sealed inside the preacher so that he speaks with genuine conviction just as the sacred images and stories are captured in a stained glass window through the glazier’s skill in firing the glass. But if that job is not done properly, the colour fades, the detail disappears and the window does indeed look ‘watrish, bleak and thin’.

It’s a telling conceit, metaphysical in both philosophical and literary senses. And the final stanza, with its appositional phrasing, completes the conceit perfectly: as stained glass needs light to animate the images in the window, so doctrine is lifeless unless the preacher of that doctrine lives – practises – what he preaches. If not, if it’s just ‘speech alone’, then it is merely ‘a flaring thing’ and not the ‘colour and light’ which Herbert so admires in a beautiful window.

It’s therefore fitting that in the earliest and, as I think, the finest of Kempe’s George Herbert windows (West Kirby in Cheshire), the inscription beneath the portrait of the poet should be the first verse of the best poem ever written about stained glass, ‘The Windows’.

[illustrations: (i) George Herbert in a window at Bishop Burton
(ii) George Herbert in a window at West Kirby (photo by Philip Collins)

Wakehurst Place

Posted By admin / October, 7, 2013 / 0 comments

Wakehurst Place, in Sussex, is the most disappointing National Trust property I have ever visited. Of course, people tend not to go there for the pleasure of wandering from room to room of this once splendid Elizabethan mansion: Wakehurst is all about the spectacular gardens and the National Seed Bank.  Indeed, you are hardly aware as you walk round and look respectfully up at the tallest Christmas tree in England that the NT has anything to do with the estate at all; it seems to be only the partnership with Kew Gardens that counts here.

 

At least, though, the house is open – even if it lacks furniture and atmosphere. There are a few rooms reserved for wedding receptions and others apparently available for school groups on field trips. The ground floor has the feel of a one-time prep school waiting to be put to new use. There’s even a chapel, or there was: stripped now not only of its altar but of every other furnishing, the only thing left is the important stained glass. And even this is under threat.

 

I want to focus on the Crucifixion window, which was commissioned from the Studio of Charles Eamer Kempe in 1905. At first glance it is conventional enough: a ‘Stabat Mater’ scene with St Mary and St. John, the beloved disciple, standing either side of the Cross. The depiction of the dying Christ is conventional too: the crown of grotesque thorns is powerfully drawn, but the loincloth lacks the billowing defiance that is a distinctive feature of earlier Kempe Crucifixion windows. Why, then, do I call this window important?

 

Well, for a start the figures of Mary and John are finely drawn, St John particularly. Far from abject, he stares fixedly at his dying friend, and his pose suggests a firmness of purpose: only the whites of his knuckles as he grasps the hem of his cloak suggest the horror of the event.

 

Then the background to the scene is remarkable. Often such windows were designed with lozenge-shaped quarries to fill the space behind the central image and the accompanying figures. (A good example is the chancel window of Llandinabo Church, 1893, in Herefordshire, which has several features in common with the Wakehurst window.) Here, though, Kempe has chosen to depict an open sky with naturalistic clouds gathering on the horizon. Such expansive whiteness is rare in stained glass of any period and would be arresting enough, but it is the vista in front of the horizon that demands our close scrutiny.

 

In the foreground, the summit of Calvary is depicted as a dark and fertile meadow: harebells, gentians and daisies grow among the grass and ferns. But the distant view beyond and below the Green Hill is what draws the eye: across all three lights – the narrow tall central light and the wider lower outer lights – Kempe’s chief draughtsman, John Lisle, has produced an extraordinary fantasy roofscape: a medieval city of cloud-capped towers, streaming pennants, bartizans, pantiles and buttressed walls. Some of the spires are topped with crosses, yet on the road down from Calvary towards the gateway into Jerusalem, Roman soldiers stand and chat at the city’s gatehouse, where the portcullis is raised.

 

Anachronism, even historical and cultural confusion on this heroic scale, has always been a feature of stained glass representation of biblical events. What is so arresting here, however, is the dramatic and exclusive use of silver staining for the whole composition of the distant city: black and white, silver and grey, ochre and umber, lemon and gold – these are the colours characteristically created by silver staining. And indeed they dominate the entire window and unify the whole design: the cross is silver stained, so are the great wedges hammered into the ground at its base. So, too, the capacious cloaks worn by Mary and John, and likewise the architectural framework of each light, where pairs of rather mannered classical columns support round-headed arches topped by chubby cherubs, from whose necks green foliate swags loop down to either side of the arches.

 

Extensive and exquisite use of silver staining is an absolute hallmark of Kempe glass, both sacred and secular – see for instance the panel originally made for Kempe’s own home, Old Place, Lindfield (not far from Wakehurst) – but now at the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton . But I can point to no other window that employs silver staining with such bizarre bravura as at Wakehurst.

 

To judge the strangeness of this window, compare it with a window in Rendcomb Church, Gloucestershire. This, dating from a little earlier (1895), depicts the Supper at Emmaus, on the evening of the Resurrection. Again the roofs and towers of Jerusalem form a backdrop to the scene, but this time our viewpoint is not looking up to the face of Christ and then to the top of the cross and the bowed head of the dying Christ; now we are looking at him at eye-level across the table. So we look down onto the rather crudely drawn cottage loaf, from which Jesus has pulled the top-knot in the act of breaking bread. (We’ll overlook the fact that the bread should have been unleavened.) In the distance, blue-grey Jerusalem is silhouetted against the hills in the background: no silver staining there.  And the whole scene is framed by a kind of pergola supporting a vine dripping with huge pendulous bunches of grapes. One has only to contrast the range of colours in the Rendcomb window with the austerity of the Wakehurst palette, to see how striking this endangered window is.

 

It’s endangered because the architectural consultants who are advising the National Trust on what to do about Wakehurst Place want to take the Kempe windows out of the Chapel, so that the space can be (dread word!) ‘re-purposed’. They don’t like the fact that below the stained glass, the lower part of the three-light window has been blanked out with a stone infill, which, from the outside, looks rather clumsy. This was hardly Kempe’s fault: I assume that the infilling had been done originally to accommodate a tall reredos behind the altar and that the window, when designed by the Kempe Studio, was intended to come to the top of the reredos, and no lower. The reredos has disappeared, of course, along with everything else that once gave the Chapel meaning – except the stained glass. To remove the glass would be absolutely the wrong thing to do. It should stay.

 

Adrian Barlow

 

[illustrations: (i and ii) East window, Wakehurst Place, Sussex, by the Kempe Studio, 1905; (iii) Annunciation roundel, formerly at Old Place, Lindfield, and now at Wightwick Manor (courtesy, the National Trust); (iv) The Supper at Emmaus window, Rendcomb Church, Gloucestershire, Kempe, 1895. Photographs © the author.

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