|10 Oct 2019
Nikolaus Pevsner, in his renowned series on The Buildings of England describes the stained glass in the west lancets of Hall as ‘the clou of the room, and indeed of the school altogether.’ And in Murray’s Architectural Guide, Betjeman states these windows are the earliest pre-Raphaelite glass ever made, having been designed by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) when he was only 24.
English painter, illustrator, and designer, Burne-Jones was a key figure in the second phase of Pre-Raphaelitism. In 1853 he began studying at Oxford University, intending to train for the priesthood, but his interest was turned to art first by William Morris, his fellow student, and then by Rossetti, who remained the decisive influence on him. He left Oxford without taking a degree in 1856 and settled in London and this is when he must have started on the commission for St Andrew’s College.
Pevsner says of the windows, “The colours are forceful and the compositions are uncompromising too.” Depicting The Expulsion from Eden, The Tower of Babel and King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the windows were made by Powells of Whitefriars in 1857, the leading firm of ornamental glass-makers throughout the century. There is a further Bradfield connection here in that Arthur Powell was the Founder’s cousin and educated his eight sons at the College. He was also for a number of years a trustee of the College.
Some of the most important craftsmen in the field were trained or worked at Whitefriars, who evidently had a policy of involving artists of different kinds on a freelance basis. This firm ceased production in 1980 and its archive was dispersed to amongst others, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where it is thought the bills and related paperwork for the Hall windows now are. An article about the windows in the Chronicle of Spring 1968 by Langham-Carter (OB 1917- 22) includes a transcript for the bill (which was still at the Whitefriars firm then) recording the cost of the windows as £78.15.
The great news is that the fabulous full-size cartoons, signed and dated by Burne-Jones, still survive and are pictured here. They are two metre high watercolours with Indian ink on paper and were purchased by the V and A from Whitefriars in 1970 and only once exhibited, a year later, at the City Art Gallery in Sheffield. In the V and A notes on the cartoons it states that, “(William) Morris is alleged to have helped Burne-Jones with the design. He was the model for the figure of Adam in the first panel,” pictured here.
As historically and artistically significant as these windows are, they are very little known outside the College. Email any anecdotes or stories you may have heard about the windows to email@example.com
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