Southsea Greenhouse – a true co-operative

11 11 2011

I haven’t posted here for a while – it’s been a busy year which has seen me move off the Isle of Wight to sunny Southsea. I’ve been busy settling in and exploring my new home town.  Here’s one of the great things I have discovered. I hope to share more with you in the coming months.

At the end of September I jumped on my bike one day and cycled down to the little red and white striped hut that sits on the promenade right by South Parade Pier – The Southsea Greenhouse.

Southsea Greenhouse in the late September heatwave

Yes I did say it’s red and white striped, not green, but ‘green’ is very much at the heart of this fabulous co-operative.

To begin with, it sells ‘greens’ – locally produced fruit and vegetables, in season and with a low carbon footprint. Locally grown plants adorn the outside and inside of the hut, and there’s plenty more to look at with an array of items from local artists and designers. If you’re lucky you might meet one of them helping to run the place for the day.

It is the brainchild of Sue Stokes who persuaded the Seafront Manager to let her set up the stall which she runs with a small team of volunteers, many of whom have produce of their own to offer – jewellery, paintings, cupcakes, and much more.

When I arrived the sun was beating down on the little hut and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The late autumn heatwave was at its height (hard to believe now) and Southsea was bustling with dog walkers, cyclists, parents out with their babies and toddlers, and people who had just come out to sit and soak it all up.  In the centre of all this was a little huddle of activity, chatter and laughter – The Southsea Greenhouse.

Local produce enhanced by local creativity

I started chatting with Sue and she introduced me to Emily (Emily’s Bakery) and Kendal (Eyecandy by Seaslugger) who were both helping out. Emily was keeping a watchful eye on some amazingly delicious looking cupcakes and Kendal was adding some artistic touches to the chalkboard on the side of the hut while her striking hama bead jewellery caught the attention of passers by.

And the hut certainly does catch your eye. I saw joggers slow down to try to take it all in as they passed, and only a few days previously I’d cycled past myself and tried to figure out what was going on there. You should stop and take a good look – in fact you should make a special trip down there.  Pick up some lovely fresh fruit and veg, buy a postcard or a new pair of earrings, and have a chat – they’re all lovely and friendly.

Plants as well as fruit & veg, and lovely Solent views.

That’s the essence of the place – fun, friendly and varied. A place where local produce rubs shoulders with the work of local artists. What a great way to help keep the Southsea economy vibrant.

Sue told me they’re always on the lookout for people who want to get involved.  If you are keen to make a difference in the local community then check them out. You can get in touch via their website to find out more about the co-operative and what it means for Southsea, or check out their Facebook page.

The Southsea Greenhouse, which had its official launch at the end of October, is open Wednesday to Sunday between 11am and 5pm (except on rainy days). Don’t let the autumn/winter weather put you off – it’s well worth a visit. What are you waiting for?

You can't miss it! Pop in and say hello.

Can you crack this century-old code?

15 02 2011


Click for large image to see detail

Who were they?

With a few clues from an old postcard, photograph or letter, it is sometimes possible to piece together a profile of the lives of the people who owned them.  Tantalisingly, these exercises often open up even more questions that may never be answered.

The code of the postcard

On Monday July 20th 1908 at around 8pm, this postcard was sent on its way.  It was posted in Newport on the Isle of Wight, quite possibly near to the scene it depicts (below).  Much of the message is straightforward, but who is it from?  What are the messages concealed by code?

Here is my attempt at a transcript:

Dear Gab (Want to borrow something then)
I was very sorry that I could not come out last night there was still a leakage in the bicycle tyre.  Will see you to-morrow (Tuesday) I hope. Will you please inform Edith that I did not see her on Saturday, of course you know I would have spoken if I had seen her.  Tell her next time she happens to see me, to talk to me like she do her class at school or hit me over the head with her umbrella. ???? Hed(?) Baker & George. Remember me to all please.  Hoping to see you tomorrow night & make arrangements.
Yours etc Bedmate (?)
W.D. & H. O.

Bedmate? Is that what it really says?  In 1908?

Back in the early 20th century, there were several post deliveries a day, so a postcard referring to the next day would not have been uncommon.  In some respects, postcards such as this one might have been equivalent to sending a text message today.  By 1908 pillar boxes had been around in Britain for over 50 years, so the practice was commonplace. But would the messages all have been so brazen?  Is this brazen at all, or am I mis-reading the signature?

Who is this young lady? Well, without a name to go on, I have been unable to find out.  But I have discovered the identity of the young man to whom she was writing.


Winkle Street, Calbourne, Isle of Wight


William Gabriel Critchell was born in May 1890 in Newport, the county town of the Isle of Wight, so would have been 18 years of age when he received this postcard.  His father was a Wheelwright, (the son of a fisherman from Dorset), and his mother had been born in Hampshire.  By 1901 the family had moved out of Newport to Rose Cottage in Calbourne (a small village, even today).

The month after this postcard arrived, Gabe Critchell enlisted with the Army Ordnance Corps.  He had been apprenticed as a carpenter to Herbert Long, a Builder in Calbourne, but was still living at home.  He had apparently been previously rejected for the military on the grounds of having bad teeth!  From his service record it can also be found that he was 5’7½” tall, weighed 123lbs, had a 33″ chest and was of dark complexion with dark brown hair and brown eyes.  Now he is a real person. We can picture him.

On January 27th 1916 Gabriel married Lilian Sarah Harris in Putney. She was born in 1893 in Essex. It is not impossible that she is the author of this postcard, but it seems unlikely at this stage in the research.

He transferred to the Reserve in 1919 and was discharged from the Army in 1920 having been temporarily promoted to 2nd corporal (military buffs please feel free to interpret that in the comments) and later acting sergeant.  His address is given as High Street, Newport (back to the Isle of Wight).

There then appears on his record a copy of a reference sent to the Crown Agents for the Colonies which ends:

I know of no circumstances that would in any way disqualify him for a Colonial Govt. appointment.

In 1924 we find him returning from Lagos and his given occupation on the passenger list is Builder’s Foreman. His British address is in Essex, his wife’s home county.  Six years later and he returns to these shores again, now as an Inspector of Works.

In 1932 his wife Lilian returns, seemingly alone, and Gabriel in 1934.  In both cases their address is given as c/o Barclays Bank, Essex.  Gabriel is listed as a Civil Servant.  In 1936 and 1940 the couple return together and he is a Govt Officer.   It is not clear whether they live in Nigeria and visit ‘home’ or the other way around.  And that is where we have to leave them.  There are no further records.  I have found a Gabriel W Critchell who died aged 71 in Berkshire in 1960 but only the age is right and as I have said in previous posts, we can’t make assumptions.


Newport Postcard

Sts Thomas Church, Newport, Isle of Wight (now Newport Minster)

So what of ‘Bedmate’?  I feel it is unlikely that she is Lilian but of course we can’t discount the possibility that she is.  The final mysteries to unravel here are the cryptic messages she left at the foot of the message.

She writes ‘Woodbines’ and ‘W.D. & H.O.’  An earlier investigation revealed that Woodbines (a very popular cigarette once, in Britain) were made by WD & HO Wills.  That explains what it is, but not what it means (nor what she may have meant by writing it).  If it was a request to bring cigarettes to their Tuesday meeting then it was a little elaborate.  There would not be any need to state the initials of the makers, surely.  And what is meant by W.H.J.?  Google only throws up William Henry Jackson – a New York photographer from that era.  Perhaps they knew of his work.

The final, and perhaps most intriguing mystery is the signature. Is the card signed Bedmate or is the signature Longyoungen – and what on earth does that mean?



Photo by Leo Reynolds

If you know anything about the conventions (or otherwise) of sending secret messages by such a public vehicle as a postcard, then please let me know in the comments below. I’m hoping to discover that these words and initials are codes, but perhaps they were known only to Gabe and this young lady, and were not universal to young people of that day.

I’d love to hear what you think about these mysteries.  I hope you have found it interesting.




As posts aren’t always regular on this blog it’s definitely worth subscribing to the RSS feed so you don’t miss any updates.  The Who were they? project will become a recurring feature along with the On the Window Trail posts about the works of Lawrence Lee.  You might also like to take a look at my other blog.

In this series:









The Baby and the Photographer

7 02 2011

Simpkins Gregory

Harry Kenneth Price Simpkins, a baby photographed by William Walker Gregory in 1884

Who were they?

With a few clues from an old postcard, photograph or letter, it is sometimes possible to piece together a profile of the lives of the people who owned them.  Tantalisingly, these exercises often open up even more questions that may never be answered.

The Baby

Harry (or sometimes Kenneth) was born on 14 April 1883 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England.  Unfortunately he does not seem to appear on the 1891 or the 1901 censuses so I do not know who his parents were.

He travelled to the USA and returned in 1914 aboard the Lusitania just over a year before the ship was torpedoed and sunk in May 1915.  He is listed as a Clerk.
In 1923 I found his return from Argentina, along with his wife Carola who I can’t locate in the English records so might assume was born in South America.  By now he is a Bank Manager.

In 1926 the couple return to these shores again, and Harry is a Clerk for the Bank of London and SA (South America), which is also given as his destination address.
In 1935 the couple are here again and are heading for an address in Gloucestershire.  Harry is listed as a Railway Employee this time.

In 1954 he returns to England form Buenos Aires alone at the age of 71 and it is possible that his wife has now died. I have no idea if there were any children, but certainly none travelled with them on the few journeys I have found (I would guess that they were more frequent than these records suggest).  Despite his age, he is listed as a Railway Clerk.

Two years later and Harry is back in England again (from Buenos Aires) and is now listed as having no occupation.  Presumably he finally retired.  His address this time is The Canning Club – a gentlemen’s club in London for those with connections to Argentina.

Harry Simpkins died in Islington, London in 1981 at the age of 98.

There isn’t a lot of detail but we can piece together a picture of a man who travelled a great deal, who worked and married in Argentina, and who returned frequently to England.  We don’t know if he had any children and know nothing of his parents (though this could be discovered by purchasing his birth certificate).  Why does he not appear on the two available censuses after his birth?  Maybe his connection to Argentina began early in life.  It is possible that his father also had connections there and moved the family abroad.  Maybe, like so many families, they just didn’t fill out their census returns.

The other puzzle is Harry’s change of occupation from clerk to Bank Manager then back to clerk seems fairly straightforward, but then he leaves banking to be employed in the railway industry.  By his apparent final return to England he was a member of a ‘gentlemen’s club’ and this might suggest either some affluence, social standing or at least good connections.  So was he the manager of a small bank and then a very important clerk after that?  Did the railway industry headhunt him?  Or did he lose his ‘mojo’ after marriage and slide down the ladder over the years.  Or did the Wall Street Crash in 1929 have anything to do with this?

I am sure that some of the answers are out there and maybe one day I will extend this project beyond these initial musings.

The Photographer

William Walker Gregory, at the time this portrait was taken, lived and worked at 30 High Street, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, with his wife Louisa and two of his three children – Helen and Florence.  There was a son between these two girls but no trace of him after the 1871 census when the family lived in Jersey and the boy was about five years old.

William Walker Gregory was the son of William Gregory (born about 1797 in Derbyshire) and Dorcas (I can’t find her maiden name unfortunately but she was born about 1795 in Worcestershire).  He was born in 1833 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England and was the middle child of three, having two sisters – Mary and Anne.  His father was a Master Draper in Huddersfield who died in 1869.

By the age of 18 William Walker Gregory was his father’s apprentice and he eventually became a Linen Draper (until at least 1861 and at that time resident at Belmont Terrace, Brunswick Place, Huddersfield).  He married Louisa Dyson, daughter of a Cloth Finisher, in 1959.  The couple’s first child, Helen Louisa Gregory was born in 1863, then Frederick William Gregory in 1866.  At some point between Frederick’s birth and the arrival of their third child, Florence, in 1869, they moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands.  On the 1871 census, William Walker Gregory is listed as a Photographer.

I have found no record of the death of young Frederick and only know that by 1881 the family were back in England (this time Marlborough, where the above photograph was taken).  Frederick would have been about 15 or 16 by this time and it is possible that he remained in the Channel Islands, or that he had moved elsewhere and was working, but we can only speculate.  There is a Frederick W Gregory in 1891 in Huddersfield, with a wife, of the right age and birthplace, who is a Photo Dealer’s Assistant, but there is no way of verifying that this is the same person without further investigation.

One of the pitfalls of this kind of research is making assumptions – they are always dangerous.  Follow up every possibility, but believe nothing until you have proof.

Three years after the 1881 census, this photograph was taken.  William and Louisa were still at the same address in 1891, but William died in 1895 at the age of 62.
In 1901 his widow Louisa was living with their married younger daughter Florence in Lewisham.  I can’t find a record of her death.

The questions left open from this short investigation are interesting.  Why did the family move to Jersey?  What happened to Frederick – did he die or did he move back to Yorkshire?  And what made William Walker Gregory become a photographer after starting out as a Draper?  Perhaps it was a passion of his and he gained a solid grounding in a dependable trade, saved his money for equipment, learned everything he could, until he was able to “give up the day job”.  Perhaps there was an opportunity in Jersey to pursue this career, or maybe they moved there for other reasons and he fell into a photographic job.

If these people were part of my own family tree then I would dig deeper, purchase birth, marriage and death certificates, and research the local histories of the places they lived relevant to the time period.  The purpose, however, of this project (which includes old postcards and letters as well as photographs) is the take away a little of the anonymity of these finds.  I hope you have found it interesting.

As posts aren’t always regular on this blog it’s definitely worth subscribing to the RSS feed so you don’t miss any updates.  The Who were they? project will become a recurring feature along with the On the Window Trail posts about the works of Lawrence Lee.  You might also like to take a look at my other blog.

In this series:

December Diary (part 2)

2 01 2011

The first half of December threw some interesting weather at us, with a week of snow, freezing temperatures, and with the thaw a dense fog which gave the place a very eerie look indeed.


The light still shining at the Wheatsheaf

The second half was really the busy half – it seemed to go in a blur.  There was the work Christmas meal followed swiftly by a night out with friends after which I visited my local pub which had a nasty fire back in November.  It’s still not open and at the beginning of the month they had been hoping to have it open by Christmas Eve but the snow put paid to the work starting on time.  I went in for a look around with my friend who runs it.  So sad to see all the damage, but she had a nice little setup with a couple of comfy chairs so we had a couple of drinks there before heading home.

The following weekend saw me out and about again for a pre-Christmas drink with a group of friends.  We visited several places in town and I do believe there is video footage of me singing karaoke but I believe it has been kept from the internet to protect the ears of the world.


What would your expectations be?

One disappointment that night was the 80s bar in town.  Well we thought it was an 80s bar.  It’s called 80s.  The sandwich board style sign outside read “Live Bands, 80s Music, Guest DJs” (though with apostrophes I am not prepared to reproduce here).  So we were surprised, on a Friday night, to find that there was no 80s music playing.  We asked the barman first, who said it would be on ‘later’ (it was already almost midnight).  I then cornered the owner/manager to say that we’d all paid to get in and had been expecting 80s music and he said “there’s nothing I can do about it, that’s just the name of the club”, before disappearing rapidly through the fire escape door.  Well if it’s your club then you CAN do something about it – a refund would have been nice.

Still, the Christmas spirit hadn’t been diminished and we went elsewhere.  A couple of days later my daughter and I went over to Portsmouth on a special hovercraft charter into Gunwharf Quays and did some serious shopping.  We were absolutely frozen by the time we got home but it was a good day and we managed to get most of the things we wanted.

a Day In the Life Of ...

The December DILO is always Christmassy for me.

The main photographic event of the second half of December was the quarterly a Day In the Life Of … (DILO) event.  Every solstice and equinox the members of this Flickr group take photos of their day and post them to the group.  Some collections really are of their day to day lives and that makes a fascinating snapshot of the world four times a year as there are members from every continent.

There is a theme set every time, but we try to keep it to a subject that is accessible to all – so a Christmas theme is definitely out.  However, this time the theme was ‘Celebrations’ which can encompass many things.  My friend Duncan and I headed out to see what festive things we could capture.  First of all we went to Cowes and were quite surprised to see that the decorations in the street and in the shops were quite subdued.  I’m not sure if it is because there has been, in recent years, this habit of throwing things out and buying new each year.  Perhaps everyone decided not to buy many decorations this year (although the domestic outdoor lights were still very much in evidence on the journey there).  With a few exceptions it certainly seemed a little lacklustre.


Mistletoe on a door near the floating bridge

After having made the trek from the seafront, through the main shopping street and up along to the floating bridge at the river’s mouth, we were really feeling the cold so paid a visit to Corrie’s Cabin – the best chip shop on the Isle of Wight in my opinion.  I don’t remember it having an indoor sit-down area before but perhaps I’d never wanted to sit down indoors for chips until that day.  A big plate of cheesy chips and a pot of tea and we felt human again.  By this time the light was going and as we walked back to the car, the town did seem a little more festive as the lights in shop windows and the large tree by the Vectis prettied up the place.

Phase two of the DILO day was spent in Newport.  Before we’d set off for Cowes we had a coffee in Newport and were trying to decide where to go.  I said “how about we go to Cowes while it’s daylight and then we can come back to Newport for the dark light”.  I knew what I meant!  When you are a photographer everything is light. Even the dark!


This is my favourite window every year. Click to see it in 2006.

I popped home quickly for my tripod and first of all wanted to photograph the tree that’s on top of the fire station every year.  Once again the photos weren’t good so I’ll have to give it another go next year.  It did make an eerie appearance in one of my fog photos earlier in the month however.

We then wandered around town but again the street decorations were poor and there were still a lot of people bustling around doing their last minute shopping.  I was very glad I had only my fresh food left to buy.  I had a go at capturing some traffic trails with varying degrees of success and some of the better window displays. Eventually we ran out of town and lights and decided to call it a day.

And then, of course, came Christmas. My daughter and I spent a quiet day as planned and it was a little different this year as my brother and his family now live on the mainland so we didn’t have the morning visit to them.  Dinner was timed to coincide with Doctor Who as usual and all the rushing about had paid off.  The next day it was out for drinks with friends and then to the mainland to visit my brother (and IKEA!). My friend’s birthday (awkwardly on the 30th but this year a 1950s themed party which was great fun) was followed by a quiet but fun New Year’s Eve and December (and 2010) was done.

There are plans for another outing to photograph Lawrence Lee’s stained glass windows in January, so if you’ve been missing them your wait will soon be over.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2010, and thanks for reading.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As posts aren’t always regular on this blog it’s definitely worth subscribing to the RSS feed so you don’t miss any updates.  You might also like to take a look at my other blog.

December Diary (part 1)

December Diary (part 1)

8 12 2010

It seems that I have neglected this blog for some time, but the main reason for this is that we haven’t been out photographing stained glass windows since the spring and I had kind of forgotten that I’d originally planned to keep this one going with photo outings of other kinds as well.  So in order to try to remedy the situation, I thought that maybe a monthly ‘diary’ entry would be useful.  A photographic diary that is.


Snow on the Isle of Wight - twice in one year!

December began rather startlingly with a downfall of snow.  “We don’t get snow on the Isle of Wight”.  Well that statement might need to be revised as we’ve had snow twice this year – a heavy fall which lasted over a week in early January, and now this, admittedly shorter-lived, covering – and before Christmas!

When I moved to the island in 1993 my daughter was just two years old and I was looking forward to us making our first snowman together that winter.  Everyone laughed at me when I mentioned this and I was told that it never snows here.  Well we did get a light dusting three times that winter and everyone blamed me!  We made our tiny snowman and that was that for several years.


Snow transforms everything - I love it!

There must have been another light snowfall after she started school because I remember taking her up the road in less than an inch of the stuff to be surprised at the school gate when I was told the school was shut!  I’d never heard anything like it and couldn’t understand it.  When I was a child we’d go to school in the snow, or if it was really bad we’d walk up there to get homework.  I suppose nowadays teachers don’t live nearby and of course the ‘Elf & Safety’ brigade probably have something to say about it all.  Still, considering the number of 4x4s that are apparently necessary to take children to school, a little snow shouldn’t be any trouble at all.

Anyway (before I descend into a rant) the snow this December was what we would call ‘wet snow’ as opposed to what my grandfather used to call ‘Continental snow’.  This wet stuff falls loosely and only sticks around because it freezes.  It usually provides an even layer and can disappear as quickly as it arrives.  ‘Continental snow’ is more ‘powdery’ and it drifts well.  The resulting layers are more compact and it stays for ages – this is what we had in January.


It was freezing!

So the snow of the night of December 1st surprised a few people as the previous settled-for-more-than-a-day snow here (if memory serves) had been in 1997.  It delighted many more people the next day.  The park was full of adults and children playing in it that Thursday, but it was not as good as January’s fall for snowballs and snowmen.  There was still some of it about on the Friday but that night the rain began and I could hear the icicles breaking off and landing outside my house.  The sound of running water and further dripping confirmed that the thaw had begun and by Saturday morning, barring a few patches on fields and on the hills, the snow had gone.


Fog hanging over Newport at midnight

It was still bitterly cold though and there were mutterings that it would snow again.  On Sunday afternoon I read reports online of fog in East Cowes, but the skies were clear in Newport.  However, by the time it was dark it had reached us and the air was icy.  By the end of Sunday night there was an eerie glow everywhere and combined with the very still water of the high tide (it was a new moon), Newport actually looked quite pretty.

Since then the sun has tried its best to peep through the clouds but it’s struggling and it still feels very icy.  Portsmouth had some glorious sunshine the other day but on my return I could see that there was still heavy cloud over the island (the fabled “own weather system” clearly visible).  However, I did manage to stop on the way back over the downs to take a few shots of the hazy valley below.  If we get a clear morning this week I think there are going to be some spectacular sun and mist shots to be had.  But probably not to be taken by me.  I don’t do mornings.

Hazy view

Hazy view across the Arreton Valley

Part 2

As posts aren’t always regular on this blog it’s definitely worth subscribing to the RSS feed so you don’t miss any updates.  You might also like to take a look at my other blog.

On the window trail – Fri 16th April

22 04 2010

The continuing saga of our quest to photograph and document the stained glass windows of Lawrence Lee (LSL).

I was going up to London to meet some friends, one of whom was over from Paris, and Stephen and I thought it would be a good idea to visit some of his father’s windows while I was there.  Stephen was to be at his family’s home in Hastings and said that he would be able to get into London – Piccadilly – to meet me by 10.30.  However, as the date neared, his family’s plans changed and he would no longer be visiting them.  No problem, he would travel to London from the Isle of Wight.  I suggested that we meet a little later than planned – after a little discussion we settled on 10.45 instead.  Apparently it would have been more difficult to get out of the small town near Hastings early in the morning, than to get off the Isle of Wight.  I take back everything I have ever said about the place.  Well almost.


One of the magnificent abstract windows at the Royal Society of Chemistry

Back in the middle of February we had been contacted, via the Flickr site we have set up for the Lawrence Lee project, by David Allen of the Royal Society of Chemistry who is in the process of compiling a booklet on the society’s historical collection.  He was looking for more information on the windows.  We decided we had to visit.

So we met at Piccadilly at 10.45 – almost bumping into one another in the street as we both tried to locate Fortnum & Mason which I had thought was on the main street, but which is tucked behind – and headed to Burlington House where we walked past the huge queue for the Van Gogh exhibition to find the society in the corner of the courtyard.  We were both bowled over by the windows (click the image left to see the other) and the glorious sunlight flooding through the first one on the lower landing made it all the more stunning.

Unfortunately we were unable to tell David anything new about the windows as all we had from LSL’s collection were a couple of slides.  Stephen will ask his father about the designs when he next sees him, although he may not remember the concept behind them.  David said that none of the chemists thought that there was anything particularly related to chemistry in the windows, but we all agreed that there was a certain biological and cellular look about them, and also perhaps an astronomical aspect.  We also found favourite themes – Fire, Earth, Air and Water, the four elements – which often appear in LSL’s work.


Many kinds of glass make up these windows at the RSC

The pieces of glass are of many varieties – some being like that of patterned ‘bathroom window glass’ and the whole is held together with cement.  Stephen was concerned that there appeared to be no cement between some of the pieces of glass so we took a trip through the corridors of the building to be able to view the higher window from the outside.  This confirmed that the glass pieces were stuck onto plain glass.  Stephen commented that the adhesive would normally cloud over time, but these 1968 windows showed no sign of any deterioration.


The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass

We grabbed a quick coffee and some cake before getting onto the tube (no imitation Sean Connery satnav this time) and heading off for Southwark and Glaziers’ Hall.  Lawrence Lee was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers in 1974 and was instrumental in introducing practicing stained glass artists into the Company at an affordable rate, as most of the members had hitherto been wealthy businessmen.  I had been corresponding with the clerk of the company and there had been some confusion about the piece as it is not actually a window but a backlit piece in a hall without windows.  Also the slide photograph we had of the work in progress showed a whole lion on the shield whereas this piece has a demi-lion.  By the time we visted, Alex Galloway (the clerk) had looked into it more and it seems that this was the piece from the photograph but that LSL had had to revise the lion in order to make the coat of arms accurate.  Basically he got the lion wrong first time.

This piece is another where the glass has been stuck onto plain glass.  What can’t be seen in the image above is the very dark glass surrounding the roundel – the backlighting was not very helpful when it came to photographing the work, although I did manage to knock a lot of the yellow out of it in Photoshop.  Tungsten light can be a nightmare.  The glass around the outside is all chunky lumps of clear glass (click the image to see more).


Detail from one of the windows at Southwark Cathedral

Next it was literally around the corner to Southwark Cathedral where we found two windows.  The first, a large window with three main lights, was done in 1959 and depicts the Madonna and Child at the centre, with various religious figures in other roundels.  The Holy Spirit (one of LSL’s ubiquitous doves) tops the design.   What fascinated me was the detail as usual.  Within this window are a great number of images of craftsmen working.  Whether or not they were based on actual people is unclear but some have very clear faces which are not LSL’s usual style of ‘generic’ face.  The window is dedicated to Thomas Francis Rider who rebuilt the nave of the cathedral.  He died in 1922, long before the window was made.

The second, much newer window (1987 – click for detail) is a memorial to Maurits & Maise Mulder Canter.  It seems he was a Glazier because the window also depicts the Glaziers’ coat of arms (with the demi-lion) and a figure holding a sheet of glass.  Also shown are two glass-blowing instruments and a sketch of a stained glass window.  The words “Oh God give us thy light” is the English translation of the Glaziers’ motto – Lucem tuam de nobis Deus.  Quite fitting.


Looking out through one of the doors of Southwark Cathedral, covered in a typographic map

It was by now time for lunch so we decided to eat at the Cathedral.  The food looked wonderful and was quite different from the usual fayre.  Quite a variety of foods too.  Stephen chose a stuffed pepper and I went for the stuffed aubergine.  We had two choices of salad with that – though all were more substantial than what usually passes for ‘salad’, mine being one with cous cous and another with chick peas.  The coffee was wonderful.  Sadly the aubergine was tough (but its topping was lovely and the salads were more than enough to make it a meal).  We paid 30p each to use the toilets – wouldn’t mind but it meant we had to go to the shop to buy tokens to put in the doors, which was a bit of a palaver – and set off for London Bridge.

I haven’t walked over London Bridge for many years and it was a lovely day.  No sign of the volcanic ash wafting over the us at great height from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano which was stopping all flights to and from the UK.  I swear the underground staff were queuing up to make tannoy announcements just so they could say “volcanic ash from Iceland”.  It’s not every day you get to do that.


Detail from the window at Carpenters' Hall

We walked up to Throgmorton Avenue by London Wall to visit the Carpenters’ Company where we met their archivist.  There we saw a very large window with many heraldic shields, connected by a simple Tree of Life design which also incorporated the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water (the sun, opposite, representing Fire).  It also includes “symbols of learning and medicine”.  The coats of arms in this 1970 window,  known as “Bernay’s Memorial Window” are believed to ‘belong’ to the one person.


The Carpenters' Hall

We were also treated to a view of their main hall which is, as you might expect, completely decked out with wood.  It’s very dark in there, but the two huge stained glass windows bring a warm light into the room and really make it glow.  I can’t remember the exact details but I think we were told that the floor was a couple (or few) hundred years old.  These old halls were making a nice change from churches.

Often Lawrence Lee would write a little about his windows for the place where they would be installed.  Unfortunately this was not always the case – or at least, we are discovering that not all places have the information.  Many of his designs require no explanation, but some of the more abstract pieces would be enhanced by a few words from the artist.  Here at Carpenters’ Hall there is a key to the window and its elements.


Painters' Hall

Our next stop was the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers at Little Trinity Lane.  We were greeted by the beadle (I have never met a real beadle before and I love that these designations are preserved) who showed us into a dark hall with an array of heraldic windows along one wall.  Lawrence Lee’s windows were at the far end – a group of three – and with some help the curtains were pulled aside to reveal even more heraldry.  LSL took quite a few secular commissions and I suppose it was inevitable that coats of arms and the like would be the norm – after all, they appear so frequently in his church windows too.  I find them a little dull though.  Stephen says they will have put food on the table and you can’t argue with that.


One of two windows at St Lawrence Jewry

Our final call was to be St Lawrence Jewry at Guildhall Yard and we had to dash to get there in time as it was due to close at 4pm.  I had contacted Canon David Parrott the previous week to find out if we could visit and by coincidence he was, when he received my mail, about to host a memorial service for the late Sir Charles Alexander, son of Sir Frank Alexander – and one of the windows was to be the centre of attention.

He asked if I might be able to photograph the other windows in the church while I was there, as they do not currently have any good images of them.  Of course I was happy to do this and spent some time capturing the huge windows in this lovely Christopher Wren building.  Worth a visit if you’re in the area and you can read more here.

We did try three more places – St Mary, Abchurch; St Mary, Aldermary; and St Magnus the Martyr – but they were all closed.  We have become used to rural churches staying open until sunset.  This is not the case in the city but at least here we did not need to find someone two miles down the road who had a church key under a flower pot, except on Wednesdays.  I exaggerate.

All in all it was a successful day with six sites visited and we are optimistic for the next foray into the area when we will try to complete the set.  After a well deserved coffee Stephen and I parted company at the Monument – he returned to the Isle of Wight via Waterloo and I headed north for a quick drink with my friend before going back to hers for the evening.

Some of the images link to larger versions of themselves, but others will take you to other views of the same window or to an image of another window in the same building.  Always worth clicking through. There are also some links in the text of this piece.


Detail from one of the windows at the Royal Society of Chemistry

On the window trail – Wed 31 March

31 03 2010

The continuing saga of our quest to photograph and document the stained glass windows of Lawrence Lee (LSL).

St James, Milton

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, St James Church, Milton

It was only recently, thanks to a list of LSL’s windows shared with us by Peter Hart (who we met at St James, Milton, Hants), we discovered that there was a third church here on the Isle of Wight boasting a “Lawrence Lee”.  We had already visited Holy Cross in Binstead some years ago (the two gallery windows there were the first of LSL’s that I’d seen), and we visited All Saints, Ryde back in October last year.

The Ryde window is magnificent – depicting all the saints (as you might expect).  It’s worth taking a look at the photos (link above).

We headed off to Wroxall this morning in the icy cold rain and found a small window at St John’s which, if it had a title, I would be inclined to call The Lamb of God.  Stephen and I quickly came to the conclusion that this was not one of LSL’s finest pieces – fairly uninteresting overall, as were the other windows in this particular church.  It was done in 1953, so was one of his earlier works (although so was the Ryde window), and it is possible he had a fairly rigid brief as it looked very much in keeping with the others.

St John's Wroxall

St John's Wroxall

We found the colours to be a little duller than usual and there was nothing of his usual flair about it.  Interestingly the photos make the colours look brighter than they seemed to the eye.  Stephen recalled that at times his father was working flat out to fulfill commissions and inevitably some were done ‘to order’ and others allowed him some freedom of expression.  His style certainly developed over the years but it is in evidence in some of his earlier windows too.

After that we drove back to Ryde and picked up a friend, Jan, and went on to Holy Cross, Binstead to revisit the four windows there.  On our first visit Stephen and I had only been aware of the two gallery windows depicting the Peacock and the Phoenix, back in the days when I was using film exclusively.  On our second visit we were unable to access the gallery, although our main purpose then was to photograph the Holy Spirit and the Holy Cross windows that had since come to our attention.   On that occasion I was using a new digital camera and I had never been pleased with the results.

Holy Cross, Binstead

The Phoenix - a symbol of resurrection

The gallery windows had been installed in 1971 during restoration following a fire in 1969.  The Holy Cross window is also dated 1971 and the Holy Spirit the following year.  We chatted with the lady who kindly opened the gallery for us and she remembered the fire.  She told us that it could be seen from the ferry (a member of the clergy was coming to visit and obviously had no idea that the fire he could see was the church he was heading for).

This time I was much happier with the photographs – the colours weren’t washed out and the detail was sharper.

Our next planned visit will be to some windows in London – particularly one at the “Chemical Society”.   We haven’t yet decided on which other places we’ll see as it will, as always, involve emails, phonecalls and route planning.  We might also pay a return visit (for me at least) to St Marylebone so that Stephen can see the Madonna and Child window there, which I photographed when I was in London back in January.

As always, watch this space, and keep an eye on the Lawrence Lee Stained Glass Flickr group for the latest updates.

Most of the images link to larger versions of themselves, but some will take you to other views of the same window or to sources of more information.  Always worth clicking through. There are also quite a lot of links in the text of this piece.

Gallery Windows

The two gallery windows at Holy Cross, Binstead

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