On the Window Trail – Wed 27th Jan

13 02 2010

William of Occam, a Franciscan monk.

Pippa accompanied us on our final day and we went first to Ockham.  We had come across the village ‘by accident’ on our last trip to Surrey in September, but the church had been closed.  This time we had arranged for the vicar to open it for us and we met him there just after 10am.  Pippa had worked on this window with Lawrence Lee so was very pleased to see it again.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a great deal of time as the vicar had another appointment, but I was able to get all the photos I wanted.

We moved on to Cranleigh, this time to see one of Pippa’s own windows – a large piece installed for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.  We had already seen a detailed photograph of the window the night before so it was lovely to see the real thing.   The trees outside meant that some areas were not as bright as they might have been – I have noticed that trees and bushes cause a lot of variations in how well a window looks – but it was still a magnificent piece.  It was also interesting to hear Pippa talk about all its elements and about the depth of research that went into each detail.

The only window I was able to photograph properly at Milford

We called into the nearby church cafe for a cuppa and some cake but by now Stephen was quite hungry so we popped over the road to a pub that said “Food Served”.  Sadly they didn’t serve food after all and we were on the road again.  We didn’t see another pub along the route I’d programmed in towards the next port of call – Milford – so we viewed that church too before eating.  Sadly, even though the vicar had responded to my email enquiry to say that the church would be open, and even though my email had explained what we wanted to view, the ‘church room’ which contained the main window by LSL was locked.  We did see two small lights in the ‘church passage’ although one had something propped up against it on the other side (in a locked room) so I only got good photographs of one small window.  We will have to visit there again.

Knowing that Guildford Cathedral (our final destination) had a restaurant, we decided to drive straight there and eat before viewing the windows.  A rather unusual combination of mushroom stroganoff with rice AND vegetables (including cauliflower cheese) was a little too much for me – and the mushrooms were too chewy – but the cup of tea was most welcome.  Inside the cathedral on one side were seven very tall windows each with between four and six ‘badges’.  Apart from the first of these, each contained at least one (and often more) badges completed by LSL.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women.

One or two Pippa recognised, and one was her own work.  LSL often ‘gave’ windows to his assistants to do on their own.  This experience must have been invaluable.  Having seen one of Pippa’s big windows only an hour or so before, it was hard to imagine her as the student, but she is full of praise for her teacher and feels he is somewhat overlooked.

These small panels raised some conundrums too.  Not all were signed – though it was easy to spot where LSL had signed only one of a pair – and we weren’t sure about a few of them.  The notes Stephen had helped quite a bit, but still some uncertainties remained.  Some of the queries were ironed out once the images were later studied, but we still have a few outstanding queries.  This is, of course, all part of the fun.

It looked as though the bars were part of the window but lightening the area shows the painting detail. The bars are external.

After viewing and photographing the nave windows we moved on to LSL’s large window over the gallery.  The guides who had been so pleased to greet us had arranged for us to be able to go up onto the gallery to view the window at close quarters.  Pippa noticed that heavy bars had been added (we learned later that these were external and had been added for reinforcement) which left ugly vertical lines through most of the faces on the six designs either side of the main image.  She said that Lawrence would never have allowed this and it was clear that the bars spoiled the window.  Is it worth doing this to ‘preserve’ a window?  Does it actually prevent damage anyway?

After taking a few shots of a smaller window over the crypt stairs, and viewing an extremely colourful and to my eyes incongruous window by Mark Angus, we headed off into the cold damp air.  We said our goodbyes to Pippa in the car park and rushed headlong into Guildford’s rush-hour.  Only went round the traffic system once too often – not bad for me!  Another successful journey – 12 churches and one school visited, and almost 20 windows (I think – counting each nave collection at Guildford as one).  Add that to the 17 we’d already done and the project is really taking shape.  Onwards and upwards.

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.

The large window over the gallery at Guildford Cathedral.

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On the Window Trail – Tue 26th Jan

8 02 2010

Lawrence Lee, in front of his window at the church of St Mary & St Peter, Pett, Sussex

On the Tuesday morning we had arranged to take Lawrence to see one of his windows at Pett in Sussex.  Sean the SatNav managed to get us to a church in an adjoining village and via a very picturesque route through winding and very steep country lanes.  This was a little embarrassing as I had been trying to explain how the SatNav worked after Lawrence had aske me about it.  We weren’t far away from Pett though and with Stephen consulting the map we were soon at the Church of St Mary & St Peter.  Two local historians were there to meet with us and they were most keen to speak with Lawrence and ask him about his window.  He became animated in this conversation and was obviously in his element.

His signature was difficult to see on this window as it crossed over two different colours of glass, but I was able to show him a closeup on the back of my camera – which then involved a further explanation of how a digital camera worked.  I noted an intense curiosity in the old gentleman – I hope I’m as interested in ‘things’ when I get older, and I hope that people will take the time to talk to me about ‘things’ and not be dismissive as I know some can be.

It was a very cold day and we were soon ready to leave – again after having given email contact details.  We drove down to the local pub but unfortunately it was not going to be open for a while so we decided to take Lawrence home.  A quick coffee with Caroline and Jessica warmed us up before we set off to capture some more windows.

The window at All Saints, Heathfield

Our first port of call after leaving Brede was Heathfield.  We had initially planned to visit there on the Monday but time had run out so we decided to slot it in to this day’s journey.  The people who met with us to let us in to the church referred to this window as the ‘Pocahontas’ window.  It depicted the Rev Robert Hunt performing the first Holy Communion in Jamestown, Virginia.  Around him were North American Indians.  We were told that American visitors were particularly interested in this window and that the recent Disneyfication of the Pocahontas story had a lot to do with it.  I couldn’t quite see the connection with the two stories but could see that any link could be stretched sufficiently in order to please tourists.  I wasn’t keen on the window for a number of reasons.  The light in the church was lovely though, so I did manage a few ‘arty’ shots of a hymn book on a pew.

Sundridge

I loved the colours in this window. Blue and orange is always a winning combination.

Stephen and I were both hungry by now and found a pub in the newer part of Heathfield – the Prince of Wales – and stopped for some cheesy chips.  We then moved on to Sundridge and a very striking window depicting Christ with an orange robe set against a blue background.  I’m not religious in any way so I am drawn to these windows for purely visual reasons.  This time it was colour.  Surrounding the central figure were depictions of ‘good deeds’ XXX and the former church warden who gave us the keys (she still holds them) said that sermons are still preached using the window as a guide.  I gathered that this was common practice and was the purpose of stained-glass windows beyond that of ornamentation.  I have a lot to learn still about churches and windows.

Detail from the window at Brasted - Lawrence Lee's last big window.

We battled out of Sundridge through the thronging 4x4s of parents collecting their offspring from the nearby school (on a steep and narrow hill) and took off for our final church of that day at Brasted.  The window and another by John Hayward had been installed following a fire in the church in 1989.  LSL’s had been completed in 1992 and was his last large window.  It seemed as though he had crammed everything into it and it was quite something to see.  The photographs do not do it justice unfortunately.

Once again the light was beating us and we set off to Redhill where we were to stay the night with Pippa Martin – one of LSL’s former assistants (possibly his last) who we had met on our previous visit to Surrey back in September.  Another lovely relaxed evening and another early night.  I might just be getting old, but don’t tell anyone.

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.

Centenarian Lawrence Lee studying one of his many stained glass windows in January.





On the Window Trail – Mon 25th Jan

5 02 2010

Stephen and I had planned another trip to photograph his father’s windows and had been hoping to go to Kent before Christmas.  However, when searching for accommodation it became apparent that it wasn’t such a good idea so close to the festive season.  Everywhere would be heaving with last-minute shoppers and it was inevitably going to be a busy time for the clergy of the churches we had been hoping to visit.  We postponed the trip.

The first proper snow the Isle of Wight has seen for a couple of decades

This also gave me time to crack on with and finish my dissertation and enjoy a week’s grace to play in the snow that fell in early January.  The snowfall was exceptional for the Isle of Wight – it hardly ever settles here and I’ve not known it stick around for more than a day since I moved here in 1993.  The previous blog entry shows the first night of the snow, but it continued to fall the next day too and I managed to get my little camera wet by being too blasé about the snowflakes.  It started to turn itself on and wouldn’t let me turn it off so I had to take out the batteries.  It was a tense week forcing myself not to check it every five minutes and eventually it dried out and started behaving again.  Phew!  Even though I love my dSLR, my little Olympus SP510uz is an absolute gem of a camera.

Detail from the St Andrew window at Fletching, Sussex

At the end of January I had a break from uni.  The inter-semester break seems an odd timetabling event – only two weeks after the Christmas break.  They are working towards establishing trimesters rather than semesters but that will be after my time there.  Anyway, this provided an opportunity to spend a few days away photographing Lawrence Lee’s (LSL) stained glass windows.  As with our previous trip, we had “Sean” the SatNav (an impersonation of Sean Connery) to guide us.  On the Monday we caught an early ferry and drove up to The Church of St Andrew & St Mary the Virgin at Fletching in Sussex – our first port of call.  Here we found two tall windows – one of St Andrew and the other of the Madonna and Child.  Both were fairly traditional windows made in the early-mid 1970s.  In the same church there was a window by one of LSL’s former assistants – Alan Younger.  We had seen one of his windows at Ewell on our previous trip and Lee’s influence on Younger’s work is very evident.  I preferred this window to the two earlier pieces by LSL.

Detail showing St Dorothy at Cowden

After that we dashed off to St Mary Magdalene at Cowden to see the St Dorothy window.  This one was a memorial window for a couple – he a doctor and she a keen gardener.  This information came from some notes that Stephen found in the booklet but the medical influence was clear, with a staff and serpent depicted.  I was puzzled but delighted by the bat at the top of the design but have no idea what it represented.  We may never know.  The other striking think about this window was that within his signature were the initials of Stephen’s mother – also Dorothy.  Stephen wasn’t sure if this was because his father had no assistant  for that window and that his mother helped, or if it had more to do with the fact that it was a window of St Dorothy.

Detail from the 'Ruth' window at Tunbridge Wells

We were aware that time was slipping away and Stephen had arranged to meet with someone at King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells before 3pm when they closed the church.  It was a bit of a mission but we made it there with a few minutes to spare and the gentleman on duty – a retired architect – was kind enough to stay open a little longer for me to be able to take some photos, and to tell us a little about the church.  The window here is apparently one of LSL’s favourites – of Ruth.  Stephen’s theory is that his father depicted female saints as often as possible because he favoured the female form.

The Du Buisson Memorial Window at Penshurst CE Primary School

Even though the light was going we managed to cram in two more windows.  We went to Penshurst CofE Primary School quickly to view a small window that had been installed in the 1970s as a memorial – the Du Buissonn Memorial window – and met with the head teacher there.  In 1978he children of the school had raised over £200 to help to pay for the window and had received a letter from Biddy Baxter – who many of you will know was the producer of Blue Peter for many many years.  The window was small, almost like a fanlight but over a wide archway – and very difficult to photograph because of the poor light.

Lawrence Lee's favourite window at Penshurst

We then hurried on to St John the Baptist at Penshurst (we were able to walk there from the school).  This was a large window in a somewhat gloomy corner of the church, near the entrance.  We met someone who was involved with the “Friends of …” for the church and spoke briefly (he was on his way to another appointment).  He was keen to hear about LSL’s involvement with the church (it had been his ‘local’ when he had his studio and lived in Penshurst – the reason this window was one of his favourites) and we agreed to get in touch by email.

By now the light was fading fast so we walked back to the car and headed off for Stephen’s brother’s home in Brede.  We arrived to a lovely welcome from Caroline and finally I met Lawrence Lee himself – a very fit looking 100 year-old gentleman who stood to greet me when I went in.  Soon Stephen’s brother Martin was home from work and his daughter Jessica also joined us.  We had a lovely relaxing evening chatting and I showed Lawrence a slideshow of the windows I had photographed on our previous ‘mission’ back in September.  He made so many windows it would be impossible to remember all of them but he did recall a few details and some particular windows, asking me to pause a few as we went along.  He also chatted about his favourite windows – the Ruth at Tunbridge Wells and his Penshurst window.

At dinner Lawrence didn’t say a great deal but was evidently following the conversation and chipped in from time to time with an observation or a story.  Very much ‘all there’ despite short-term memory losses.

A very successful first day, though I was very tired at the end of it.  Even though it was an evening of easy company, it is still tiring to be on one’s best behaviour after a long day.  I went to bed before midnight (unheard of!) and slept like a log.

Lawrence Lee's signature incorporating that of his wife, Dorothy, at Cowden - complete with dead fly (of which I now have quite a collection of photographs, along with cobwebs)








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