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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2 responses

30 09 2012
On the Window Trail – January 2010 | The Lawrence Lee Project

[…] following is an edit of a post which first appeared in January 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog. Detail from the St Andrew window, […]

30 09 2012
On the Window Trail – January 2010 (1) | The Lawrence Lee Project

[…] following is an edit of a post which first appeared in January 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog. Detail from the St Andrew window, […]

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