The power of social media

In addition to making a photographic record of the works of Lawrence Lee, Stephen and I are slowly working our way through the archive he left. It consists of a great number of things – printed photographs, slides, sketches, correspondence, newspaper cuttings, etc. There are documents from his life and many items which are helping us to describe his career.

We were working through the large amount of archive material regarding the making and installation of the ten nave windows at Coventry Cathedral. Lawrence Lee led the team of three to produce these windows for Basil Spence’s new cathedral which took shape throughout the late 1950s and which was consecrated in 1962.

Six (just about!) of the ten nave windows at Coventry Cathedral.

But more of that another time. There are several posts still to come about Coventry.

While we were sorting through a large amount of correspondence, we came across some photographs of a church. It was clearly of a similar era but, like one or two other items, it had found its way into the ‘Coventry pile’ by mistake.

A modern church with a beautifully sculptured cross. But where could it be?

We set it aside for a while, as we continued to catalogue the letters and memos, but it kept calling me and I had to try to find out more.

I spent a large part of the afternoon trying all kinds of search terms in an attempt to find this church. We also found a photograph of the maquette, and on the back was the stamp of a photographic studio in Scarborough. We couldn’t, however, assume the church was in Yorkshire, but of course I did focus my searches in that area.

The maquette photoraph which led us to Yorkshire.

I decided that image searches weren’t going to get me any further so the next step was to appeal to the people of the internet. I posted a montage of the photographs on Facebook, on the Facebook page of The Twentieth Century Society, on Flickr and on Twitter. I got several suggestions for people to contact, which I followed up. Some of my friends shared my post.

I spent the next day in work, but when I got home in the evening I found that the mystery had been solved, thanks to the magic of the internet, the making of friends at Glastonbury, the curiosity of strangers, and people who know people who know people.

The church was Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Leeds. It is now Leeds Grand Mosque.

I was delighted to learn it was still standing. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of architecture but I do like some of it and it is an important part of our heritage. It speaks of a time when we (as a nation, and a continent) were rebuilding, with thoughts firmly fixed on the future.

We knew that Lawrence Lee had made a window for Sacred Heart and we had not been able to track the place down. We assumed demolition and the loss of the window. A little further digging around with the information given to me via various links to the church and the mosque, led me to the information that it was built in 1964 and that it became a mosque in 1993. The window went to Beirut.

Two mysteries have been solved, but we still need to track down the stained glass. The journey continues.

Modern (brutalist?) church in 1960s Leeds.

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On the window trail – April 2011

A catch-up of a visit to the midlands back in April 2011.

For some time Stephen and I had been wanting to visit Coventry Cathedral to see the amazing Nave windows, designed and made by a team of three led by Lawrence Lee and comprising himself and two former students, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New. You can read Stephen’s take on the story here. The ten windows, each 70ft high, were a particular challenge to the artists and many believe they are one of the undersung treasures of the cathedral, in part because they do not face the congregation, but instead face the altar.

And they are a nightmare to photograph.

Some of the ten nave windows at Coventry Cathedral, facing the altar, and somewhat drowned out by the very bright west window – John Hutton’s Screen of Saints and Angels. Here you can see the two red windows which were Lawrence Lee’s designs.

We had arrived in Coventry the night before visiting the cathedral and could not have chosen a better place to stay for convenience as the hotel was almost touching the cathedral. The built-up nature of the area means that Basil Spence’s creation is not afforded the space to stand proud, so much of its architectural style can only be admired from inside the building. The very bright west window was designed to allow a continuity between the new structure and the old ruined cathedral. It is a concept I can admire, but I feel that in practice the strong light from this window does a disservice to the stained glass within.

For a better consideration of the cathedral and the glass than I could ever hope to offer, you may wish to visit the Coventry Cathedral Flickr group which has been set up by stained glass artist and friend of the LSL project, Aidan McRae Thomson. His commentary on this and other ecclesiastical buildings and their stained glass shows an extensive knowledge of the subject and he offers insightful speculation too. You can also view his own work here.

Detail from one of LSL’s red windows at Coventry Cathedral

The ten windows were divided between the three artists with LSL taking the two red windows and one of the gold. The second gold window was a collaborative design. It was not possible to do justice to any window in its entirety, and even with a steady tripod, photographing the tops of the windows yielded disappointing results. I had to content myself with capturing details of the lower sections of the windows. I console myself with the fact that there seem to be no better images available online, nor at the cathedral itself. The challenge remains and I hope to return with better equipment and a solid plan.

I will return often to the subject of the Coventry windows on this blog, so will leave it at that for now – there’s plenty to read on the links already provided, although if you have any questions or comments, please do add them below.

The following day we met up with Aidan for a trip around some of the churches around the Birmingham area with Lawrence Lee windows. Our first port of call was the beautiful 12th century church of St Alphege at Solihull.  Here was a very striking window with a powerful depiction of the murder/martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury (Thomas Becket). The bottom of the design, shown below, depicts pilgrims through the ages.

St Alphege, Solihull – window made in 1961

We then moved into central Birmingham to visit St Martin in the Bullring. This was a very busy church in the middle of the city, with many visitors milling around. To the right of the entrance was a ‘reception’ desk and behind that was the LSL window we had come to see. The staff very kindly allowed us behind their work area to view it more closely and were very interested to hear more about it from Stephen and Aidan.

St Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham

The window was quite large and very colourful, depicting the Madonna and Child at the centre of the design, with various figures and angels surrounding them. The window was made in 1980 and is known as the Thomas Baggs window, named after the former chorister who bequeathed it to the church.

While we were there I also took advantage of the beautiful light flooding into the church and grabbed some photographs for my own collection. Unfortunately my camera battery died while we were there and the backup battery I had purchased, despite having charged the night before, was dead. Never buy cheap camera batteries. Luckily I still had my old trusty compact camera which served me very well for years before I was able to upgrade to a dSLR. Its major advantage is that it takes AA batteries. The downside is that the images are not of such high resolution. However, it was better than nothing.

We moved on and tried to gain access to St Mary’s at Moseley, having failed to make contact beforehand. We weren’t lucky – the church was closed.

Beautiful light at Saltley

Our final destination that day was St Saviour’s at Saltley. We weren’t hopeful about this visit either because the church is normally kept locked and as it was Easter, everyone was very busy. However, we arrived and were in luck as there was someone to let us in. Again the light was wonderful and even with my little stand-by camera I was able to get some good shots of the late afternoon sun. The Lawrence Lee window was a 1963 piece – an Annunciation window (detail below), full of colour and many abstract elements. Certainly a great example of his distinctive style. Before we left, the vicar arrived and we were able to have a chat with him before letting him get on with preparations for the evening service. For more about the church, see Aidan’s post here.

We had hoped to take in a church on the way back south the following day and tried to see the window at Kingsclere. Unfortunately, even though the church was open, the chapel which held the LSL window was locked. A phonecall only gave us a rather unhelpful “come back on Saturday” response. I’m not sure when we will be able to slot Kingsclere into another outing as it is not near anywhere else we need to see, and Saturdays will inevitably be in the middle of a planned ‘tour’. Maybe a day trip some time.

Some of the images link to larger versions of themselves, and some will take you to other views of the same window or to sources of more information.  Always worth clicking through. There are also links within the text of this piece that might be of interest.

Detail of the window at St Saviour’s, Saltley, Birmingham

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On the window trail – April 2010

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in February 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog.

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, Piccadilly

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 the windows at the Royal Society of Chemistry

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 a moment 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 from one of the doors of Southwark Cathedral, featuring 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 fare.  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 several links within the text of this piece.

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

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On the window trail – March 2010

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

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in March 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog.

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), that we discovered there was a third church 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 [2009].

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 that he had a fairly rigid brief as it looked very much in keeping with the others.

St John’s, Wroxall, Isle of Wight

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.

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 [was] 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.

The two gallery windows at Holy Cross, Binstead, Isle of Wight

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On the window trail – January 2010 (3)

William of Occam, a Franciscan monk

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in February 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog.

Pippa [Martin] 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 [2009], 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 – January 2010 (2)

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in February 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog.

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

On the Tuesday morning [26th January 2010] 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 asked 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 Native Americans.  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.

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 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’ 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 an original 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 – LSL’s last big window. Click through for full 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, 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 stained glass windows at Pett, Sussex in January 2010.

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On the Window Trail – January 2010 (1)

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in January 2010 on The Blah Blah Blog.

Detail from the St Andrew window, Fletching

At the end of January [we had] an opportunity to spend a few days away photographing Lawrence Lee’s (LSL) stained glass windows.  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 of 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 thing 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 by Lawrence Lee.

Even though the light was going we managed to cram in two more windows.  We went to Penshurst C of E 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 1978 the children of the school had raised over £200 to help to pay for the window and had received a letter from Biddy Baxter – who some 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 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.

If you would like to see more photographs of Lawrence Lee’s work, please visit the Lawrence Lee Flickr Group.

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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On the Window Trail – September 2009 (3)

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in September 2009 on The Blah Blah Blog.

Stephen chatting with the Parish Administrator of St Johns, Belmont in front of a window that had been moved from another church.  Stephens fathers window was on the other side of the church.

Stephen chatting with the Parish Administrator of St Johns, Belmont in front of a window that had been moved from another church. Stephens fathers window was on the other side of the church.

Last day in Surrey.  We  headed off to Belmont (Sutton) where LSL had a very large window opposite the one shown here.  I chatted with the vicar and said I loved the old Victorian windows but I preferred LSL’s because they were a bit more spiritual and ‘hallelujah’ than the traditional ones which were more ‘religious’.  Not sure he got what I was saying.  He was very polite about it though.

As well as collecting images of LSL’s windows and the others in the churches (for context), I wanted to document Stephen’s discoveries as well.  But he was very camera shy so I had to sneak up on him quite a lot.  I think I’ve got a few nice ones but I would have liked to have caught him and each of his father’s windows in the same shot more than once (Reigate).

A window by Alan Younger, former student of LSL

A window by Alan Younger, former student of LSL

Next was St Mary’s at Ewell.  We entered the church via the office and at first thought that this window was the one we were looking for.  On the opposite wall, however, was a definite LSL window, with signature.  We queried this with the lady in the office who said that the dove and the rest of the window had been made at the same time (we thought the bottom part wasn’t LSL’s but the dove was very distinctively his style).  She went off to check and told us it was done by Alan Younger.  Stephen remembered that he had been one of his father’s students and assistants and had gone on to become successful in his own right.  He died two or three years ago.

So that explained why the dove was so like LSL’s doves.  The LSL window opposite has a dove above the main image so perhaps this was added to reflect the older window and acknowledge his ‘master’.  LSL operated a traditional apprenticeship style of mentoring with his students/assistants.

Huge window by LSL at St Mary the Virgin, Cuddington. Click the image to link to another of his windows in the same church.

After Ewell we went to Cuddington – some beautiful windows all through the church.  In addition to LSL’s modern windows, there was another contemporary one that I liked by Andrew Johnson.  It’s in the children’s corner and was installed in 2005.  The effect of the light on the floor is shown below, from a momentary burst of sunshine outside.

We quickly slotted in a trip to St Andrew’s in Oxshott but weren’t sure that we’d found an LSL window.  There was a large circular window up high which Stephen thought might have been his father’s, but the photos (not very clear because of the distance) do not show any of his ‘trademark’ styles.  Not all of his windows do, of course, but there really wasn’t anything to confirm authorship.  We will have to contact the church and make further investigations.  It might be that he did some restoration work for the church and didn’t in fact produce a window there.

It was time to head back to Portsmouth to drop Stephen at the ferry before heading off to Romsey to stay with friends there.  We discovered we were near another church from the list from which we hadn’t managed to contact – at Ockham – but it was closed.  The rest of the journey back went smoothly and we got back to Portsmouth at around 5.30pm.  I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and pay a visit before heading off for the rest of my road trip around the country.

Cuddington Lights

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On the Window Trail – September 2009 (2)

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in September 2009 on The Blah Blah Blog.

Pippa Martin photographing Lawrence Lee’s window at St James’ Church, Abinger

In the morning we headed back to Abinger as the churchwarden had said he would open it up for us.  It is currently undergoing extensive renovation so was quite bare.  Lawrence Lee’s window was the only stained glass in the place – and was rather wonderful.  An abstract cross across three panels (I will learn the proper terminology when I get home, but for now you will have to make do with my clumsy descriptions).

We met up with Pippa and David again – they were on their way to a local birthday party.  Pippa said that there was a very French feel to this window and that LSL said the trouble with Victorians was that everything had to be symmetrical, but that left no margin for error.  He advised her to avoid symmetry.  She also said that LSL’s windows were never monotonous because he used such small pieces of glass.  It’s a shame we couldn’t have had her with us for the whole journey – her insights are interesting and I wanted to learn more.

LSL’s signature on the window at Holy Trinity, Bramley

We left them to their party and headed to Holy Trinity, Bramley.  This was  a very Victorian looking church with lots of gold and many many stained glass windows.  LSL’s window was quite traditional, as many of his earlier pieces are.  As he became more known and sought after, it seems he was given a freer hand in the design and interpretations.

Although this was a solo window, it is worth mentioning that LSL was unusual in that he always included the name or initials of his assistant within his signature.  Stephen remembered a lot of them as we discovered their names as we went along.  We have found a few online in the past but will be making contact for this project soon.

Stephen studies the extensive book about St Mary & All Saints, Dunsfold

Next was Dunsfold.  The church was set quite a way away from any houses and we discussed that some villages were moved away from the churches during The Plague and set up a little further away.  This church was wonderful – a fabulous old yew tree in the grounds and fascinating old wood and roof tiles to keep me happy taking photographs outside for ages.  There is so much to say about this church and I couldn’t do it justice off the top of my head, so I’ll fill in those details on the Flickr photos when I upload them.

It is worth noting here that Stephen’s preferred reading method is to remove his glasses and press his nose against the page.  He emerges every so often with a gem of information.  The glasses are useful for scratching his head.

We then headed off to Bisley and a lovely little church, also set away from the village.  This time, apparently, it was because it had been a Pilgrim’s Church – erected for travelling monks and other pilgrims.  We were let into the church by the church warden who hastily removed a notice board from in front of LSL’s very vivid window (see bottom) and swept away the cobwebs for me too.

Stephen chats to Rev Andrew Body about his father’s window at St Lawrence, Chobham

Our last church for the day was St Lawrence in Chobham.  There we met the Rev Andrew Body who was most informative about the church building and very interested in our project.  The pews each have a different carving on the end, and each one tells a story.  The pulpit was carved by teenagers – in the 1800s – and the church also boasts very rare ‘elbow supports’.  Again, I will need to learn more about this to be able to describe it fully, so watch this space if you are interested.

Detail from LSL’s window at St John the Baptist, Bisley

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On the Window Trail – September 2009 (1)

The following is an edit of a post which first appeared in September 2009 on The Blah Blah Blog.

We got an early ferry to Southampton (the Portsmouth ferries were fully booked because of Bestival) and headed off to Surrey.  The weekend plans were to try to photograph Stephen’s father’s stained glass windows in the area – as many as possible.  Stephen’s father is Lawrence Stanley Lee (LSL), a master stained glass artist who will be 100 years old next week!

Pippa and Brenda discussing LSL’s 1954 window at St Luke’s, Reigate

We had a list of 21 places to visit, though we didn’t expect to be able to get to them all.  A few emails had been sent prior to leaving and I’d had a few replies, but we still weren’t sure exactly where we would be going.  We had, however been invited to lunch by Pippa – one of LSL’s former assistants.  She met us at St Luke’s Church in Reigate where we were let into the church by a lovely local lady, Brenda, who had lived in the town all her life and remembered the windows being installed in 1954.

Pippa is currently restoring one of the large windows in this church and I was able to get some close-up photos for her before we went to her home nearby for lunch in the garden.

LSL was a little unusual in that he always added his assistant’s name or initials to his signature on the windows.  On this window was the name C R Wallis – an assistant who went on to become one of Canada’s leading stained glass artists.

Pippa shows us a beautiful piece of very expensive red stained glass, in her fascinating studio

At Pippa’s we saw some of her own work – she has a magnificent stained glass piece in her front door and another on the landing of her beautiful house which is full of visual joys.  We were also treated to a visit to her glass studio upstairs.  What a place!  I could have spent hours there just photographing everything.

The three of us headed off to Abinger to see if the church there was open.  I hadn’t received a reply to my email but both Stephen and Pippa were keen to give it a try.  Unfortunately the church was locked and when we phoned the warden he said that he would be able to open it the next day for us.  I took a lot of photos in the grounds though, and the light was lovely.

Detail from LSL’s window at St Luke’s, Reigate

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