West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
The Art of Light
Stained Glass in the City of London
of the lecture given by Alexandra Epps
on June 22nd 2016
This lecture was linked to the DFAS
visit to London in July 2014 where a guided tour of Wren’s Churches
and the City of London’s Churches was given.
Alexandra Epps was introduced to us as a highly qualified and
experienced individual who later confessed to being a nerd who was
obsessed with stained glass! Her passion for this subject as well
as her infinite knowledge off topic was clear from the start.
With no notes, she took us on a visual voyage through the art of
stained glass in the City.
The lecture concentrated on the churches reformed by Sir Christopher
Wren (who didn’t actually like stained glass) that were either
destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666, by The Blitz in 1940 or
both. This meant we were to look at post-war artists, some of
whom used the re-build and restoration projects as a memorial to these
two major events.
Christopher Webb (1886 – 1966)
and his brother Geoffrey Webb are two prominent figures in modern
stained glass. Webb studied the art of drawing at The Slade under
the prolific Henry Tonks.
The first window we were shown is from 1959 and can be seen in St
Lawrence Jewry which is next to the Guildhall, the official church of
the Lord Mayor of London. Webb’s style can be clearly seen in
these windows through his large use of clear glass which is likely to
be a nod to Wren and his disapproval of stained glass.
Brian Thomas (1912 – 1989)
had a much denser style and used a lot of yellow in his windows.
An example of Thomas’s work can be seen in St Vedas alias Foster and
tells the story of St Vedas who was an early French bishop in the
Frankish realm. Thomas used many symbols in his work including
the lion and the lamb for strength and vulnerability, pelicans which
symbolise sacrifice and peacocks as a symbol for resurrection.
St Sepulchre without Newgate (1963) is where Thomas used the central
portion of the window for the main characters and around the outside
for smaller symbols. This window is beautifully detailed and
includes different facets of colour.
Also worth noting is that the only stained glass in St Paul’s Cathedral
was designed by Thomas.
Lawrence Lee (1909 – 2011)
who studied at the Royal College of Art has a more modern dynamic style
which Alexandra called “medieval with a modern twist”. His work
can be seen in St Mary Aldermary (1952) which is Wren’s only Gothic
church. This window is not as dense in pattern and you are able
to read the detail in it, which also incorporates the use of
lettering. Lee mainly used a mix of history with religious
iconography in his very clear style.
Max Nauta (1897 – 1957)
designed a window for The Dutch Church in 1954 after it was completely
destroyed in WW11. It is an absolutely stunning window with vivid
colours and rich detail and tells the story of the church.
John Hayward (1927 – 2007)
created drama in his windows with an obvious influence from
mosaic. His window in St Mary le Bow is a true city window and
combined religion, history and architecture. Alexandra explained
that red is a colour often avoided in large quantity because it can be
too overbearing but Hayward was clever and if you looked closely, he
has broken up the areas with the use of pale reds, yellows and clear
The windows in St Michael Paternoster Royal (from 1968) were clearly
Hayward’s and the thick black lines created an overwhelming piece of
art with striking angles. The use of red for bad and gold for
good is also quite obvious.
Keith New (1925 – 2012)
used a coiled expressive thick black line style. His work in St
Nicholas Cole Abbey, which has now been turned into a café, bursts out
at you and shows the message of God being spread across the world.
St Stephen Walbrook was one of Wren’s most beautiful churches with a
dome that was said to be a trial run for the one at St Paul’s.
New’s window from 1958 was taken out when the restorator decided it
wasn’t suited to the building so it can now be seen in Norwich
In conclusion, Christopher Webb has to be my favourite artist due to
his beautiful simplicity and the detail he has managed to get on the
faces in the windows. My favourite window however is the one in
The Dutch Church purely because of the colour and, no matter how big or
small you look at it, it is still stunning!
A thoroughly enjoyable lecture by Epps who finished by advising us to
go back and visit these churches again in a “new light”!
Related Link (opens in new window):
Alexandra Epps website