A combination of engineering skills and artistic expression, in medieval times stained glass was the principal pictorial art form, illustrating Bible stories to largely illiterate congregations. Here's where to find some of the finest examples.
The most complete set of mediaeval stained glass in the country, installed in the church between 1500 and 1515. The 28 windows survived the widespread destruction of ‘idolatrous images’ during the Reformation, and further glass breaking in the early 17th century, but several were badly damaged during a storm in 1703. The latest full conservation and restoration was completed in 2010, which should help preserve the glass for centuries to come.
Photo credit: Roz Crawley, rozcawley.typepad.com
Postcode: GL7 4AF
Once the largest window in the world and the size of a tennis court, the Great East Window, installed in the 1350s is a landmark example of mediaeval stained glass. There’s a wide selection of Victorian stained glass throughout the building, and the Lady Chapel features some of the finest Arts and Crafts period glass, installed by Christopher Whall. Modern stained glass includes several pieces by Thomas Denny. Look out for an early depiction of golf being played.
Postcode: GL1 2LX
The glass in the east window is believed to feature a portrait of Edward IV dating from around 1470. This is a highly unusual depiction for a village church. The story goes that one of his mistresses, who was described as ‘holy’ may have been Lady Alicia de Veel who owned the house next to the church. In 2016 a GHCT awarded £4000 towards a project to repair and clean the windows.
Postcode: GL12 8HF
Arts & Crafts enthusiasts will find delights aplenty here. Architect GF Bodley designed the church which was built in 1861-2. He commissioned his friend William Morris – the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement – to produce the stained glass windows. These feature work by fellow pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones.
Postcode: GL5 5LG
Although the church was originally built in Norman times, all the stained glass windows are modern, (post 1900). They were designed by Sir Ninian Comper, one of the last great Gothic Revival architects, and are signed with his trademark of a strawberry leaf, blossom and fruit. The east window is a memorial to the men of the parish who gave their lives in the First World War.
Postcode: BS37 7ND
Built in the 1960s to serve the new Warden Hill housing estate, St Christopher’s best known for its superb set of stained glass windows designed by Tom Denny. These were installed up both sides of the nave between 1985 and 1995. Each window depicts a parable from the Gospels, and each links to the next by the use of colour.
Postcode: GL51 3DD
While Holy Innocents is probably best known for the wall paintings by Thomas Gambier Parry, it also features impressive windows including some designs by Augustus Pugin (famous for his work on the Palace of Westminster). Some of the best known stained glass workshops of the time are represented here, including Clayton and Bell (large east window), Hardman (south of nave) and William Wailes (north side of nave). Wailes’ firm also glazed the west window in Gloucester Cathedral.
Postcode: GL2 8DP
The most exciting feature in the church is the lead font, of the late 12th century, and one of six of identical pattern around the county. However, lovers of stained glass will also enjoy the exceptionally good Hardman windows in the chancel, dating from 1857-8. There is also a window by Harry Stammers, 1947, which should not be overlooked.
Postcode: GL2 9NP
The church here dates mainly from 1867, when it was rebuilt after a fire. The windows are all are by Hardman & Co and were installed during the period 1869 to 1887. The East Window illustrates scenes from the life of St Paul. Along the south aisle the windows date from 1887 and show the Raising of Lazarus and Christ walking on water, with the story flowing from one window light to the next.
Postcode: BS8 1LP