An interesting discovery

We have recently been presented with a decorative plate produced for the GHCT in its very early days.

The plate was spotted and bought at a sale by Sir Michael McWilliam, a long-standing supporter of the Trust.  We are most grateful to Sir Michael, and we are now  trying to find out more about it.

The plate depicts a scene from a stained-glass window at All Saints, Down Ampney, commemorating the deliverance of Admiral Sir Charles Talbot and his crew from a shipwreck off Sebastopol during the Crimean War in 1854.

According to the information sheet in the box the plate was produced by a Northleach firm, the Pettis Studio, evidently as a fund-raising idea for the then new Gloucestershire Historic Churches Preservation Trust (we dropped the “Preservation” in 1995 to make our title a little less cumbersome).

Rather amazingly, it seems that a series of twelve plates was planned, each in a limited edition of five hundred, ie a total of six thousand plates to finance, manufacture, package,  sell and dispatch. It seems a hugely ambitious target and one cannot help wondering how far the scheme actually progressed.  Alas, early records of the Trust are almost non-existent, so we can only resort to an internet search … which so far has revealed almost nothing.

The firm in Northleach evidently functioned from 1972 to 1988, and specialised in slumped or moulded glass. Sure enough, this plate does appear to be of glass, evidently pressed to shape, and the decoration is some form of a transfer.

The box includes quite a scholarly description of the architecture at Down Ampney church (written I suspect by the late David Verey), together with some printed artwork. There is a separate certificate of authenticity, signed by the Vice-Chairman, Christian Brann.  A company was set up to deal with all this, known as Historic Churches Collections Ltd, based in Phoenix Way, Cirencester.

Has anyone reading this ever seen any similar plates? If so, we would love to hear from you. It does seem rather strange that there are no others floating about on eBay, nor is there any other relevant trace that we have so far found on a Google search. Perhaps one day we will learn more about this early venture of our Trust.

Jonathan MacKechnie-Jarvis

The plate photographed, appropriately, in the porch at All Saints, Down Ampney
The informative notes inside the box