Church of St. Sampson, Cricklade, Wiltshire
AddressChurch of St. Sampson, 12 Bath Rd, Cricklade, Swindon SN6 6AT
HighlightNorth aisle St. Nicholas window
Artist, maker and dateMartin Travers, 1927
Reason for highlighting
The window in the north aisle is an especially vivid design by Martin Travers, full of colour and energy in Travers’ Anglo-Catholic neo-Baroque style. It is one of several windows from the late 20s to early 30s in the church, but this one stands out in its use of painterly style. Particularly bold is the bright red ship in which S. Nicholas stands, and the waves add a realistic touch as well as lapping over the heraldic crest of the dedicatee, George Frederick Nott, d. 1928. Note the mermaid combing her hair on the bow of the ship, St. Nicholas’ three golden balls symbolising the three dowries he gave to poor girls in Smyrna where he was bishop, the personified wind and the boggle-eyed sun.
There are two other windows by Travers in St. Sampson’s. The east window shows the crucifixion and annunciation in Travers’ cool, graphic style and was part of a remodelling of the sanctuary by Travers in Anglo-Catholic style with an English altar and reredos complete with gilding and cherubs. He also designed a new altar for the Lady Chapel. Travers’ other window is in the north aisle, to the west of the St Nicholas window, and depicts St. Christopher.
An interesting single lancet window, 1950, in the south aisle showing the Virgin and Child in front of a tree, uses a popular Travers motif, but is in fact by John Crawford, who was working with Travers at the time of his untimely death in 1948.
The church also contains an exceptional Aesthetic-period window made by G. E. Cook to a design by Frederick Vincent Hart, 1873. St. Sampson’s is one of a number of interesting churches for glass on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border, and could be visited as part of a small circuit. Nearby South Cerney has an excellent west window by Nathaniel Westlake for Lavers and Barraud, 1862; at Blunsdon St. Andrew are two lovely windows by Douglas Strachan, 1947; and at Down Ampney, one of the area’s most recent windows, the Ralph Vaughan Williams window by Tom Denny, installed in December 2022 for the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth in the village in 1873. The window is inspired by John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, from which Vaughan Williams drew his 1951 opera of same name.
Howard Martin Otho Travers (1886-1948) was one of the most significant stained glass artists and church furnishers of the first half of the 20th century. He was educated at Tonbridge School before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. At the RCA he took classes in stained glass painting by Christopher Whall, although he would subsequently reject much Arts & Crafts thinking. After completing his training he spent some time in the office of Ninian Comper, before setting up on his own account. Although Comper’s influence is evident in some early windows, Travers own style was markedly different. There is a careful depiction of the subject along with a vitality that others of his generation lack. A traditionalist in many way, especially in his rejection of any form of abstraction, he was nonetheless not bound by tradition, but used it as a base from which to move forward.
Travers had his own studio, but also used the facilities of Lowndes & Drury throughout his career.
While admired by his pupils, Travers’ work is rarely found in high profile locations, although there were signs that his neglect by the Establishment was ending by the time of his untimely death. This may have reflected his personal life (for example, he was a conscientious objector during the First World War) and association in the public mind with Anglo-Catholicism, although he had largely lost his faith, and his first wife was a divorcee, who remarried while her husband was still alive. That association produced many works associated with the ‘Back to Baroque’ movement within the Church of England, which had started around 1911, although he also designed more widely.
Martin Travers was an important teacher both through his work at the RCA and through those who worked with him. They included Joseph E Nuttgens (c.1920–1922), Francis Spear (1922–24), John E Crawford (1924–1948), and Lawrence Lee (1946–1948). The latter two would go on to complete the commissions outstanding at the time of his death. One of his students, Francis Stephens , commented “He was a fantastic teacher. He concentrated on the idea of the structure of the window, the bars and leading, so that the work when finished was a true construction, not a painting transferred to glass.”
Martin Travers His Life and work by Michael Yelton (Spire Books, 2016)
Martin Travers 1886-1948 – A Handlist of his Work by Peter E Blagdon-Gamlen (The Ecclesiological Society, 1997)