The Stained Glass Museum, Ely, Cambridgeshire
AddressThe Stained Glass Museum, The South Triforium, Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4DL
Comments byDr Jasmine Allen, Director and Curator of The Stained Glass Museum
The Stained Glass Museum is the only museum dedicated to stained glass in the UK, and is housed on an upper level of Ely Cathedral. Its collection, which spans the medieval period to the 21st century, offers a unique insight into the fascinating history of stained glass. The museum’s permanent gallery displays over 125 stained glass panels from the museum’s extensive collection of over 1,000 stained glass panels many of which were rescued from religious or secular buildings from across Great Britain, Europe and USA.
Highlights include an early 13th century English grisaille panel, 14th century glass from Hadzor, Worcestershire, 15th century silver stain roundels, 16th century glass from Rouen, enamel painted glass by William Peckitt and James Pearson, an extensive collection of gothic revival, Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts glass from the 19th and 20th centuries
The museum is open throughout the year and has an active learning and engagement programme www.stainedglassmuseum.com
HighlightPanel depicting St Wilfrid with St John Berchmans with a predella panel of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St Elizabeth, surrounded by six acolytes
Artist, maker and dateDesigned by Harry Clarke and made at Joshua Clarke & Sons, 1927
Reason for highlighting
This window once formed part of a magnificent scheme of for the Lady Chapel of the Convent of Notre Dame, Dowanhill, Glasgow. Irish Arts and Crafts stained glass artist Harry Clarke was commissioned to design and make the scheme as a WWI war memorial by the Sister Superior Mary of St. Wilfrid. When Sister Wilfrid died part way through completion of the windows there was an outpouring of grief which led to the decision to add two additional single light windows to a central window depicting Our Lady of Sorrows which would emphasise Sister Wilfrid’s life and career in education. St Wilfrid with St John Berchmans was one of these sidelights.
Typical of Harry Clarke’s style, the main figures of St Wilfrid and St John Berchmans (introduced at a later date to commemorate the death of another Sister Mary Berchmans) are elegant and attenuated, ornately-clothed and set against a rich background. The varied pieces of brightly coloured glass gives a jewelled effect. A small scene in the predella panel below depicts the ‘Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple’.
When it opened, the convent was the first Catholic female teacher training college in Scotland. In 1979 the Convent of Notre Dame and its associated teachers training college relocated to nearby Bearsden, renamed the Notre Dame College of Education. The convent buildings at Dowanhill were abandoned in 1981, and in more recent years turned into luxury flats. This window was purchased by the museum at auction in 1998. Other windows from the convent chapel are in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland and National Museums Scotland.
Henry Patrick ‘Harry’ Clarke (1889-1931) was born in Dublin and apprenticed in his father’s stained glass business. He also studied at the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin, as well as travelling to London and France. In the process he absorbed the qualities of the medieval glaziers, along with contemporary artistic themes to create windows that are some of the most distinctive examples of the art. His studio continued after his death as Clarke Studios Ltd.
Joshua Clarke & Sons was established by Harry Clarke’s father in 1886 as a church decorating business. In 1892 the firm extended its activities into stained glass, acting as agent for Mayer & Co, Munich. Harry and his brother took over the business on the death of their father in 1921, by which time it had a thriving business in Ireland, along with overseas sales to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Harry Clarke: The Life & Work by Nicola Gordon Bowe (The History Press Ltd, Revised, Updated Edition, 2012)
Harry Clarke and Artistic Visions of the New Irish State, Edited by Angela Griffiths, Marguerite Helmers & Róisín Kennedy (Irish Academic Press, 2019)