[Photographs by the author, shown here by kind permission of the Dean & Chapter. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Introduction: Pugin and His Stained Glass Craftsmen

Two details featuring St Chad, the seventh century Bishop of the Mercians, to whom Pugin was particularly devoted (see Fisher 30). The cathedral was dedicated in his honour. Left: St Chad in the northern apse window of the chancel, executed to Pugin's design by William Warrington (1796-1869) in about 1841. Right: The Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus with St Chad, a detail from the Lady Chapel window, also executed by Warrington but a little later, in 1844 (for identification and dates, see Shepherd 356).

St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham has a wonderful collection of stained glass windows, their height adding to the sense of soaring majesty created by the tall, slender piers. A number were designed by Pugin himself. These range from the earlier 40s windows executed for him by William Warrington and William Wailes (1808-1881), to windows from about mid-1845 onwards, executed for him by the Birmingham manufacturer John Hardman Jnr (1811-1867). Taken together, they demonstrate his pre-eminence in this medium.

Pugin met Hardman while working on St Chad's; it was he who encouraged the local man to branch out from metal-working into stained glass window production. The architect had always had uneasy relationships with his glassmakers, who included Thomas Willement (1786-1871) as well as Warrington (who had spent some time in Willement's workshop) and Wailes: "Glass painters will shorten my days," he complained to his patron the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1840, "they are the greatest plagues I have" (Letters 1: 269). But here was a fellow-Catholic "sympathetic to his views on working in accordance with medieval principles" (Shepherd 21). The two worked well together and became good friends.

At the end of 1844, Hardman sent his nephew John Hardman Powell (1827-1895) to train with and assist Pugin at the Grange in Ramsgate, and in 1850 the two families became relatives by marriage, when the young man married Pugin's eldest daughter Ann. This close relationship meant that Pugin now had as much control as he wanted over the final product. After his father-in-law's death, Powell was to become Hardman's chief designer, so even the later Hardman windows in St Chad's carried the imprint of Pugin's genius.

Note that the windows in the apse and Lady Chapel are shown and discussed separately, in a general description of the cathedral's interior. The two Hardman windows are also discussed separately (see "Related Material" below). The following sections use other windows in St Chad's to explore the general issues surrounding Pugin's work with stained glass.

The Wareing Window

Whole window (1850), showing the figures of St George and the Virgin and Child above scenes of the death of George Wareing, and his devout family (1850). Right: Close-up of St George and the Virgin and Child. This window was executed by Hardman.

Right from the start Pugin felt that there would be no shortage of donors for this feature of the cathedral: "with the zeal that exists among the people, I have every hope that we shall shortly fill every window with stained glass," he wrote to the Rev. John Bloxham, his friend in Oxford, in September 1840 (Letters 1: 143). Some donated windows were simply gifts. For example, pupils of St Chad's School donated the window in the north wall of the Lady Chapel. Others were memorial windows, a notion then becoming increasingly popular (see Cheshire 166). The Wareing window, which is the third window in the south aisle of St Chad's, is one of these.

The window was given by Mrs Wareing in memory of her husband George, who had been assisting at High Mass when he dramatically collapsed and died on Passion Sunday in 1844 (see Doolan 7). In the upper panels, St George, the dead man's namesake, is shown with blue armour under his white tunic, which has a red sash to match the usual red cross on his shield. With his spear he pierces the mouth of the red dragon at his feet. In the adjacent panel, the Virgin looks tenderly at the Infant Jesus, who gazes back at her. The canopies and superstructures are typically Gothic. Although the window was conceived and largely designed by Pugin, the lower panels were drawn by Frances Oliphant (1818-1859), Wailes' chief designer, who continued to do some work for Pugin into the early 1850s. However, it should be borne in mind that Pugin not only had to prod Oliphant to get the work out of him, but often altered it (Shepherd 364; Cheshire 44).

Between geometrically patterned borders, two vignettes recreate the moment of George Wareing's passing. In the panel on the left, efforts are made to support the dying man, while the priest looks on in concern. In the other panel, members of his large family kneel in prayer.

Explaining his ideas for the lower panels, Pugin had written to Hardman, "in the 1st quatrefoil I should represent the death in the church in the other the family as it was during the mass. I should represent a priest at an altar in the corner. It is a very fine window & nearly finished." Later he writes again, "Mrs Wareings window is nearly done ... I want you to let me know how many in familly [sic] are to be represented, the sex & ages?" (qtd. in Shepherd 359). Clearly, he wanted to be as accurate as possible.

While the general conception was Pugin's, then, one of his ideas has not been carried through into the final design: there is no "priest at an altar in the corner." The design may have been as modified either by Pugin himself, or Oliphant, perhaps becuause the space was all taken up by Wareing's large family. It is worth remembering here that Pugin's stained glass was always a collaborative project. Wailes, Willement, Warrington, Oliphant, Powell and Pugin's eldest son Edward, all contributed to his work in this area at some stage, and to some extent. In St Chad's, for example, the "dense colouring" of the baptistery windows is typical of Wailes, who received £40 "for Birmingham" (O'Donnell 61; Shepherd 360), while Warrington claimed to have drawn the cathedral's Lady Chapel window himself. The commentator in the Ecclesiologist was surprised at this: "we should have thought that the drawing was Mr Pugin's, and the glasswork alone Mr Warrington's" — adding that the latter was "spotty and smudgy" (qtd. in Shepherd 359). But he took Warrington's word for it.

Pugin surely was involved, however, in both cases. As the architect wrote to Bloxham in that letter of September 1840, "The details of Birmingham church dedicated to God in honour of St Chad will please you exceedingly. I have taken infinite pains with their design and am at present superintending their execution with the greatest care" (Letters 1: 143; emphasis added).

The Glassworkers' Window

Left: The Glassworkers' Window, the first in the north aisle. Pugin had intended this window to match the Wareing window opposite. Right: Close-up of St Luke, and St Andrew of Crete, in the upper part of the window.

This window was not in memory of anyone. it was donated by Hardman's craftsmen. Pugin had made a preliminary sketch for it, but it was completed in December 1853, getting on for two years after his breakdown and over a year after his death. John Hardman Powell may have been responsible for the final design. Certainly it differs in some respects from the original idea. Pugin had thought of featuring St. Gregory in the upper part. However, the saints featured in the final work are St Luke and St Andrew of Crete. These seem more appropriate: St Gregory is sometimes seen as the patron saint of masons, but St Luke and St Andrew have both been considered patron saints of artists (Doolan 3) — St Luke, through his association with Venice, specifically of glassmakers. Nevertheless, Shepherd points out, if the design was indeed a new one by Powell, he "followed closely Pugin's arrangement of saints under canopies" in the neighbouring window (358).

The lower panels depict Hardman's craftsmen in the Birmingham workshop: in the right-hand one, the glass is marked and cut; in the left-hand one, the glass is assembled and fired. In each square, one man sits and the other stands, bending to his work. The door of the kiln is open at the right. The figures were modelled on actual people (see Dent 465).

Pugin had meant to show the presentation of the window in the lower panels, and planned to enclose the scenes in quatrefoils, as in the Wareing window. Again, there were important modifications. Only the various stages of stained glass production are shown in the finished window. This may have seemed more interesting. It may also reflect a shift of focus to the craft itself, rather than the generous gesture involved. For the artisans who executed the designs were also a part of the collaborative process, and Powell, as John Hardman's nephew, would have felt this keenly.

Thus, although the general conception was certainly Pugin's, the final design of this window may indeed have been John Hardman Powell's. It is significant that it is hard to tell on stylistic grounds, though perhaps there are already signs here of the "more literal or pictorial approach and sinuous, almost fluttery, line" that Powell would develop later (Fleet and Blaker 21). In various senses then, this window seems to be a transitional as well as a collaborative one.

Conclusion: The Influence of Pugin's Stained Glass

The next window in the north aisle was another memorial one. In memory of Francis Fitzherbert-Brockholes, it features St Francis of Assisi as one of its saints, together with St Thomas the Apostle. St Francis, shown here, has a book in one hand, and rays penetrating his hands, feet and right side. These indicate the transmission of the stigmata, testifying to his empathy with and closeness to Christ. Designed by Pugin, this window appears in Hardman's Order Book for 1851 (Shepherd 359).

The windows in St Chad's were modelled on medieval ones and, like the one at the right, exhibit traditional iconography. Indeed, those in the cathedral's apse, which were given by Shrewsbury and produced by Warrington, are said to have been "copied for the most part from ancient examples at Bristol Cathedral and Tewksbury Abbey" (Dent 467). However, this was generally more a matter of style than detail (see Shepherd 22). Such windows were still pioneering, in the same way and for the same reasons that Pugin's architecture was pioneering. Both were guided by the related aims of reviving a lost spiritual heritage, and restoring integrity to construction.

In this case, integrity consisted in producing the design in the original way, from small pieces of glass already coloured when molten by the addition of appropriate metal oxides, rather than (as had been the custom since the late sixteenth century) using enamel paint on the surface of a large pane. In this method, Pugin explained to Shrewsbury, "the substance of the paint Laid on the glass entirely evaporates & consumes during the burning Leaving only the stain which becomes infused into the body of the glass (Letters 1: 268). Light passes more easily through this "stained" glass than it does through painted glass — as it should do through a window. Besides, there are none of the distracting tricks of perspective that an artist is apt to add (see Shepherd 18).

This new-old art was a challenging one. It was difficult then to get good materials, such as antique ruby pot-metal glass (see Cheshire 43). On the more technical side, juxtaposed colours could react on each other in situ (see Hill 421). Advances in understanding such things meant that older windows suffered by comparison with more recent ones. On the purely logistical level, co-ordinating the production process over distances could be frustrating too: "I predict that we shall never produce anything good until the furnaces are within a few yards of the easel," Pugin sighed in about 1849 (qtd. in Cheshire 44). Even when complete, his work could be subject to interference: "The Bishop of Ripon has quite spoilt the window I designed for Dr. Pusey," he complained to Shrewsbury in October 1845, "he has ordered the angels receiving our Lord's Blood to be removed & plain blue glass substuted sic]. also the veronica [St Veronica's veil with the imprint of Jesus's face] the coat & dice [recalling the gambling for Jesus's coat after the crucifixion] & several other emblems. very disgusting " (Letters 2: 465). All in all, it was a frustrating process.

Yet Pugin's windows were as influential as his architecture. He may not have been the first to adopt the earlier method, but the glorious apse windows he had designed for Warrington to make for St Mary's College Chapel, Oscott, in 1837 had had "an immediate impact," marking the "moment when the production in England of so-called 'picture windows' finally gave way to those made in accordance with medieval principles" (Shepherd 16). His windows in St Chad's could only have confirmed the superiority of this approach. Stained glass was not a mere sideline for Pugin. It was a major aspect of his work: the demand for it grew exponentially in this age of church-building and restoration, and stood him in good stead when architectural commissions grew scarce. His beautiful windows are as much a testimony to his greatness as his achievements as an architect.

Related Material


Cheshire, Jim. Stained Glass and the Victorian Gothic Revival. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. Print.

Dent, Robert Kirkup. Old and New Birmingham: A History of the Town and Its People. Birmingham: Houghton & Hammond, 1880. Internet Archive. Web. 27 January 2013.

Doolan, Father Brian. The Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad Birmingham. 5th revised ed. Birmingham: St Chad's Publications, 2006. Available at the cathedral. Print.

Fisher, Michael. "Gothic For Ever": A. W. N. Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury, and the Rebuilding of Catholic England. Reading: Spire, 2012. Print.

Fleet, Robin, and Catriona Blaker. The Stained Glass of St Augustine's Church, Ramsgate. Ramsgate: Potmetal Press, 2010. Print.

Foster, Andy. Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

Hill, Rosemary. God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

O'Donnell, Roderick. The Pugins and the Catholic Midlands. Leominster: Gracewing, and the Archdiocese of Birmingham, 2002. Print.

Pugin, A. W. N. The Collected Letters of A. W. N. Pugin, Vol. 1. 1830-42. Ed. Margaret Belcher. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

_____. The Collected Letters of A. W. N. Pugin, Vol. 2. 1843-45. Ed. Margaret Belcher. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.

Shepherd, Stanley A. The Stained Glass of A. W. N. Pugin. Reading: Spire Books, 2009. Print.

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Last modified 28 January 2013