HCT owns two chapels where stained glass windows by Hardman & Co. were a major feature.
At HCT’s Longworth Chapel in Bartestree, just outside Hereford a three-light Hardman window over the altar was one of the glories of the small space. This is currently in store for safety but an appeal is being launched to restore it and put it back in situ. At HCT’s Petre chapel, Thorndon Park, Essex a complete set of Hardman glass was almost entirely lost to mindless vandalism before the building came into HCT hands, creating an interesting conservation issue.
The Birmingham firm of Hardman & Co. is best known as the favourite supplier to architect and pioneer Gothic revivalist A W N Pugin. Indeed, the collaboration between the designer and manufacturer is a central one to the Gothic revival in England. Hardman’s firm made celebrated metalwork for churches too – everything from light fittings and screens to chalices and liturgical ware.
Hardman & Co. started making stained glass in 1845 at the direct suggestion of A W N Pugin. Coloured glass had been used in the Georgian period – especially for churches and armorial windows. But the revival of the medieval style with the lead between pieces of coloured glass being an essential part of the design and the practice of filling the entire window with opaque medieval style work was a striking departure in the 1840s – and part of a quest for an aesthetic drawn from pre-Reformation England.
Pugin and Hardman’s method of working was, in some respects, more modern than medieval; Pugin’s drawings were sent to Birmingham by train and the glass was produced in efficient, easily controlled gas-fired furnaces, very different from the wood-fired furnaces on site used in the medieval times.
Above all, there was a sharp and un-medieval divide between designer and maker. Pugin regretted this division and wrote to Hardman ‘Our greatest disadvantage is my never seeing the work in progress… we shall never produce anything good until the furnaces are within a few yards of the easel’. This was something that Arts and Craft movement pioneers sometimes achieved later.
The three-light window at Longworth Chapel is currently in store for its safety. Plans are being made to return it to the window openings after the stonework is repaired and at present unsightly plastic keeps the weather out, though not very well. An appeal has been launched to raise the £30,000 to do it.
William Wardell, architect of the Petre chantry chapel, near Brentwood, Essex was one of A.W.N. Pugin’s most enthusiastic followers in the Gothic Revival. But Wardell’s early success and rapid flow of commissions was perhaps the reason why Pugin had a rather tetchy attitude to his younger follower. It cannot have helped that Wardell also used many of the same suppliers – including Hardman & Co. – thereby taking full advantage of the work by Pugin to painstakingly develop the appearance and techniques of a medieval style of window making, without the need for the trials and experiments – or the need to credit the older pioneer.
All but one light and some fragments in the upper tracery have been lost and the windows are currently bricked up, making the chapel very dark inside. What to do at Petre chantry chapel is an interesting conservation dilemma.
Re-creating the Hardman windows might be an option – though only if the original design drawings could be found so that the reproductions were highly accurate. Not to date tracked down, the drawings were possibly a victim of a devastating fire at Thorndon Park in 1878. Or maybe they were removed to Australia, when Wardell emigrated there as a young man, for health reasons. Making new windows ‘in the manner of’ Hardman glass is another option, as is commissioning completely new windows from a contemporary designer in a fresh style. The approach that HCT has adopted is to try and find glass of the 1860s that needs a new home (because of demolition or change at a church).
By re-homing glass we hope not only to save windows of quality that are at risk, but re-create something like the original impression at Petre chantry chapel. It would be wonderful to find a set of Hardman & Co. glass, but lucky indeed to find one, especially one that fits. Scale drawings of the windows have been made to assist the search and the project may well take some years if the glass comes from different places. We are now on the look-out for suitable 1860s glass. We have prepared an information sheet and if you feel you can help or know of suitable glass please let us know.
Meanwhile, fundraising for the repair and reinstatement of the windows at Longworth is in hand.