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Hexham Abbey

Windows shedding light 

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Copyright 2010 Hexham Abbey


The Ascension. 1870/79, by Jean Baptiste Capronnier of Brussels; blue sky c1960, made by Hartley Wood of Monkwearmouth; i.m.o. Ann Kirsopp.

  Everyone coming into the south transept of Hexham Abbey faces the rich colour of six tail windows in the north wall. These lancets date from the middle of the 13th century, but the glass that fills them was set there only in Victorian times. Like all the Abbey windows, these long ago lost the jewel-like glass that once drenched the medieval priory with glowing colour. After the canons were expelled in 1537, reformers and puritans destroyed all such idolatrous images.

   In 1873 the sons of Bentham and Eleanor Hall restored stained glass to these lancets as a memorial to their parents. Most of the Abbey windows similarly recovered their beauty over the following decades, as the movement to bring back colour and imagery to English churches reached its peak. It was fuelled by romantic enthusiasm for the Gothic past, and by high church revival of Catholic practices and belief in the beauty of holiness. It was made possible by rediscovery of medieval glass-making techniques, and the emergence of glass-makers like C E Kempe, Henry Holiday and the former Newcastle grocer, William Wailes.

St Etheldreda: her marriage to Ecgfrid (incorporating three fragments of glass from Roman Corbridge), taking the veil,and miraculous posthumous appearance. 1909, by Davidson & Walker (Newcastle), commemorating rebuilding of the nave by Canon Sidney Savage   Later, the great east and west windows were also given new glass, and the lesser windows between them. Gradually the Abbey filled again with some of the translucent colour that must once have enriched it.


Text: Colin Dallison
Drawings from photographs: Colin Dallison & Stan Beckensall

Four of the windows are by Henry Thomas Bosdet. Follow this link for more about him.