Church seeks history detectives

One of Preston's most historic churches has launched a project to unearth the secrets within its walls. Mike Hill explains

Friday, 29th December 2017, 1:40 pm
Updated Friday, 29th December 2017, 2:45 pm
Bessie Saville Heald with the stained glass window dedicated to her

Restoration work at Christ Church, Fulwood, Preston, has brought new life to stained glass windows dating back 150 years.

The church has now launched a heritage project to investigate the lives of those people to whom the windows are dedicated.

The church, in Victoria Road, was built in 1865 and features ten stained glass windows dating from building’s opening through to 1936.

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Henrietta Browne Clayton and the stained glass window dedicated to her

Each window not only tells a story from the Bible, but also reveals the life of the people in whose memory the windows were dedicated.

The restoration has nearly been completed but the detective work into the stories behind the windows, busts, reredos and giant church banners is continuing.

If you want to find out more, or think that you have some information the project could use, then visit, email [email protected] or write to Christ Church, Victoria Road, Fulwood, Preston, PR2 8NE.

Great East Window in the Chancel

Christ Church, Fulwood

This window and the Reredos were dedicated at the end of August 1872.

The Reredos, possibly carved by the sculptor Emanuel Edward Geflowski (1834-1898) was in situ before the stained glass lights in the east window. Another reredos attributed to Mr Geflowski in the chapel at Rossell School.

A renowned artist called Alexander Mark Rossi (1840-1916) was lodging just yards from the church in 1871, so it seems likely that it was he who painted the panels. He was born in Corfu. In 1866 he visited Preston where he met and married a Preston girl called Jane Gillow and, shortly after, the couple moved to London. Rossi exhibited 66 works at the Royal Academy between 1871 and 1902.

The first panel is an exact copy of a painting called ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ painted by Gerrit Van Honthorst in 1617.

Henrietta Browne Clayton and the stained glass window dedicated to her

The East Window

In 1872, Anthony Hewitson a Victorian journalist, commented that the east window looked ‘opaque and muddy and would add much to the beauty of the church if stained’. In August that year, a service of dedication was held for the five light window which is now the focal point of the church.

Although no maker’s monogram can be found, it is thought to have been made by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake; the company had installed a window on the south side of the nave the same year.

Nathaniel Wood Lavers (1828-1911) started the business in 1855 and was joined by Francis Philip Barraud (1824-1900) in 1858. Nathaniel Hubert John Westlake (1833-1921) became a partner in 1868 and sole owner in1880. These three designers had worked alongside others who later established well-known partnerships of their own, for example Clayton and Bell and Heaton Butler and Bayne. There was a good deal of interaction and influence between the companies and unless windows are marked with a monogram it can be difficult to say with certainty which firm undertook the work. Looking for distinguishing features and comparing a maker’s work in other churches are two ways of arriving at a conclusion.

Christ Church, Fulwood

The first stage in the production of a stained glass window was an artist’s drawing of the composition. A full sized drawing called a cartoon was then made which would have details of the shapes and colours of glass pieces needed to create the picture. Cartoon figures could be reused and a keen eye may spot a face or costume seen in another design. The use white garments and faces are typical of the output of Lavers, Barraud and Westlake in this period.

The figure on the left-hand side of the East Window shows a cartoon of a soldier (often used to represent St George – but a Roman soldier in this crucifixion scene) used in many of the firm’s windows.

North wall of the nave

Henrietta Clayton grew up at Adlington Hall near Chorley. When her father, Sir Richard Clayton, died in 1828, Henrietta inherited his estates which included Fulwood Hall.

In 1803, Henrietta married Lieutenant General Robert Browne Clayton and they had two children: Richard Clayton Browne Clayton (1806-1886) born in London and Eleanor (1815-1895) born in Cheltenham.

This painting, by Ellen Wallace Sharples, dated 1823, shows Henrietta reading to her daughter Eleanor.

Henrietta never lived in Fulwood; throughout her life Fulwood Hall was tenanted by a farmer. It was, however, fitting that her family were commemorated in Christ Church as the Claytons had been ‘Lords of the Manor’ in the township for over three hundred years.

Henrietta’s window was the first to be installed at the church. Her son Richard donated £150 to the church building fund and must have had the choice of which window to decorate in memory of his mother. Maybe this one on the north side of the building was the nearest to the family’s ancestral home in Fulwood Hall Lane. There are no monograms to confirm the designer of this window but it is thought that is may be by William Wailes of Newcastle. It is similar to two windows in Preston Minster by W W, donated by Richard Newsham and John Horrocks, two generous contributors to the Christ Church building fund. Perhaps they recommended William Wailes’ company to Richard Clayton.

Features typical of this maker’s work include the pointed ‘Gothic’ canopies in red and yellow above the passive looking figures of Faith and Hope, and the flat topped number eight. More information can be found in ‘The wonderful windows of William Wailes 1808-81 by Ronald Torbet.

North wall of the nave

This window on the north wall of the nave is dedicated to Bessie Saville Heald who died in January 1936.

Bessie always sat on the pew just by this window. She and her husband William lived at 25 Garstang Road. Bessie was greatly missed by the congregation; she was a member of the PCC and a Diocesan Representative.

The window, commissioned by Bessie’s sister Ethel Craig, depicts Jesus Christ washing his disciples’ feet during the last supper.

There is no maker’s monogram on this window but it is thought that it was made by Shrigley and Hunt of Lancaster. Christ Church is fortunate in having two windows which are definitely by this maker. Bessie’s window shows similarity in design with the Memorial window 1919 on the south of the nave, especially at the base.

The firm Shrigley and Hunt was working at Christ Church doing repairs in 1935; a reason perhaps why the firm, already on-site, may have been commissioned to make this one.