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A Stained Present

St Peters Cowfold

A dazzling, jewelled-like masterpiece has been acquired by Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum and Art Gallery.  The bright radiant colours, as fresh as they day they were painted, adorn a stunning miniature version of the original design for stained-glass windows at St Peter’s, Cowfold.

A perfect gift at this time of the year and especially appropriate with the Vicar of Dibley back on the screens.   Why the Vicar of Dibley? One of the most memorable episodes is where a tree felled in a storm destroys the Church’s stained-glass window. Everyone agrees on replacing it with the same design, but no one can remember what it was like. In Geraldine’s case she replaces it with clear glass, to allows “God’s” natural world to be seen. Should such misfortune befall Cowfold they can contact Horsham Museum who have just bought this Edwardian masterpiece from top London dealers Abbott and Holder. The dealers acquired the original paintings, known as presentation pieces, created at Powell and Sons’ Whitefriars glass works. Founded in the 18th century, the company developed a growing reputation for artisanship and design, with some of the great Victorian designers working for them. Powell and Sons created these artistic masterpieces, sent them to the client to approve and then kept them to ensure the stained glass looked as good as the painted designs. The quality of their work was such that hundreds of churches in Britain have examples of Powell and Sons glass. The demand for war memorial windows gave the company an extra lease of life in the first half of the 20th century.

This stunning work of art compliments the museum’s collection of local paintings and images, as well as building on the important Watercolour Collection. The design also links to the original cartoon drawings drawn by the Glasby sisters of Henfield, of which the museum holds several examples. The Glasby family were renowned stained-glass artists, moving from London to Horsham and then to Henfield in the 1940s. William Glasby created stained-glass designs for over 100 churches in Britain and overseas. His daughters pursued other careers including running a wool shop, working in the theatre, writing children’s books and appearing on the BBC. In their spare time however, they continued designing stained glass windows. The full story of the remarkable Glasby family can be found on Henfield Museum blog.

As described in the book Causeway House, Horsham Museum had a role in supplying glass for the Falkland Islands cathedral. Horsham based stained-glass artist, Cliff Durant, used the panels from the old conservatory at the museum to replace the glass damaged during the conflict.

However, today the museum is celebrating the stunning acquisition of the original design for three windows in St Peter’s Cowfold. This is an apt acquisition as the church has some of the earliest stained-glass in the country, as told in the book Heritage of Horsham in 100 Objects. It is because of this historic continuity that Cowfold Local History Society generously donated some funds to help the museum to buy the presentation piece.

Glass 9 St Peters

Published: 18 Dec 2020