Halewood Local History Pages

St. Nicholas, Halewood Parish Church

William Morris Windows in St Nicholas, Halewood

by Pam Beesley

tchambers.jpg - 19kb Can you imagine a time when St Nicholas Church was the centre of worship for people not only from Halewood but also from Childwall, Tarbock, Gateacre and Woolton? A time when the Rector, Thomas Chambers who had been curate at Childwall, had a following of wealthy parishioners from that parish. One lady, a Mrs French, was so wealthy in fact that she donated the building of the bell tower and later a peal of bells. It was during this period of time when Thomas Chambers (right) was rector (1864-1888) that all the churches stained glass windows were commissioned. The only exception being the centre three lancets in the chancel which were installed in 1892, two of which were in memory of the Rector: the background of roses reflecting his love of the flower. When we made up our minds to resurrect the fund raising team at St Nicholas, Tommy and I considered that the William Morris windows might be the one factor to make our church stand out from many of the others when applying for funding.

The last occasion on which the fund raisers had gathered was in 1989 when we had had to face the fact that we couldn't raise money for two large projects: the restoration of our Church and a new Church hall. It was at that time that the Children's Home became empty, so consequently we went forward in faith and the Children's Home became the new St Nicholas Centre.

We are now faced with the even more daunting prospect of raising 300,000 which is the approximate cost of restoration. We had to start somewhere so I visited Halewood Library to do some research. I found Canon Evas' book from 1989 in which he states that the William Morris Society had contacted him with reference to the stained glass windows, but no-one seemed to know which windows were designed by William Morris and Co. However, we had heard that there was a book which listed all the stained glass windows designed by the Company, So one Saturday afternoon Tommy and I paid a visit to the Central Liverpool Library (which is worth viewing if only for it's wonderful architecture). We got so engrossed in our search for the book that our hours' visit turned into an afternoon, and we got a parking ticket to boot! It was worth it though because the book revealed that out of the 21 stained glass windows in St Nicholas no less than 17 were designed by William Morris and Co.!

wmorris1.jpg - 15kb daisy1.gif - 32kb William Morris was an artist, political writer, and public figure but is nowadays most remembered for the lucrative decorative arts business which he headed. (Earliest know photograph - right) His association and business partnership with the Pre-Raphealite painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti is reflected in his designs and indeed in St Nicholas' window's. Nature was also a source of inspiration, natural dyes and pigments were used instead of synthetic ones to create his characteristic subdued effects in textiles and wallpapers which were (and indeed still are!) named after the flora they depict.

It was Morris and Co. who in the 19th century revived the medieval technique of fixing small pieces of coloured glass with leading, while the later technique of staining with enamel was refined. In most of the firms glass commissionings, the drawing of the figures was done by the artists Burne- Jones and Rossetti (Rossetti below left, with John Ruskin) , but the pattern of the leading and the colours were determined by Morris.

Most of St Nicholas' windows were designed by Burne-Jones but the two lancets flanking St Nicholas of Myra in the chancel were William Morris' own design. In the book compiled by E A Sewter their descriptions from the company's catalogue of design are: 'flying angel with t-shaped dulcimer' and 'flying angel with organ'. 'All with backgrounds of foliage and flowers', in memory of course of the Reverend Thomas Chambers (below).

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Right: 449 Oxford Street, London. Photographed c1911. Examples of stained glass windows were laid out in panels on the top floor

The William Morris Connection with St. Nicholas Church

mainwindow.jpg - 44kb According to Sewters book, there is also a mystery. A stained glass window was commissioned, designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones(below left), and made in 1871 by William Morris and Co. depicting Samuel but no such window exists to-day in St Nicholas Church! It has been 109 years since the last stained glass window was installed in St Nicholas and with the efforts of the parish they should remain in situ, either restored or just preserved to celebrate the talents of William Morris and Co.

Since writing this article, representatives from a company who specialise in the restoration of stained glass windows have been to St Nicholas to advise us. Some of the windows need a lot of work but the good news is that our windows in the chancel commemorating the Reverend Thomas Chambers are said to be the best examples of William Morris windows that they have seen and that they are in relatively good condition.

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Their protection and preservation is now needed The large window in the north transept (designed by W H Sullivan of Slater Street, Liverpool) is also unusual in that it has unusually large panels of stained glass and which according to the experts is more valuable than those of William Morris. So you see, they are worth preserving. Should you feel that you might like to donate to help restore St Nicholas we would be most grateful, it doesn't matter how small the amount. Maybe you would like to join us or maybe you just have an idea to help us raise money if so just let us know. Hope to to hear from you soon!!

Researched and written by Pam Beesley

Picture research by Mike Royden


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William Morris Society Pages - an excellent site, your first port of call on all things to do with Morris

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William Morris Gallery


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