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St Cross Church, Holywell: Notes on the stained glass


There has not been a scrap of pre-Victorian stained glass in St Cross Church since 1850. It is unlikely that there ever was much, but a coat of arms was noted by Anthony à Wood about 1660 in the east window. [1] It was attributed by him to the Clare family, who were associated with the Church in its early days, but it may have been an allusion to Merton College as Ecclesiastical Patrons, because Walter de Merton’s adopted arms are a close derivative of the Clare arms. Wood also noted a fragmentary memorial inscription in the chancel north side window: Orate pro Antelina [sic] uxor ejus.

Otherwise, there is no documentary footprint for any glass until 1852, when a gazetteer [2] was enthusiastic about the east window, which was “filled with brilliantly painted glass, representing our Saviour, with St Peter and St Paul on either side”. The description continued: “To the west, is a small painted window which reflects a beautiful shade on the east window”. But no details were given, and no other window was mentioned. It seems likely that the former east window was part of the restoration and improvement of the Church in the period 1837-1843, which was completed by SE Bathhurst, the Vicar who drove the second phase a few years later. He spent a thousand pounds of his own money on it, and it seems unlikely that he would have left the east window unadorned. HB Walton then Vicar, reported [3] “2 new painted windows” at an episcopal visitation in mid-1854.

All ten surviving stained glass windows were installed between 1850 and 1902. None of them were paid for out of general Parish funds. Three were placed in memoriam and paid for by appropriate family and friends (1855, 1869, 1874), five were paid for by a legacy from Mrs Louisa Elvey [4] specifically for glazing (1870-1874), and the donor of the pair which was new in 1854 is a mystery which has defied exhaustive research.

The notes which follow begin right of the west door and work round the Church anticlockwise, using window reference numbers as in the plans of Robert Montgomery, architect for Balliol’s Historic Collections Centre project. Windows which are now essentially clear are ignored, although they mostly have plain quarries of lightly tinted glass, some of them at least a hundred years old.

W3 & W4 south aisle south wall [5]

Both have two lights with four traceries containing seraphs. W3: The Presentation in the Temple (LH) and The Flight into Egypt (RH). W4: The Annunciation (LH) and The Adoration of the Magi (RH).

Hardman & Co were paid £80 from the Elvey bequest for this matching pair in 1871. They were designed by JH Powell. The Committee who dealt with the bequest was divided over the colours. A repair was carried out on the Annunciation light by Hardman & Co in 1890; it was arranged by Knowles & Son. [6]

W5 south aisle east wall [7]

Two lights showing Singing Angels, some with Instruments, praising The Lamb of God in a six-cusped circular tracery above with many small eyelets and two larger eyelets showing A and Ω .

Given by Lady Stainer in memory of Sir John Stainer, musician and sometime Churchwarden, who died in Verona, but was buried in Holywell Cemetery and has a monument there. The window was designed by JW Brown and made by James Powell & Sons of Whitehall.

W6 chancel south wall & W10 organ chamber north wall

Both are of two lights showing The four Evangelists in turn with four traceries to each window, but the traceries are shaped differently. Each window has two identically patterned base panels. All is in Gothic style.

This pair was new in 1854, [8] and was probably not yet present in 1852, [9] but no other contemporary or later reference has been found to them. Both are mounted in 15th century window masonry. W10 would have faced W6 in the chancel north wall until 1876. This wall was opened up then to make the organ chamber, and W10 - glass and 15th century window masonry together - was moved to its present position. The intricate pattern of the base panels is also found in a Brighton 1849 window of AWN Pugin made by Hardman & Co. [10] But the geometrical proportions of the Holywell and Brighton patterns are not exactly the same, and the execution of the former is not as delicate as the latter. There is nothing in the apparently exhaustive and well indexed Hardman Archive [11] to indicate that W6 and W10 were made by the company, who were Pugin’s invariable manufacturers from 1845. It seems to me that they are Puginesque, rather than Pugin.

W7 chancel, east wall [12]

Three lights, showing The Crucifixion and traditional Mourners with four traceries containing angels, and eyelets.

In memory of HB Walton, Vicar, who was buried in the Cemetery on 12 October 1871. Paid for by public subscription with a large contribution from the Elvey bequest. Designed by JH Powell and made by Hardman & Co, 1874. Walton had begun correspondence with Hardman & Co about windows in 1870, but fell ill and died; it had been his wish to have a Crucifixion scene in the east window, and he thought the old east window inferior. “The materials of the old window” were “skilfully worked up by Messrs Hardman and converted into two new ones” which were “placed at the west end”. Nothing more has been discovered of this reworked glass, but the 1892 faculty for works to, inter alia, improve the lighting in the Church, allowed for alteration of the stained glass windows, and the west end windows which had been made out of the east window glass probably perished then.

W8 vestry, east wall [13]

Two lights showing two scenes each: three scenes of Christ with Apostles and (LH upper) Pentecost, with a tracery showing an angel with a scroll.

In memory of RGH [Robert George Hooper] Orchard, MA, priest, who was buried in the Cemetery on 12 August 1865. The inscription ends “posuit M.O.” At the 1861 census, he was living with his wife Marian[nne] Orchard [ie “M.O.”] in Holywell Street; the Parish register records her own burial on 12 November 1874. The wall in which W8 is now mounted was not built until 1876, but the window masonry is reused 15th century material. The Orchard glass was originally placed in the east window of the north aisle (the stonework of which had already been moved once in the 19th century) at the expense of Marianne Orchard in 1869, and was moved to its present position - glass and stonework together - in 1876, when the organ chamber and vestry extension were built. Elders [14] judges the style to be that of Heaton Butler & Bayne, but it reminded Paul and Paula San Casciani [15] of some of the characteristics of Alexander Gibbs.

W11 north aisle, north wall

Two lights with glass showing ornate Gothic multi-pinnacled canopies and a tracery showing an angel. The Agony on the Garden (LH) and Christ carrying the Cross (RH).

The architectural detail of the canopy is similar to, but not identical with, that of W12 & W13. “Mr Baguly” was paid £39 for it in 1870 from the Elvey bequest. Elders [16] says that W11, W12 and W13 are “a scheme signed by George Joseph Baguley”; very close inspection has found no signature, so this may be a typo for designed. Baguley had been a designer with William Wailes, but had set up as designer and manufacturer on his own account by about 1867.

W12 &W13 north aisle, north wall

Each has two lights with one tracery showing an angel, in the same general style as W11. W12: St Mary Magdalen washing the Feet of Christ (LH) and The Last Supper (RH). W13: The Resurrection (LH) and The Entry into Jerusalem (RH).

These are clearly a pair; the fine architectural detail of the canopies is absolutely identical. “Mr Baguly” was paid £78 for them in 1872 from the Elvey bequest.

W15 north aisle, west end [17]

Two lights with two large and two small traceries. Each light has three main panels. LH lower, RH lower and RH upper are lightly patterned with strapping, encircled florets and vine leaves. LH central is The Entombment, LH upper is Christ in Glory and RH central is The Resurrection. The LH large tracery shows a haloed figure with a hand raised in blessing; the RH large tracery shows the Blessed Virgin.

In memory of John Matthew, who died on 27 October, 1851 aged 45; there is no entry in the Parish Burial Register, but the indistinctly inscribed date of death is confirmed by a Jackson’s Oxford Journal notice of 1 November 1851. He was a builder aged 45, employing 15 men, living with his wife Ann in Holywell Street at the 1851 census, and had previously been Churchwarden. It was designed by GE Street, and originally placed where the Stainer window now is in 1855. It was broken in 1901, repaired, and moved to its present position. Sherwood and Pevsner [18] say that manufacture was by Hardman & Co, but the authority for that cannot be traced, and it is not confirmed by thorough searches in the Hardman Archive. This was a very beautiful window, and the patterned parts remain so, but there has been much paint loss from the main scenes.

A systematic high resolution digital record of all the windows, including the plain ones, has been made from both sides. Cleaning, repair and protection is being planned all round. I am very grateful to Fr Michael Fisher, Peter Howell, Joseph Elders, Stanley Shepherd, Alastair Carew-Cox, Margaret Belcher, Pam Ross, and Paul & Paula San Casciani for input, but all mistakes and uncredited speculations are mine. Systematic research in the Hardman Archive at Birmingham Central Library was undertaken for me by Mrs PA Ross, AGRA Member.

- 1 October 2009 John Jones


ORO = Oxfordshire Record Office; JOJ = Jackson’s Oxford Journal; PR = St Cross Holywell Parish Registers (originals at ORO in PAR 199; transcripts available from the Oxfordshire Family History Society); VM = St Cross Holywell Vestry Minute Book 1782-1964 (ORO PAR 199/2/A1/1).


1. A Clark (ed.), “Survey of the Antiquities of the City of Oxford”, composed in 1661-6, by Anthony Wood III [Oxford Hist Soc, 1899, XXXVII], 188.

2. History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Oxford, printed and published for subscribers only by Robert Gardner, Peterborough, 1852, 302-3.

3. Oxfordshire Rec. Soc., 2008, XXXV, 75.

4. Louisa Elvey was buried 31 July 1868 [PR] and her name is on a memorial in the Churchyard, which records that she was the second wife of Stephen Elvey Mus. Doc. She left £250 for stained glass windows in St Cross Church: the 1870-1885 account book for her Trust survives as ORO PAR 199/13/F2/1.

5. Hardman & Co correspondence with HB Walton and WR Bowden 1870-1874, Hardman Archive, Birmingham Central Library.

6. Hardman & Co correspondence with Knowles & Son 1890, Hardman Archive, Birmingham Central Library.

7. VM 28 Nov 1901; Powell Order Book, V&A AAD/1977/1.

8. Oxfordshire Rec. Soc., 2008, XXXV, 75.

9. History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Oxford, printed and published for subscribers only by Robert Gardner, Peterborough, 1852, 302-3.

10. SA Shepherd, The Stained Glass of A.W.N. Pugin, 2009, 42.

11 M Fisher, Hardman of Birmingham, 2008. Appendix.

12. Oct 1873 has a report on the installation; the 1892 Faculty is in ORO MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c1929.

13. VM 14 Oct 1869: “the gift of a Memorial Stained Glass Window in the north Aisle of the Church” was accepted. By a process of elimination, this can only have been the Orchard window.

14. Hardman & Co correspondence with HB Walton and WR Bowden 1870-1874, Hardman Archive, Birmingham Central Library; A printed notice re the memorial to HB Walton is in Bodleian Library GA Oxon b 154, fo 16.

15. J Elders, Pastoral Measure Report: Oxford (Holywell), St Cross, 2007.

16. Chapel Studio Stained Glass Ltd with Paul San Casciani Stained Glass Consultants, Condition Report on the Stained Glass in St Cross Church Oxford, 2009.

17. JOJ, Dec 15 1855; VM 28 Nov 1901. The relocation was undertaken by James Powell & Sons and the new (present) position is confirmed by the Order Book entry cited in note 7.

18. J Sherwood and N Pevsner, Oxfordshire, 1974, 291.

- Anna Sander

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