Stained Glass Makers through the Centuries
Years of Decline
The tradition of stained glass making in Norwich continued into the sixteenth century. Although some of the work produced showed a continuation of the Gothic tradition artisans were beginning to be influenced by continental styles particularly that produced by the Flemmish and French. This change can be seen in the 1509 window in St Andrew, Norwich depicting the sacrifice of Issac and the raising of the Brazen Serpent. At the same time as a result of the Renaissance (which was probably hastened by the employment of foreign artists) figures & scenes were becoming more realistic, see St Peter Hungate’s East window for the clear contrast in styles. Despite this there is no record of foreign glaziers active in Norwich in this century.
From the mid sixteenth to the nineteenth century we see a picture of destruction coupled with a high decline in the stained glass maker’s trade. The biggest blow in the sixteenth century came in the 1547 injunctions of Edward VI which categorically stated “They shall take away, utterly extinct and destroy all ….. pictures, paintings …of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition; so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glass windows, or elsewhere within their churches or houses” Not only did this result in the destruction of stained glass with the removal of religious subject matter from the repertoire of stained glass artists virtually all that remained to produce was heraldry.
The position did not improve in the seventeenth century with the Civil War and the founding of the Commonwealth which with its attack on “idolatry” led to a further destruction of religious glass. Whilst in some ways a far more serious blow was dealt in 1633 with the destruction of the Lorraine glass houses which were a primary source of pot metal glass and resulted in this commodity being rarely used in England for nearly 200 years
After almost two centuries of decline, by the late eighteenth Century the glass staining and painting industry in England has all but disappeared, firms which survived in the city relied on heraldic glazing However, the Nineteenth century saw a huge reversal in fortunes as a result of a range of factors including : the rapid growth in population, the 1818 Church Building Act (which set aside £1million pounds to build churches in unprovided areas ), the effects of the Anglo Catholic revival of worship, the restoration of existing buildings and an increase in wealth. The latter led to the growth of the “continental grand tour” which heightened the appreciation of the earlier church arts of France, Germany and the Netherlands and the importation of stained glass. Interestingly it was the latter which generated a revival not only in the installation of stained glass in the county but also of its production here.