The church of St Gregory at Marthwaite, a short distance from Sedburgh in Cumbria contains some very interesting and unusual stained glass. This mid Victorian church has stained glass windows dating from around the turn of the twentieth century, designed by Fredrick George Smith, which instead of the usual religious scenes contain much more interestimg imagery. The regular iconography of the windows has been replaced with depictions of local scenery, plants and animals.
As soon as the church is entered, inside of the entrance vestibule, there is a beautiful stained glass window containing the personification of Peace. She is set glowing against a slightly dark background, so she is likely to have been manifesting during the serene peacefulness of the night. A fold of her classical-style dress contains a whole plethora of plants and flowers which she is idly dropping to the ground as she passes through the woodland scene.
What I personally found most amazing with this church was the playfulness of the colours within the glass and the pleasing manner in which the compositions, while organised for a tall window, come together to create a fully cohesive whole. This particular composition towards the back of the church demonstrates that the person who created the windows knew how perspective works as they have managed to create such a depth of distance between the Lillies and other small undergrowth plants while the trees proudly presiding over the scene don’t look awkward at all in the middle distance. There are a pair of birds filling in some of the middle ground to add a playful element to the overall composition.
This window is a delight to look at, the lushness of the wood and the different colourings of the different groupings of leaves are very reminiscent of a lovely summer’s day. The inclusion of some white pieces in the sky is wonderful, it mimics those small bands of summer clouds very well and works its way into the sense of atmospheric perspective which the artist has going on there.
This window is nothing short of amazing. To my eyes, it reads as though it is a sunset scene at a seaside location with steep cliffs. The golden colours of the sunset itself create a clearly defined region in between the sea and the sky, Having the entire scene punctuated by flying seabirds adds extra depth to the foreground of the composition, filling the closer part of the picture space up so that the entire scene doesn’t look quite so remote and untouchable as it otherwise would be. The roiling waves which can be picked out as the eye moves ever closer to the shoreline at the bottom of the image look incredibly realistic, especially when considering the medium is glass.
This window is interesting as it is the first of the windows to be showcased which isn’t entirely natural in the subject matter that it includes. Under that bend in the tree which is the primary focus of the composition, there is a definite fence. Other features which I personally found endearing with this window, cementing in my mind that it represents a rural idyll is that there is a rabbit crossing the pathway and there are two birds sat looking at each other in the trees.
Another scene of either the sea or a Cumbrian lake. The composition is nicely balanced between land water and sky once again, with the water this time appearing like it may be quite a distance down the hill. The sheep appear to be watching as the two birds wheel around in the sky in the middle distance. As the scene fades into the distance, the goldo=en sunset colours and the colours of the distant mountains appear to be merging together to form a unified band of colour across the entirety of the composition.
These two windows appear slightly distorted as they were high up on the wall and photographed from below. They do however contain the same type of scenes of natural beauty as the other windows.
The windows of Fortitude and Justice are on the wall to the left of the altar, they are the only windows at a low height on that wall. They likely predate the other windows and maybe the original ones installed. The designs are much more classical and are personifications of attributes as opposed to nature.
This last image is just the tag on one of the gas-powered lights within the church. The lights still appear to have the gas pipes connected up to them.
This church, just outside of Sedburgh is now managed by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open most days.
6 thoughts on “Stained Glass in St Gregory’s Church, Vale of Lune.”
Stunning art. the medium of glass in religious spaces is now so diverse, where once it was just religious iconography. However, whatever, its surprising what one can find in leafy hamlets ! Some window art is as stunning as those found in majestic and famous cathedrals ! A nice blog 😀
Thank you Kim, I am glad you liked this.
I agree, some of the srt found in religious spaces in small places can be fascinating.
If you like this have you seen stained glass by Karl Parsons. My favs are at Waterford, Herts and Hempsted, Gloucestershire
I don’t believe that I have come across his work
Cannot wait to get up to Cumbria to have a look at these. Long way from home though.
I hope yiu enjoy them, they are in such a beautiful area.