THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS AT ST.ALBAN’S, WICKERSLEY
Rev.R.J.Draper (Rector 1982-2000)
The Windows in the Tower depict three British Saints – St. Alban (the Patron Saint of this Church and the first known British Martyr who died in 209 at the Roman City of Verulanium, now St. Alban’s), St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby (who died in 680 and was a great leader of the Northern Church) and St. Winifred (a learned Abbess from Holywell in Wales).
Barnett’s name can be found in two places in the Church. The first inscription is in the bottom left hand corner of the St. Thomas Window (beside the Font). In a small square of painted glass we find “H.M. Barnett, Newcastle.” The second inscription is in the East Window, at the bottom of the left hand side is written “H.M. Barnett”, and on the right-hand side, “Newcastle”.
The craftsman, Henry Mark Barnett, came from a famous York family of stained glass artists. His grandfather, John Joseph Barnett (1786-1859) was one of the early pioneers in the revival of stained glass in the nineteenth century. His name appears in the glass of St. Michael’s Church, Spuriergate in York (1821) and he was responsible for windows in the Chapter House and Nave of York Minster, and many other places. He founded the firm ‘Barnett & Son’ and his son Francis (Henry’s uncle) moved this firm from York to Leith, where it flourished for many years. Henry’s father, Mark Barnett, worked in the family firm and in the famous stained-glass studio of Wailes in Newcastle. Henry was brought up to love stained-glass. It was the family business.
The family were also Roman Catholics and John Joseph and his sons were in touch with some of the leading Catholic Architects of the time, such as J.A. Hansom (the founder of “The Builder” Journal) and his brother-in-law, Mr Maycock. These men erected many Catholic Churches and they naturally turned to the Barnetts to supply their stained glass. There was also a strong musical tradition in the family. John Joseph, Henry’s grandfather, was one of the first members of the York Philharmonic Society and Alfred, Henry’s uncle, was a skillful cello player.
Henry began his career in York working with a silversmith. He then moved to the School of Design in York, and his “apprenticeship” was completed by a period working with his father at the stained-glass studio of Wailes in Newcastle. This was one of the largest stained-glass works outside London, and a valuable training ground for young artists.
It seems that Henry launched out on his own around 1858. His first entry in the Newcastle Trade Directories is for 1858 where he is classed as a “glass stainer” of 17, Victoria Street. By 1861 he had expanded into a workshop at 12, Albert Terrace and this moved in 1874 to 7, Westmoreland Street where his firm was based until his death in 1888. So his career as a craftsman in Newcastle spans a period of more than thirty years and apart from one brief partnership (“Barnett & Snow” in 1865) he seems to have worked alone. From 1873 he called his workshop “The Victoria Stained Glass Works” and this is the name that can be found in our parish registers. He was sufficiently successful to obtain the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle and his output was considerable. His particular style is marked by very brightly coloured glass, as can be seen in St. Alban’s Church. He supplied stained glass windows for many Roman Catholic Churches in the North (following family tradition), for many churches in the Newcastle area and for many Anglican Churches. No comprehensive list of his work survives but examples of it can be found in the following churches St. Martin’s Firbeck, Ripon Cathedral, St. John Baildon, St. Mary Brilley (Hertfordshire), St. Romald Romaldkirk (North Yorkshire), Holy Trinity Startforth, (North Yorkshire), St. Nicholas West Tanfield (North Yorkshire), St. Michael Little Bedwyn (Wiltshire), St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Newcastle, Holy Trinity Ripon, St. Mary, Masham (North Yorkshire), Skarow Church, St. James Boroughbridge, St. Mary, Whicham (Cumberland), St. Patrick, Patrick Brompton (North Yorkshire), St. Cuthbert’s Blaydon on Tyne (Durham) – as well of course, as St.Alban’s Wickersley.
Mark Henry Barnett was not the most famous of the nineteenth century artists in stained glass. In fact in that great age of Stained Glass Artists he was a minor figure and so far no one has thought him important enough to document his life. But here in this Church we give thanks to God for him and for these Windows which we treasure. They are a constant source of interest, delight and inspiration.