Chapter 2 The early realization of the Master Scheme

By summer 1885, the first phase of building construction was sufficiently advanced for the Executive Committee to start making decisions on the glazing of the windows. They were solely concerned with those parts of the building (the quire, transepts and baptistry) which they hoped would be completed in time for the building’s consecration in 1887. They were mindful that the Master Scheme of subjects prepared by Benson and Mason had now to be completed in all its details, a glass studio had to be chosen, and that the scheme would have to be converted into actual designs for the east windows and the transepts, as well as any of the other windows that might be donated. The selected studio would have the eventual responsibility for glazing the whole cathedral, regardless of how long it would take to complete the building. Such a commission promised to be the largest ever awarded to a studio in the nineteenth century. The cathedral records afford fascinating evidence how this process was accomplished and roles played by various individuals, notably the architect, the second Bishop of Truro and the stained glass studio.

The architect and the stained glass artists

On entering Truro cathedral today, the most immediate impression of the stained glass windows is their artistic unity in terms of form, design and colours. The design and manufacture of all the windows by a single studio, the prestigious London firm of Clayton and Bell, ensured this artistic unity despite a gap of over fifty years between the first and last insertions.62

The connection between the architect of Truro cathedral and Richard Clayton is revealed in an obituary notice to Clayton in 1913:

He [Richard Clayton] had a great part in rendering in form and jewelled colour the great scheme. Previously also his influence was brought to bear, for it was through his persuasion that the architect, the late John Loughborough Pearson R.A. was induced to submit designs for the erection of the Cathedral with such successful results.63

Further confirmation of the part played by Richard Clayton in encouraging Pearson’s participation in the selection process for the design of Truro Cathedral is made by Peter Larkworthy (great grandson of Alfred Bell, who with Richard Clayton established the original firm of Clayton and Bell):

It was he [Richard Clayton] who persuaded Pearson to enter plans for Truro, was it perhaps a gesture of thanks (a very magnanimous gesture) that Pearson gave Clayton and Bell the commission for all the glass in the new cathedral, the largest single contract for stained glass ever given.64

The second, less immediately obvious feature of the windows is their theological unity and the manner in which they function within their architectural and liturgical contexts. The detailed Master Scheme of Benson and Mason was largely adhered to throughout the later stages of construction, regardless of any personal preferences that the many donors may have had for alternative subjects or designers.

The first specific mention of the windows in any of the cathedral minutes was in June 1885, when instructions were issued to John Loughborough Pearson to contact two studios for quotations.65 Besides Clayton and Bell of London, the local firm of Fouracre and Watson of Plymouth was also invited to tender, but there is no further record of their tender being considered. A likely explanation is that Fouracre and Watson were responsible only for the removal and storage of the original stained glass in St Mary’s aisle. In the intervening six months, Pearson had evidently progressed so far on the designs with Clayton and Bell that the Committee instructed him in to go no further before they had the opportunity to inspect them fully.66 These designs were for the great east window E1 and e167 and the two transept roses N13 and S13: proof that both Pearson and the Executive Committee were already working from Benson and Mason’s Master Scheme. The traceries for the rose windows had been designed in 1879 to accommodate the theme of the Holy Trinity in accordance to Benson and Mason’s vision. Pearson appears to be the main person involved in working with Clayton and Bell on the designs of these windows in this phase. During the following six months, these designs had advanced sufficiently to win the Committee’s approval.68 Within one month the approval of the donors of these major windows had also been given, and Clayton and Bell were instructed to proceed with the work in July 1886.69 (Time-Line 2).

At the same time, decisions on the glazing of further windows were being made in committee. It was determined that the memorial dedicated to Colonel Cocks should occupy the three lancets beneath the south transept rose window s1012.70 Also a further donor, Mr Bodger, had come forward to provide the funds for the baptistry vestibule (later re-ordered in the 1930s as the Chapel of Samson and Boniface) s1315.71 The subject-matter for all of these windows was part of the typological sequence in the Master Scheme. This part of the Master Scheme was further developed when the four baptistry windows were discussed in 1887, Bs1–4.72 All the evidence therefore suggests that during this period leading to the cathedral’s consecration the main person directly involved in implementing the designs for the windows was the architect Pearson, working within the terms of the Master Scheme of 1879 and guided by the sub-committee. Mr Pearson having put down general plans of windows and it was decided that these should be referred to the subcommittee.73 Members of this subcommittee included Bishop Wilkinson, Canon Scott Holland and, crucially, Canon Mason.

The Bishop: George Edward Wilkinson

Edward Benson and George Wilkinson.

In his first year as Archbishop of Canterbury Benson made the key appointment of George Wilkinson as his successor at Truro. Wilkinson already had strong links to the cathedral. He was vicar of St Peter’s, Eaton Square when Benson appointed him Examining Chaplain, (sponsored by Mason), and he was installed in the Canonry of St Petroc in 1877.74 He organised annual summer Ordination Retreats for Benson between 1878 and 1882.75 Bishop George Wilkinson was appointed Benson’s successor in 1883, endorsed by Archbishop Benson.76

By 1886, the Executive Committee, and particularly Bishop Wilkinson, began to play a leading part in the final details and implementation of Benson’s Master Scheme. In August 1886 it was announced that a design had been prepared for Lady Rowe: the subject being ‘The Good Shepherd’.77 This was the first, and indeed to be the only, example of a donor trying to dictate the subject matter for a memorial window. The question of donor preference was obviously not part of the Executive Committee’s agenda, unless the subject related to the Master Scheme, and two months later Mr. Codd (Pearson’s deputy) reported that delaying the Rowe memorial window would not be of any importance.78 Nothing more was heard of the Rowe memorial or a Good Shepherd window.

At the same meeting in August 1886, there occurred another example of the direct involvement in the glazing scheme by the Bishop and the Executive Committee. They resolved that Mr Pearson be requested to bear in mind the hope strongly felt by the Committee that the designs of the painted windows should be executed as to be easily and readily comprehended.79 The subject was placed on the September agenda, only to be deferred until Pearson was present.80 Pearson sent his deputy to the next meeting and the resolution was passed that:

Mr Pearson be requested to consider the possibility of adopting a revised scheme portraying the History of the Church from the beginning down to the present day, say to the consecration of Bishop Benson, as suggested by the Bishop in the expression of his views for the purpose of securing harmony of design in the series of all the windows of the Cathedral.81

This minute is highly significant. It is confirmation that Pearson was implementing a scheme that was already in existence and which was in process of being finalised. It also provides a clue to Bishop Wilkinson’s own views and the extent he wished to be actively involved in its implementation. There is a gap of several months before the next mention of the Scheme, when in April 1887:

The Lord Bishop explained the plans of the windows drawn up by himself with Canons Mason and Scott Holland and Mr Clayton.82

It is notable that Pearson was not part of the subcommittee that was involved in the final formulation of the Scheme. One reason for Pearson’s absence was the after-effects of his illness in 1885, which curtailed his work for the year up to his seventieth birthday. In 1887 he also commenced work on All Saints Hove, one of his greatest churches, as well as being asked to design Brisbane Cathedral.83 Significantly, it also shows that, although Mason was by this date at All Hallows Barking, he was still a central figure in the discussions on the final details of what was eventually to form the published Master Scheme in 1887.

Mason made two significant comments on Wilkinson’s involvement as Bishop in the building of the new cathedral:

It is doubtful whether æsthetic interest was as strong in him as in Bishop Benson; but the religious aspect of such work appealed to him with intense force.84

On Wilkinson’s retirement from Truro in 1891, Mason wrote to Worlledge on 15th May:

Although Bishop Wilkinson’s Episcopate has been so short, and although the work which he has done in Cornwall has necessarily been limited by the immense demands made on his time and strength during the years 1883–7 by the completion of the cathedral and his earnest desire to carry out, to the smallest detail, the designs of the Archbishop of Canterbury for its development … [author’s emphasis].

This confirms that Wilkinson was not inclined to impose his own ideas on Benson’s Master Scheme during the immediate period prior to the building’s consecration in 1887, and that the process was indeed a fulfilment of Benson’s vision and original design.85

In June 1887, with the consecration only five months away, the secretary of the Executive Committee was directed by Bishop Wilkinson to write to Messrs Clayton and Bell about the designs of the windows, expressing great anxiety about the delay, and even intimating that delay may well result in the designs being ordered elsewhere.86 Obviously this extreme threat had the desired effect, as a later letter from Clayton and Bell informed the Committee that the Bishop himself had been to see the designs at their London studio and that Pearson would personally forward the designs to them for their approval.87

However, already some details in the final Master Scheme that was to be published at the cathedral’s consecration were being modified. Some final subjects in the north transept rose window and the baptistry vestibule lancets differ from the published Scheme. Mason’s permanent base in London, not Truro, meant he was not always immediately available for consultation. There was also a time lapse between sending the Scheme to print and its actual publication in time for the consecration ceremony, and this probably accounts for the anomalies. By September, the great east windows, the rose windows and the south transept lancets, as well as the St Stephen lancet had already been inserted. So far as the north rose window was concerned, Mason was later to admit that the designs were not shown to him to check,88 and he was later to revisit this when the designs for the lancets below the rose were discussed fifteen years later (Chapter 5-C). At the end of September it is recorded that Mason was checking designs with Clayton and Bell.89 These must have been the windows of the baptistry, inserted in October (Chapter 8), where he introduced typological subjects that did not appear in the published scheme.

However, it was to the Church History sequence in the quire and nave aisles that the greatest modifications to the Master Scheme were to be made over the subsequent twenty-five years, especially when building recommenced in 1898 after a gap of eleven years.

References

  1. All but two of the nave lancets were in place by 1913: the final windows, n28 and n29, were not filled until 1938, but still designed by Clayton and Bell, and largely to the original designs.
  2. TCM 1913, p. 210. The editor of this magazine was Canon Arthur Worlledge, Chancellor of Truro Cathedral from 1887.
  3. Peter Larkworthy Clayton and Bell, stained glass artists and decorators. London, 1984, p. 19.
  4. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 30th June 1885.
  5. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 29th December 1885.
  6. All windows are identified by the CVMA nomenclature. This is explained on the map of the cathedral windows.
  7. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 29th June 1886.
  8. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 26th July 1886.
  9. CCRO TCM/435 Minutes of the Executive Committee 23rd February, 1886 resolved that the Cocks memorial should be a window not exceeding £300. Designs submitted 28th December, 1886.
  10. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 23rd February and 30th March 1886.
  11. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes designs approved 26th April 1887.
  12. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 20th April 1886
  13. Mason 1 p 7.
  14. Mason 1 p 20.
  15. Mason 1 p 14.
  16. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 24th August 1886.
  17. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 8th October 1886.
  18. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 24th August 1886.
  19. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 28th September 1886.
  20. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 8th October 1886.
  21. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 26th April 1887.
  22. AQ, p. 296.
  23. Mason 1 p 119.
  24. CCRO TCM/1170 : 16 Letter from AJ Mason (handwritten by Worlledge) 15th March 1891.
  25. CCRO TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes 25th June 1887: The Lord Bishop explained the plans of the windows drawn up by himself with Canons Mason and Scott Holland and Mr Clayton.
  26. CCRO TCM/432 Minutes of the Cathedral Local Building sub committee 12th July 1887.
  27. CCRO TCM/1049/3 Letter from Canon Mason 25th June 1896 (Canterbury) to Chancellor Worlledge.
  28. NCA DD/716/69/5 Canon Mason’s diaries 1884–89. Visits to Clayton and Bell about Truro windows on 28th September and 4th October 1887.