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Medieval Stained Glass in Great Britain

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Norfolk: Guestwick, Parish Church of St Peter

O.S. TG 061270

The tower is oddly placed to the north of the chancel and was originally the central tower of a smaller late eleventh-century church. The present nave, north and south aisles, chancel, and clerestory are all of the fifteenth century. 1 The surviving glass was brought together and arranged in a medley in the central lights of sV and sVII by G. King & Son c.1960–70. In 1940, it had been in ‘an aisle window’ and in 1908 it was said to be in the small two-light window at the west end of the north aisle, which would have been too small for what now remains. 2

Both Martin and Blomefield and Parkin saw the remains of a representation of the Corporal Acts of Mercy in a south aisle window. They were accompanied by texts in Middle English. Martin recorded these inscriptions: 'Lo ye to fedyn I am redy | for hunger be gredy) | ffor Colde we quake have here Clothys & warm to make'. Blomefield and Parkin give: ‘In a window of the S isle is the portraiture of a physician administering physick to a person sick in bed, and this, 'In sicknes I pyne – Trost in God', and here is medecine. – Also a person naked, and, 'For colde I quake'; Also a woman bringing things, Have here clothes and warm to make.’ The scenes described were of visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked. In another south aisle window were the figures of St John the Baptist carrying the agnus dei and St John the Evangelist with the cup and serpent, and three shields: Argent on a bend gules three mullets or (Martin gives sable) pierced of the field (Bradbourne) ; the same impaling Ermine a chief indented gules (Brome) ; and Brome. Blomefield and Parkin suggested that this was probably for the builders of the aisle, but the marriage remains unidentified, although the husband was presumably called John. In a north aisle window Blomefield describes what he interprets as the martyrdom of St Edmund the King ‘by the Danes shooting him, &c. and their own King or leader, falling down dead before him’. Martin queries whether this was an image of St Edmund or St Sebastian, but the former seems more likely, as the king falling down dead was probably a simultaneous depiction of St Edmund, who was beheaded after being shot with arrows. Blomefield and Parkin also saw a representation of the Circumcision, presumably from a life of Christ.

The most interesting glass was in another north aisle window. Blomefield and and Parkin’s account is more complete than Martin’s: ‘A boat by the sea shore; a man lying dead on the shore, a king and several persons viewing the body, with a woman in a red habit, and underneath, 'Hic jacet corpus Jacobi, Sup. Collem'; a benefactor to, or a builder of this isle, as I take it’. In a note, 'Sup. Collem' is translated as ‘At Hylle’. Earlier, they describe a gravestone in the south aisle with the inscription 'Orate p(ro) a(n)i(m)a Joh(ann)is At hylle cujus a(n)i(m)e, &c'. Martin describes the dead person as lying on a bank of the shore. 3 It is clear that a man called James at Hylle was buried in the church, probably in the south aisle, but that a north aisle window appears to allude to him as well. However, the inscription in the window could also refer to the body of St James the Great, as the incident depicted correlates perfectly with one described in the account of that saint’s death in the Golden Legend. According to de Voragine, after St James was beheaded, his disciples put his body in a rudderless boat and set sail. They landed in the realm of Queen Lupa of Galicia and placed the body on a large rock on the shore, which miraculously shaped itself into a sarcophagus. When the apostles told Queen Lupa what had happened and requested a burial place, she sent a cruel man, who was king of Spain, who took them prisoner. It would appear to be the arrival of the king that was depicted, with the woman in red being Queen Lupa (= she-wolf). James Atte Hylle may also have contributed to the font, so a window to his name saint would have been very possible, with the inscription intentionally ambiguous. 4

In addition to this recorded iconography, the surviving fragments show evidence that there was also a series of female saints, including St Catherine, St Margaret, St Agnes, St Faith, and possibly St Sita. A second figure of Catherine is in a different style. There was also a series of bishops and archbishops, and one of patriarchs. Evidence of a Marian cycle includes fragments of an Annunciation, a Nativity, and possibly of a Coronation of the Virgin.

No evidence concerning building dates or donors is available, and the glass is dated on style to c.1445 – c.1455, slightly later than the glass at Stody to which it is related both by style and design.


Pevsner and Wilson 1997, p. 530. Return to context
Mee (1940, p. 159) refers to the glass as fourteenth-century. See also Kelly’s Directory 1908, p. 167. Return to context
NRO, Rye MS 17, I, ff.150r–v; Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, VII, p. 219. Return to context
Ryan 1993, II, pp. 5–6. Return to context
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