Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi

Medieval Stained Glass in Great Britain

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Norfolk: Saxlingham Nethergate, Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin

O.S. TG 232972

The church, with west tower, nave, chancel and south porch, was heavily restored in 1867, when a north aisle was added and the windows renewed or new ones provided. 1 Ladbrooke’s 1822 lithograph of the south side of the church owever shows the fenestration much as it is today. On the north, the building of the aisle obviously destroyed the nave north windows. These were visible on a now-lost photograph and showed that the first from the east (nIII at that time) was similar to the present sV and sVI. The next window (nIV) was a two-light window with trefoil-headed main lights and a single lozenge-shaped tracery light, and there was a single two-light clerestory window (NII) at the west end of the north side of the nave. A single north chancel window was the same shape as nII is today, but was placed nearer the east end, where the organ is today. 2

A series of drawings of the glass was made by Winter in 1850, providing evidence of the glazing before the aisle was added, but glass from elsewhere had already been installed in the chancel windows at that date. This was done c.1809 by the Ven. John Gooch, Archdeacon of Sudbury and rector of the church. The brought-in glass included both local and foreign panels and was installed just at the time when Hampp and Stephenson in Norwich were plying their trade in such glass. Much of the glass here clearly comes from elsewhere, and it is to be strongly suspected that Hampp and Stephenson were the source for at least some of this glass.

Glass original to the church includes the three large shields now in the east window (I) and recorded there in the eighteenth century, and the four tracery panels in the east window with narrative scenes (I B1–4), together with the canopy tops now in nIII 3a–c. Two related narrative panels were in the tracery lights of the adjacent sII and are now in fragmentary form in sIV. All this glass relates to the a Life of the Virgin Series. The series began in sII, where two scenes are missing here; the Nativity and Resurrection would probably have been here, with the Resurrection almost certainly in A1 and the Nativity in A2 or A4, probably the latter. In I B1–4 were and still are the Ascension and Pentecost (B1 and B4), with the Coronation of the Virgin (B2 and B3). Narrative scenes with the Annunciation, Visitation or Coronation of the Virgin are common in tracery-light glazing in Norfolk, but usually as single or double subjects, not part of a longer series across more than one window. 3

The glass in I and sII can be dated by the three shields in I, which were recorded there in the eighteenth century by Martin and Blomefield. 4 Martin describes them in reverse order from their present position: in light a Sable a lion rampant argent (Verdon); in light b Or a cross engrailed vert (Noon); and in light c Gules 3 chess-rooks ermine (Fitz-Simon). The main manor in the village was Saxlingham Overhall, or Verdon’s Manor, infeoffed by Roger Bigod to William de Verdon in William Rufus’s time. 5 In 1350, Sir John Verdon, knight, presented to the church, and in 1365 he settled the manor on his wife Isabel. 6 Their daughter Isabel married Edmund, or Imbert, Noon c.1408. 7 He was esquire to the chamber of Edward, Prince of Wales, was knighted in 1383–86, and died in 1413. 8 Thus the two shields of Verdon and Noon date from c.1408–13. The reason for the presence of the Fitz-Simon shield is not altogether clear. One source of doubtful reliability says that John de Verdon, who was born in 1218 and died before 1294 married Isabel Fitz-Simon, the daughter of Simon Fitz-Simon, who is given the coat of arms in light a in a roll dated c.1285. 9 A possible connection between this coat and the Verdons is provided by the seal of John de Verdon on a charter dated 1377, which bears the arms of Verdon as here, with a chessrook placed above; Birch saw this as alluding to another Verdon coat, On a chief three chess rooks. 10 The third shield does however belong with the other two. The date of c.1408–13 accords with the early fifteenth-century style dating for the original figural glazing of the traceries of this window and sII. 11

Winter drew a panel he saw in a north nave window depicting the Christ of Pity sitting on a rainbow flanked by angels with instruments of the Passion. He also drew two censing angels. Part of the right-hand angel with Passion instruments survives in nII, but with the head of the left-hand one, and most of the right-hand censing angel survives, in the same style as the other angels. The shape of Winter’s panels would fit the three large tracery lights of the old nIII as shown on the lost photograph, the two censing angels being a suitable accompaniment to the Christ of Pity figure. This glass is therefore almost certainly original to the church and can be dated on style to c.1430 – c.1450.

Much, if not all, of the rest of the glass is not original to the church. The two smaller heraldic shields in the east window were not recorded by Blomefield and Parkin or Martin and are therefore not part of the original glass, although it has been suggested that one of them is from the neighbouring church of Saxlingham Thorpe. This was ruinated in 1719. One possibility is that glass from there was brought to Saxlingham Nethergate and installed in the east window, but in that case one might have expected Martin, whose description postdates the ruination by some years, to have seen and recorded the brought-in glass; antiquarians are not however always consistent in what they record, and some time may have passed before the glass was installed. The four mid-thirteenth-century medallions now in sII were to be seen in the east window in the nineteenth century, and the chancel of Saxlingham Thorpe still has the remains of Early English windows, so it is possible that these came from there. 12 Other factors supporting a Saxlingham Thorpe provenance for some of the glass is the shield in I 3c of Thomas Lord Morley (1392–1435), who married Isabel Delapole, daughter of Michael Delapole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk (1367–1415). In 1389, Delapole and his wife Catherine held the manor of Thorphall and the advowson of the church in Saxlingham Thorpe, and Delapole still held it in 1401, just before the marriage commemorated by the shield. In addition, some of the late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century glass in the present church that cannot be original because of the shape of the panels is very similar in style to that made for Saxlingham Thorpe in the early fifteenth century. On balance, however, it is more probable that all the non-original glass came via Hampp and Stephenson. Early photographs show that the c.1809 arrangement in the chancel windows, which may have remained untouched in the 1867 restoration, was an installation typical of those done by Yarrington and Dixon for Hampp and Stephenson, with the panels set in coloured vesicas and the backgrounds filled with fragments.

The brought-in glass is of great interest, as it includes the oldest known extant glass in the county, with the exception of excavated glass. Four medallions of the mid-thirteenth century are now in sII, and grisaille of a similar date is in sIII. The medallions depict two scenes from the life of St Edmund, two Apostles seated side-by-side (James and John), and the martyrdom of a saint by beheading. They are all of the same slightly pointed oval shape and size and are painted on white, ruby, blue, green and yellow glass. In all the medallions the feet of the figures extend beyond the border. No other comparable glass of this date is extant in Norfolk; relatively few churches in the county even have windows of this date from which the glass may have come. The grisaille glass in sIII is the most important example of this date in the county and has stiff-leaf foliage with cross-hatching.

Several tracery-light panels of glass of the second half of the fourteenth century have shapes that do not fit the date or forms of the windows here and must come from elsewhere. Two large figures of St Philip and St James the Less in sIII are in the style of the Bohun manuscripts, but have typical Norwich borders. These can be dated on style to c.1370 – c.1390 and are from an early Perpendicular window. Smaller panels depicting two bishops and a king in nIII are of similar shape but slightly later date, perhaps c.1380 – c.1400. The earlier pair of Apostles can be compared to smaller figures of Apostles from tracery lights now in the east window at Kimberley. These are also from an early Perpendicular window with very similar tracery forms, and one has the same border as the Saxlingham Nethergate figures. They are, however, by a different painter and perhaps a little later. The interest of this comparison is that all or nearly all of the glass at Kimberley is brought in and includes foreign glass known to have been supplied by Hampp; the local glass at Kimberley was therefore almost certainly supplied by Stephenson. It is possible that the fourteenth-century tracery lights at Saxlingham and Kimberley are from the same building.

Fifteenth-century glass was also added to the glazing at Saxlingham Nethergate in the nineteenth century. Figures of the Four Doctors of the Church in nII of varying degrees of survival and dating to c.1430 – c.1440 on style are from tracery lights with convex bases not seen in this church and therefore come from elsewhere. They were drawn in a much more complete condition by Winter. Many other smaller panels of varying dates can also be assigned to the list of brought-in glass. These include two sixteenth-century shields in nIV 1a and 1c. The second of these is Quarterly 1 & 4 Argent on a fesse azure between 3 unicorns’ heads erased proper armed or three files each charged with a lily plant proper, 2 & 3 Argent a fesse sable between 3 lions’ heads erased sable, on a inescutcheon of pretence argent a fesse between 3 crescents sable. This is for Richard Lee of Quarendon (Bucks.), who died in 1537, son of Benedict Lee of Quarendon and Elizabeth Wood. Richard changed the family arms on the first and fourth quarters here to those on the shield of pretence. His great-grandson Henry Lee of Quarendon was made a baronet in 1611. 13 The shield in 1a has not been identified, but appears to have the arms of Pulteney, Argent a fess dancetty gules in chief 3 lions’ heads erased sable, in the upper half, with Argent a fess between 3 lozenges gules impaling argent a chevron between three rooks or ravens proper. Both shields have similar ornate borders with cartouches and Renaissance heads of c.1550 – c.1570. Other lesser examples of glass from elsewhere include in sIII a circular fragment with the crest of Sir Thomas Erpingham; in nV two closed crowns of c.1530 – c.1540 (probably originally placed over the royal arms); in nIV a fifteenth-century roundel with an initial ‘C’; and in nIII a fragment panel that includes part of a sixteenth-century archbishop saint, part of a figure wearing a Franciscan habit with triple-knotted cord, and some fifteenth-century ornamental roundels.

The glass was rearranged and conserved by G. King & Son in 1957–59. 14 Unfortunately, some of the glass has badly corroded since this work was done, particularly the original early fifteenth-century glass and the thirteenth-century medallions. Some of this may be due to the technique of abrasion used at the last conservation. 15 At the time of writing, work has begun by the firm of Devlin Plummer, starting with sIII, to protect the glass with isothermal glazing.


Pevsner and Wilson 1999, p. 629. Return to context
A print of the lithograph is available on the Cutural Modes website (, accessed 13 February 2008). The photograph was in the Norwich Local History Library, destroyed by fire 1 August 1994. The present writer made a sketch of the photograph in 1970–75. Return to context
Other narrative scenes in tracery lights are found in glass at Norwich, St Peter Mancroft (Holy Kindred); at Martham/Mulbarton (Old Testament series); and from (probably) St Benet’s Abbey (life of St Bernard) Return to context
NRO, Rye MS 17, III, ff.180r–v; Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, V, p. 499. Blomefield and Parkin mistake the shield in I 2b for that of the East Angles. In 1957, the three shields were at the base of the window, probably their original position; Norwich Saxlingham Nethergate, n.d. Return to context
Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, V, p. 496. Return to context
Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, I, p. 53. Return to context
Blomefield and Parkin 1805–10, I, p. 119. Edmund Noon presented to the church of Shelfhanger in 1410, whose advowson was normally held by the Verdons, so he must have married Isabel by this date; ibid. Return to context
Harrisson 1921, pp. 41–42. Return to context
See (accessed 22 February 2008). The blazon is in Woodcock, Grant and Graham 1996, p. 259. Return to context
Birch 1887–1900, III (1894), p. 621, no. 14143. Papworth and Morant (1874, p. 569) give Sable on a chief argent 3 chessrooks azure (Verdon), from Glover’s Ordinary, not a very helpful source. Return to context
For style comparisons for this glass, see King 2006, pp. cviii, cix. Return to context
Although the early 18th-c was a low point for interest in stained glass, in 1719 the glazier Joshua Price completed the glazing of the chancel east window at nearby Denton, about six miles from Saxlingham Nethergate. He used a medley of medieval and later panels and fragments, some from the church and many brought in. See Pevsner and Wilson 1999, p. 278. Return to context
Burke 1883, p. 317. Return to context
The following images on the CVMA (GB) database are pre-restoration photographs of the glass: 009736, 009737, 009738, 016740, 016742, 016743, 016744, 016745. Return to context
This technique was developed by G. King & Son for the glass in the chapel of Winchester College. For a report on the conservation of this glass, see J. H. Harvey and King 1971. Return to context
Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi

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