Some 18 months ago, St Chrysostom’s welcomed the great-granddaughter of Walter Pearce, artist of the lovely Anson Chapel war memorial window. This August it was my turn – Peter Moore, great-grandson of Thomas Grylls, founder of the firm of Burlison & Grylls, who were responsible most of St Chrysostom’s stained glass windows. My wife Ruth and I were regaled with tea and cake and fascinating conversation and background, as I pursued my quest to photograph and catalogue my ancestor’s work.
Burlison & Grylls was set up in 1868, and the firm was continued after Thomas Grylls’ death in 1913 by his son Harry Grylls until the studio was bombed out in World War 2, at which point all records were also destroyed. Despite this loss I’ve managed to catalogue – though not yet visit – 900 locations in this country, ranging from cathedrals to remote country churches, and now totalling well over 2,000 windows, as well as examples in far-flung corners of what was the Empire. Some have just one or two windows, some, like St Chrysostom’s, boast almost a church-full.
Although representing the work of father and subsequently son, and spanning a couple of decades, St Chrysostom’s windows remain essentially a coherent series. They are distinctively Burlison & Grylls in style, characterised by their architectural settings, canopies, ornate backcloths, rich colouring, and particularly by the fineness of drawing skills they evidence. While the serried ranks of saints, elders and worthies may at first appear somewhat daunting, it’s well worth going close-up, when each develop their own individuality. Particularly touching is the Warhurst war memorial window, the two brothers portrayed either side of a battlefield scene which must have been their final memory.
Fr Ian asked if I could pick a favourite from all I’ve seen of great-grandpa’s work – very difficult, but I think that both Ruth and I find a particular affinity with a subject and its details rather than a particular window; the ‘Nunc Dimittis’, the Presentation in the Temple, Virgin and Joseph, with, invariably, exquisitely portrayed, their offering of a pair of doves, and Simeon cradling the infant Christ. I think it must have been one of great-grandpa’s favourites too, because it crops up quite often.
St Chrysostom’s is justly proud of its fine collection of stained glass, and has itself documented the subjects of its windows in great detail. To see more of my great-grandfather’s work, there is much available on the flickr.com photosharing website: click here.
I feel really privileged to have been able to take my time to record St Chrysostoms windows and subsequently work on the photographs, and our visit made for a memorable afternoon for both Ruth and I, for which our thanks.