The Stained Glass Windows
Originally there were no plans to install stained glass windows in the sanctuary because of the cost of doing so. However, a number of families in the congregation were willing to donate the commissioning and installation of stained glass windows as memorials to family members. The three sets of stained glass windows on the east, south and north faces of the sanctuary were donated by the Macpherson, Marshall and Pitts families.
Mr. H. R. Dowswell, a designer at Ross and Macdonald, Architects, had visited the construction site in 1915. In May of that year, Mr. Mews of the church’s Building Committee wrote to Mr. Dowswell with an inquiry about stained glass windows. Mr. Dowswell advised that the church should not solicit information from firms which issue catalogues for their designs, rather the windows should be designed to fit the space and the wishes of the members of the congregation.
There was much discussion at the time about the kind of windows that would be obtained - English versus North American artists for example. The architects, Ross and Macdonald of Montreal, persuaded the Church’s Building Committee that there were stained glass artists in Canada who were able to produce windows that would do justice to the sanctuary space. Since the church was Byzantine or North Italian in design, the architects suggested that the windows should not be Gothic.
The Luxfer Prism Company, the Assistant Manager being a Mr. Marshall, 100 King Street West, Toronto, later 296 Richmond Street West, Toronto, was contracted to submit designs. It was decided that the glass would be English and the artists also English, living and working in Canada. In late 1915, Mr. Macdonald visited St. John’s with Mr. Marshall of Luxfer Prism Company.
The windows are backed with plain glass and the position of the stabilizing bars was designed by the artists so that the bars would not cross faces, hands or feet.
The windows are remarkable for their detail. The background pieces of English coloured glass are joined with lead. Then the artists painted in intricate detail on the coloured glass, which was then fired. The perspective and the intense colour in these windows are noteworthy. Light and darkness are very obvious; this is particularly evident in the centre east window. Some of the geometrics have also been embellished. The borders around the windows and the dedication scripts are also the work of the artists. The surrounding leaded coloured glass was going to be left clear but the artists felt, once the images were completed, that these should also be painted and fired.
A close look of the sanctuary’s windows from the balcony level reveals the wonderful artistry and talent of the stained glass artists of the Luxfer Prism Company of Toronto.
North and south windows arrived July 1916, and installed in August 1916. Some of the double glazing was shipped on the SS Florizel from New York in August 1917.
It was noted by Mews that the impression was that the temple window - the south - was hardly deep and rich enough as this side gets a lot of sun and the light eats up the colour with the result that these windows look better in dull weather. The nativity window - the north- was said to be darker in colour.
By May 2, 1916, the pews for the church had reached Halifax but the stained glass had still not been shipped. There was some concern that they would not arrive for the church opening in June. The first window – the south one for Mrs. Pitts, however, had been shipped by May 15 and arrived by June 12. The windows had cost more to the company than originally expected and they were not shipped by express. It was expected that both the pews and this first set of stained glass would arrive in St. John’s at about the same time. Although there was some expectation on the part of Mr. Mews that there would be breakage in the windows, they arrived in quite good shape with minor breakages of some pieces of coloured glass and some of the solder of the stabilizing bars had loosened.
The north and south windows were installed the Saturday evening before August 8, 1916, and everyone was quite pleased with them. The geometrical design was also appreciated and that the outcome was positive – it shows that significant stained glass could be designed and produced in Canada .
It was noted that there were quite a number of cracks but not especially noticeable, as they are hidden by the strengthening bars. The windows were finally completed by September 1917.
East Window (facing the pulpit)
The east windows were donated by the Macpherson family. In August 1916, Mr. Macpherson wrote the company about the east window and in particular asked for the Holman Hunt image.
In July 1917, the double glazing for the Macpherson window arrived smashed; however, the stained glass was intact. The replacement glass could not be gotten in Toronto but was sent from New York City on the SS Florizel. Expenses in connection with the stained glass were $225.21 and included iinstallation, cartage, and freight for returns of portions of broken glass for repair.
The biblical themes depicted, with their dedicatory inscriptions, are as follows:
Parable of the Sowing of the Seeds
The Woman at the Well
“To the Glory of God and in memory of Emma Duder Macpherson 1852-1908"
Holman Hunt’s “Light of the World”
Jesus Calling the Disciples
“To the Glory of God and in memory of Campbell Macpherson 1851-1908"
Parable of the Lost Sheep
“To the Glory of God and in memory of
Lucy Macpherson Bond 1862-1903"
Holman Hunt’s “Light of the World” is the centrepiece of the most easterly United Church (formerly Methodist) window in North America.
This image had a great effect on a member of the church choir. In 1980, David S. Boe, who was studying Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, was so moved by this window from his place in the choir loft that he composed a tune to the hymn, “Behold, a Stranger at the Door”. Mr. Boe named the tune “Cochrane” in honour of the window and the church.
North Window (Right of the pulpit)
The north windows were donated by the Marshall family.
The panels depict the Nativity:
Left: The visitation by the shepherds
Centre: Jesus in the manger
Right: Visitation by the wise men
The inscription reads:
“To the glory of God and in loving remembrance of Alexander Marshall, who died November 27, 1911
and of Rebecca Marshall, his wife, who died December 5, 1915. Erected to the memory of an affectionate Father and Mother by their sons, Alexander and George.”
South Window (left of pulpit)
The south windows were donated by Mrs. James S. Pitts in memory of her husband, James S. Pitts who had donated the second organ for the first church building and who died in January of 1914, shortly after the first church building had been destroyed by fire. He had not been told about the destruction of the church.
South windows, donated by Mrs. Pitts, cost $1300, shipping included, and including double glazing. She was particularly pleased that the finishing and the installation should take place before the opening of the building and with the direct supervision of the architect over the work.
In August 1916, Mrs. Pitts wished to have the geometrics taken out of the south window and replaced with images. The three lower panels cost $700. They include Sermon on the Mount, Healing the Sick, and Feeding the Multitude. These three panels were installed in late 1916.
The panels depict several biblical themes.
The top tier of panels:
Jesus as a Young Boy in the Temple
The bottom panels:
Left: The Parable of the Loaves and Fishes
Centre: The Sermon on the Mount
Right: Jesus Healing the Sick
The inscription reads:
“To the Glory of God and in loving memory of James Stewart Pitts, C.M.G., who entered into rest Jan 27, 1914.
Erected by his wife, and niece Mary Mackey.”
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