Christopher and Veronica Whall were English stained glass artists who worked in the late 19th and early 20th Century and became recognised as two of the key figures in the modern history of stained glass. They were also father and daughter; and, as it turns out, my great-great-Uncle and cousin. They were perhaps, in our family, our earliest film makers given their ability to conjure up complex stories onto walls using, as Veronica herself said: “glass, lead and light… for lead is our medium, and light is our colour.”
They were also widely recognised as great advocates for the arts for everyone and Veronica was also remarkable for crafting her career as a stained glass artist in the early 20th century when the tradition was heavily dominated by men. Consequently, they have both provided me with inspiration over the years – even if I was unaware of their work and inspirational force at the time.
Their work can be seen across the UK and as far afield as New Zealand. So I thought it was about time to undertake a series of mini-pilgrimages to visit their works, record how the years have treated them, and to consider not just what’s on the walls in front of me, but what’s around and behind them, and what future they’re facing.
This blog will record those mini-pilgrimages, relay what stories the Whalls told to each other and the world on their walls: and imagine what stories we could be telling them, and how we would tell them, if they were alive today.
I’m hoping it will turn into reflective and celebratory history of two English stained glass artists which at least honours Christopher’s mantra: “the design of the window must relate to the architecture of the frame” albeit written from the point of view of a distant family member as opposed to a stained glass expert: but time will tell on that one. If you want a more authoritative account of their work, you can start by looking at a list of Veronica’s work here and a list of Christopher’s work here.
I start in Ilchester near Wellingborough on a cold, sunny Spring day in 2017. Where I end up, and how I get there? Just read on.