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by Karla Whitmore

William Warrington (1796-1869) was a stained glass artist working in the Gothic Revival style whose one known window in Australia is at St Paul’s Church, Cobbitty, southwest of Sydney. Another one in New Zealand, now at the Christchurch Art Gallery, appears to be by his son James Perry Warrington. The lancet window at Cobbitty depicts the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, installed in 1857, and in Christchurch Three Angels Carrying a Child to Heaven, installed in a church there in 1864.

William Warrington trained with his father as an armorial shield painter and was a pupil of Thomas Willement, the well-known early Gothic Revival stained glass artist. In the 1830s Warrington made windows for A.W.N. Pugin.  In the 1840s Pugin and John Hardman established the stained glass department of John Hardman & Co. which became one of the largest studios of the time. In the London Post Office Directory of 1839 Warrington was listed as Artist in Stained Glass, Heraldic and Decorative Painter, Plumber, Glazier and Paperhanger. It was after working for Pugin that Warrington’s career in stained glass developed. In the 1840s he was elected to the Cambridge Camden Society (the Ecclesiological Society from 1845) becoming its most influential arbiter of a return to medieval ecclesiastical architecture.  He fell out of favour with the Ecclesiological Society as it became known when he published a History of Stained Glass in 1848 which he illustrated with his own designs. At the International Exhibition of 1862 in London he exhibited  examples of stained glass from the twelfth century.

Warrington retired in 1866 and the firm carried on under his son James Perry Warrington, who joined the firm in the 1860s, for around another decade. Warrington is known in England for windows such as the one he donated in Ely Cathedral depicting the Annunciation and Birth of our Lord and the Salutation of Mary and Elizabeth. The firm’s windows that are signed have variations on the name Warrington.

The window at Cobbitty was commissioned by John Perry (1802-1880) who was a warden at St Paul’s, Cobbitty when his youngest daughter, Caroline Isabella Perry, died of scarlet fever in 1855.[1] Caroline’s death was followed by her brother Alfred in 1856 and mother Susannah in 1857.  Their gravestones are in St Paul’s Church cemetery.

Perry arrived in New South Wales as a convict in 1820, was pardoned and became a businessman and landowner.  In 1847 he purchased Orielton Park at Narellan NSW which comprised around 160 hectares (400 acres) of farm and grazing land, a homestead and steam mill which he was already operating. The property was described as resembling the beautiful scenery of the mother country. It was advertised for lease in 1859 and later for sale. Perry was also involved in coach services, one of which passed to son Thomas, and was landlord of hotels at Penrith and one at Mt Victoria at the time of his death.

In the window an angel holds a banner that is inscribed with Caroline Perry’s name.[2] Warrington was reportedly Caroline Perry’s uncle, as noted in a news report of the visit of descendants to see the memorials to the Perry family in the church.[3]

There is another connection with John Frederick Warrington, ‘son of late Wm Warrington, artist in stained glass London’ who was working in Sydney as a law stationer in the 1860s.[4]   He is listed as being at 128 Elizabeth Street in Sands Directory for 1865. Two years earlier Warrington married Mary Gertrude Boyd in Sydney and had two children, Mary and Maud. Intriguingly his family in England, who reported him missing to the police, advertised for news of him in a Sydney paper in 1909.[5] However, it seems he died in 1901 at St Leonards (NSW).  John Frederick Warrington appears to have had some experience in stained glass as ‘T.F. [sic] Warrington, Elizabeth-street’ was reported as having two stained glass exhibits  in the Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870.[6]

Warrington Fig.1-1

Fig. 1: William Warrington, The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, St Paul’s Church, Cobbitty (NSW) 1856         Photograph: Karla Whitmore

A letter to the editor of a Sydney paper in 1857 by an unnamed writer describes the window at Cobbitty as by William Warrington and designed in the perpendicular style of the fifteenth century.[7] The style of tall canopy used developed in the fourteenth century when windows became larger with long thin panels of glass. Above the figures a grape vine and leaves form a canopy below an architectural one.  Photos provided by Christopher Parkinson shows a grape vine and leaf design canopy in Warrington’s 1853 baptistery window at Kendal Holy Trinity Church, Cumbria. Warrington espoused medieval style decorative design using more naturalistic figures with muted painted features and deep folds in garments. The limited colours used in the Cobbitty window – bright brown, green, red and mulberry with touches of yellow – are typical of the High Victorian period and hark back to the medieval. The well balanced colouring is a prominent aspect of the window. It is signed in script ‘Wm Warrington. London 1856’. The panel below the angel with symbols of the Eucharist is not by Warrington and was added later to fill the aperture.[8]

Warrington Fig. 2

Fig. 2: Warrington’s signature on the window at St. Paul’s Church, Cobbitty (NSW) Photograph: Courtesy of Jill Lummis

The letter identifying the window as by Warrington serves as an advertisement for him suggesting that anyone interested view the window and see John Perry for information on it. Yet this window appears to be the only one by him in Australia.

The lancet window in Christchurch was made for the Barbadoes Street Cemetery Chapel which was demolished in 1955 but the window preserved through the efforts of Dr Fiona Ciaran.  It commemorates the infant son of Dr Edward Batt and has the inscription ‘Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven’.[9]  Dr Batt worked as a surgeon in Cathedral Square, Christchurch where he became Surgeon of the Canterbury Rifle Volunteers in 1862.  In early 1864 he applied for the position of surgeon of Christchurch hospital, noting in his application experience in charge of a large private practice and lunatic asylum in England.  However, he returned to England with his wife and two children a month later.[10]

The window is signed in script ‘Warrington. London 1864’. It has three angels beneath an architectural canopy with an angel above holding a flag with a St George cross and banner and inscription below. The angel holding the child may have been inspired by an engraving of The Mother’s Dream by Thomas Brooks which was for produced for sale in 1853.[11] A grape vine design features in the border and geometric design in the background. Mauve, red, green and yellow predominate with the similar treatment of hair and faces to the Cobbitty window but more contemporary features, less detailing in garments and broader treatment of backgrounds. Similar treatment and colour scheme can be seen in the windows of St Peter’s Church, Brampton, Suffolk from 1863, most of which are by J.P. Warrington (www.suffolkchurches.co.uk). Judging by the date and style, the Christchurch window is his work. Later windows of his are signed with joined initials JP and W.


Fig. 3: Manufactured by Warrington, Three Angels Carrying a Child to Heaven, Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

There is another connection with William Warrington in the arrival in Sydney in 1856 of John Falconer from Glasgow who established the first professional stained glass firm in Sydney.  Falconer was reported as having worked for Gibbs and Warrington in London.[12] This refers to the studios run by Alexander and Charles Gibbs and that by William Warrington. In Sydney Falconer’s brightly coloured patterned and figurative windows were noted for their craftsmanship.  In 1875 he was joined by Frederick Ashwin from London. They ran a successful partnership in Sydney, which later became F. Ashwin & Co., fostering the careers of other artists and designers.

The window at St Paul’s, Cobbitty is a rare example of an early medieval-inspired style window in a small church on the outskirts of Sydney, and the later window in Christchurch is the only recorded example by the same studio in New Zealand.


[1] Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 1855, p.8.

[2] Cobbitty 1827-1927, Records of the Parish of Narellan (2nd ed.), compiled by Rev.A.F. Pain, p.25. http//digital.slv.vic.gov.au. The 11-year-old girl commemorated is noted here as ‘Charlotte (Sophia in register)’. Sophia was born in 1829 whereas Caroline was born in 1844.

[3] Camden News, 19 November 1953, p.10.

[4] Sunday Times, 4 April 1909, p.4.

[5] Evening News, 23 September 1909, p.3.

[6] Australian Town and Country Journal, 3 September 1870, p.11.

[7] Empire, 3 October 1857, p.5.

[8] Cobbitty 1827-1927, p.25.

[9] Lyttleton Times, vol. XXIII, issue 1399, 13 May 1865.

[10] Lyttleton Times, vol. XXI, issue 1207, 10 March 1864 and issue 1216, 31 March 1864.

[11] Fiona Ciaran, Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury, New Zealand, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1998, p.128.

[12] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 29 April 1871, p.281.

With thanks to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū for permission to publish the image of the Warrington window held in its collection.