George Hedgeland’s stained glass has divided opinion. Charles Winston, barrister, stained glass artist and historian, considered him the only true artist amongst stained glass artists, the rest of them being ‘a herd of glass-wrights’[i]; others considered George incompetent and his work a ‘travesty on stained glass’.[ii] Not only did his work divide opinion but his life was divided between two hemispheres: his first 34 years spent in England, his last 38 years in Australia. What is his story?
George Caleb Hedgeland was baptised at St Mary’s, Guildford in Surrey on 22 September 1826, the son of John Pike Hedgeland and Harriet Hedgeland (née Taylor).[iii] He was one of seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood.
His father, John, was an architect, later a stained-glass artist. His work included the restoration of the medieval windows of St. Neots in Cornwall; creation of windows in the Dining Hall of Kings College, Cambridge and a new window, The Brazen Serpent (1847), in Kings College Chapel. His most significant commission was the restoration of eight windows in that location. This work, undertaken during the 1840s, proved to be so controversial that he was dismissed by the College. From 1830 John lived in and worked from 2 Grove Place, 43 Lisson Grove, London.[iv]
Fig. 1: George Hedgeland, as a young man, date unknown. Photographer unknown
In 1845 George was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts as an artist. Tuition was free, though students had to have lodgings in London. Commencing as a probationer on 15 January, he had three months to prepare, within the Academy, a set of chalk drawings, and was accepted as a student on 2 April.[v] Full tuition of ten years was rarely completed, as was the case with George. In the 1850 London Post Office Directory [vi] he was listed as a stained-glass artist, so, at least from 1849, George was working in the trade, which probably means he worked with his father on the Kings College Chapel window restorations.
George became a stained-glass artist at an exciting time. The late 1840s/early 1850s was a period of investigation and experimentation by chemists, glass manufacturers and interested individuals to discover and recreate the qualities of medieval glass, the result of which was James Powell’s ‘re-discovery’ of pot metal glass. Foremost of these was Charles Winston, George’s mentor.
George submitted an entry to the Great Exhibition in 1851. It was described by Winston as ‘the best piece of English glass there’,[vii] though that praise is not as significant as it sounds as many major firms were not represented. A newspaper report referred to George having ‘made a late application’ and that ‘he was a young artist working against difficulties’. [viii] The nature of those difficulties is unknown.
As a result of his Great Exhibition entry, George received the commission for the west window of Norwich Cathedral, preliminary drawings for which were on display by the end of 1851.[ix]
From 1852 to 1859 he created at least 36 windows in 27 locations, initially working out of Grove Place and later from York Place, now part of Baker Street near Portman Square.[x] When George emigrated to Australia in 1859 the York Place studio was taken over by architect and stained-glass artist Frederick Preedy.[xi]
In terms of identifying George’s stained-glass work, there are four broad categories:
- Windows which are signed or for which there is contemporary source material that confirms the identification;
- Windows for which there is non-contemporary attribution (for example, surveys of churches from the 1860s);
- Windows attributed on stylistic grounds by modern commentators;
- Windows described as being by ‘Hedgeland’, but it is unclear if the reference means father or son
Also, there are ‘phantom’ windows; those ascribed to him that he did not create, for instance, windows for Glasgow Cathedral. There may be more windows in England yet to be identified as being by George. There is the strong possibility that there are windows in Wales that fall into this category. In an obituary published in 1898 there is reference to his windows in ‘England and Wales’.[xii]
In this brief survey of George’s work four windows will be highlighted: the earliest (Hasfield); his first use of the newly developed James Powell pot metal glass (Sharow); his largest commission (Norwich Cathedral) and the most interesting, archaeologically speaking (Ely Cathedral).
The earliest known George Hedgeland window is in St Mary’s, Hasfield in Gloucestershire.[xiii] This is signed and dated 1852. It is a two-light window and depicts two angels with scrolls; similar images would later be used in the tracery of the west window of Norwich Cathedral. There is no memorial dedication obvious on the photographs of this window nor contemporary newspaper reports to provide any further detail.
George used the newly developed James Powell pot metal glass for the first time in his window at St John’s, Sharow, a small village outside Ripon in Yorkshire. The use at Sharow, whilst the first by Hedgeland, was the fourth time it had been used, the three earlier instances being at the Temple Church, a church in Staffordshire and the east window of Buckland church near Dover.[xiv]
Fig. 2: George Hedgeland, east window, 1853, St John’s, Sharow, Yorkshire, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
Figs. 3, 4, 5: George Hedgeland, Descent from the Cross (after Raphael); The Ascension (after Raphael); The Resurrection (after Raphael); details of east window, 1853, St John’s, Sharow, Yorkshire, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
Figs. 6, 7, 8: George Hedgeland, Christ disputing with the doctors; Nativity (after Guido Reni); Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist (after Raphael); details of east window, 1853, St John’s Sharow, Yorkshire, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
The Sharow window consists of six major images: Descent from the Cross; Ascension; Resurrection; Christ disputing with the doctors; Nativity; Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist. It was the gift of Catherine Mason of Copt Hewick in 1853. Four of these images Descent from the Cross, Ascension, Resurrection and Christ’s baptism are after Raphael; the Nativity, after Guido Reni and no artistic match has been located for Christ disputing with the doctors. At some point in its history it was covered with a wash to dull its colours. Now, as part of a Heritage Lottery funding grant, that wash has been removed and the original colours revealed, though the images reproduced in this article were taken before that occurred.
In September 1854, George’s masterpiece, the west window of Norwich Cathedral, was unveiled. It was a memorial to Bishop Edward Stanley who had died in 1849. It consists of six major scenes, each of which is based on a known artwork: Adoration of the Magi (after Raphael); Ascension (after Raphael); Christ blessing little children (after Benjamin West); Finding of Moses (after Raphael); The Brazen Serpent (after Charles Le Brun); Moses and the Tablets of the Law (after Raphael).
Fig. 9: George Hedgeland, west window of Norwich Cathedral, 1854, Norfolk, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
This window was heavily criticized by Mr Harrod, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA).[xv] He espoused artistic, philosophical and ecclesiastical arguments including the disunity of the subjects, the unnatural size of the human figure, and the inappropriate use of the ‘spreading picture’ whereby figures were being ‘impaled and amputated by the mullions’. Sir Samuel Bignold, while neither agreeing nor disagreeing with Mr Harrod’s thesis, stated it would be difficult to raise £1500 to replace the newly installed window![xvi] Though a lively debate with counter arguments ensued in later issues of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Harrod was by no means the only critic.
Figs. 10, 11, 12: George Hedgeland, Adoration of the magi (after Raphael); The Ascension (after Raphael); Christ blessing little children (after Benjamin West); details of west window Norwich Cathedral 1854, Norfolk, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
Figs. 13, 14, 15: George Hedgeland, Finding of Moses (after Raphael); The Brazen Serpent (after Charles le Brun); Moses and the Tablets of the Law (after Raphael), details of west window Norwich Cathedral, 1854, Norfolk, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
‘Mr Hedgeland, a friend of Mr Winston’s, labours in the naturalistic style, having unfortunately been led away by the delusion that stained glass is to be regarded as a kind of transparent canvas, and to be dealt with accordingly. The great western window of Norwich Cathedral, the memorial to the late amiable Bishop Stanley, is this gentleman’s most ambitious work.’[xvii]
Fig. 16: George Hedgeland, Signature, west window, Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk, England. Photographer: Angela Phippen
It was not merely an argument of the 1850s:
It was filled by Hedgeland nearly sixty years ago with the strangest medley of stained glass ever passed by a complaisant memorial committee. In one hotchpotch are jumbled together feeble copies of half a dozen paintings by men as diverse as Raphael, Le Brun and Benjamin West. This travesty on stained glass serves as a memorial of good Bishop Edward Stanley, Evangelical divine and ornithologist, father of the more distinguished Dean of Westminster. [xviii]
Similar to Sharow, the window suffered insensitive restoration during the second half of the nineteenth century, whereby its vivid colours were diluted in accordance with the taste of the times.
In 1980, Martin Harrison FSA, in his seminal work Victorian stained glass, commented ‘While the end result undeniably takes little account of its architectural setting it is nevertheless a triumph in its own way, glittering and dramatic’.[xix] During the 1990s Keith Roy Darby FSA was employed to remove the effect of the ‘restoration’ and the window was restored to its original colours.[xx] Now, visitors to the Cathedral see an explosion of colour, which is so bright, the window appears to be back-lit, even on dull Norfolk days.
In the north aisle of Ely Cathedral is a window dedicated to the memory of Maria Mendham Steggall née Kempton who died in 1857; the window was installed in 1858. She was the wife of Charles Steggall, and the daughter of William Kempton. It depicts Jonah and the Ninevites. This window is interesting because George visited the British Museum and used some of the archaeological finds that had been excavated by Henry Layard as models for details such as costumes and architecture.[xxi]
Fig. 17: George Hedgeland, The repentance of Jonah or Jonah and the Ninevites, north aisle, 1858, Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England. Photograph: Angela Phippen.
Fig. 18: George Hedgeland, detail of the Iamassu, The repentance of Jonah or Jonah and the Ninevites, north aisle, 1858, Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England. Photograph: Angela Phippen
Fig. 19: Stone Iamassu, Nimrud, northwest palace, room S, door E, British Museum, London, England. Photograph: Angela Phippen
George had a pictorial or naturalistic style which, as noted, was criticised at the time and by many subsequent commentators. While Martin Harrison called on him to be better appreciated, he was not the only author of the 1980s who appreciated George’s work. Birkin Haward’s monumental surveys of the stained glass of Suffolk and Norfolk contained comments such as ‘he made many outstandingly original and interesting works’ and referred to a ‘fine later window’.[xxii] Both Harrison and Haward are a long way from considering George’s work ‘a travesty on stained glass’.
George emigrated to Australia in 1859, leaving England on board the Lincolnshire in September and arriving in Hobson’s Bay (Melbourne) in December.[xxiii] Rev. Gatty, the longtime minister at Ecclesfield in Yorkshire where George had created a window, said he left England ‘because of his health’, though the nature of his ailment/s is unknown.[xxiv] However, George’s brother James Frederick had already emigrated as had members of the Tucker and Henning families who had lived close to George’s extended family in Exeter, Devon.
From 1860-1868 George lived in Queensland, working with and for Edmund Biddulph Henning (known as Biddulph) on three of his properties: Marlborough, south of modern-day Marlborough; Exmoor, south-west of Bowen and Lara, north of Julia Creek. In addition, George had interests in other properties though no evidence has been found of properties in his own name, so they were probably held in association with his brother.
Some of the details of his life on these properties are known from The Letters of Rachel Henning, first published in 1952, a book of the letters sent by Biddulph’s sister Rachel to various family members.[xxv] In 1866 George married Annie Henning (Biddulph and Rachel’s sister) in Sydney at St Mark’s, Darling Point and in 1867 their first and only child, a son, Edmund Woodhouse Hedgeland was born, also in Sydney.[xxvi] After each of these events they returned to Queensland. By 1868 Biddulph had relinquished his leases on his properties and George and Annie relocated permanently to Sydney.
Fig. 20: George Hedgeland, date unknown. Photographic studio: D. Scott, 140 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW.
George’s artistic life did come to the fore for a brief time in 1870. In that year there was an Intercolonial Exhibition staged in Sydney, in a newly built exhibition building in Prince Alfred Park, near modern day Central Railway Station. There was a Fine Arts division which consisted of a competitive section and a non-competitive section. George exhibited two oil paintings in the latter section: one of the Norwich window, the other of his window from St Leonard’s, Rockingham in Northamptonshire.[xxvii]
By July 1871 he had retrained as a surveyor and spent the next 16 years undertaking street alignment surveys in newly created municipalities in the Sydney area on behalf of the New South Wales Surveyor-General.[xxviii]
One wonders whether he tried his hand at his former profession, but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. By the time of George’s relocation in 1868, there was one professional stained-glass artist in Sydney: John Falconer from Glasgow, who had opened a studio in Pitt Street in 1863. It was not until 1875 that there was a second stained glass artist operating in Sydney: Frederick Ashwin from Birmingham.[xxix] There would have been an opportunity for George to establish such a business: perhaps he simply didn’t want to.
Why did he choose surveying? It could have been because Annie’s relative Lindon Biddulph was a surveyor or because a family friend, George Armytage, was a clerk in the Surveyor-General’s Department. Whatever the reason, his sister-in-law Rachel commented frequently that he was being very well paid.
Because he wanted to live close to where he worked, he and Annie moved – often. In his 16 years as a surveyor they moved ten times.[xxx] After his retirement they lived at Canley Vale, in what was then the urban fringe of Sydney with George being described as a ‘fruitgrower’.[xxxi] Later they moved to Denistone, a suburb of Sydney, and lived with Rachel and her husband Deighton.
Fig. 21: George Hedgeland, 1898. Photographic studio: Creelman, Sydney Arcade, Sydney, NSW.
It was here on 28 September 1898 that George died of cardiac failure, though he had been ill for several weeks with influenza. He was buried in the Field of Mars Cemetery, in North Ryde, Sydney.[xxxii]
There is no evidence that George undertook any stained-glass work in Australia. However, there may be Hedgeland work in Australia, that is, created in England and shipped out. In 1866 a Resurrection window was inserted in St John’s, Launceston.[xxxiii] ‘The gift of the Rev. Dr Browne, chaplain in memory of the Venerable Archdeacon Hutchins, the first Archdeacon appointed to the Diocese. This window is of common glass by Headsland of London’.
‘Headsland’ is obviously Hedgeland but which one, John Pike or George? Research suggests it was by John.[xxxiv] Also, in 1866, a window depicting the Crucifixion, originally intended for another Victorian church was inserted in St Peter’s, Tarrawingee. There have been suggestions that it too may be a Hedgeland window. The window is no longer in situ and when it was examined in 1998 no definite conclusions were drawn.[xxxv]
A plaque installed in St Paul’s Anglican Church, Canley Vale to honour George’s memory quoted Hebrews 11:4, He being dead, yet speaketh. The major re-appraisal of his work began 80 years after his death and continues into the 21st century. The recent restoration of the Sharow window and a publication about the west window of Norwich Cathedral (both the tracery and the glass) planned for 2019 prove that he is speaking to us still.
[i] Charles Winston, Memoirs illustrative of the art of glass-painting, (London: John Murray, 1865) p. 23.
[ii] E. W. Harvey Piper (Hon Member), ‘Two Benedictine Minsters’, a lecture given before the Society, 16 May 1907 in The Architect’s Magazine, July 1907, p. 166; also, in The British Architect, 24 May 1907.
[iv] In the baptismal register of Christ Church, Marylebone for his son William Martin who was baptised 16 July 1830, the abode is given as Grove Place.
[v] Royal Academy of Arts admission register, information provided by research assistant Royal Academy of Arts Library.
[vi] London Post Office directory, 1850.
[vii] Charles Winston, Memoirs illustrative of the art of glass-painting, (London: John Murray, 1865), p. 22.
[viii] Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Herald, 12 November 1851.
[ix] The Norfolk Chronicle and Norwich Gazette, 8 November 1851.
[x] London Post Office directories, 1852-1858.
[xi] Michael Kerney, The stained glass of Frederick Preedy, (1820-1898); a catalogue of designs, (London: Ecclesiological Society, 2001) p. 6.
[xii] The Surveyor, vol. 11, No. 11, 11 November 1898, p. 274.
[xiii] The east window at St Nicholas’, Gayton, attributed to George on stylistic grounds, is likewise dated to 1852 because the dedication intimates it was placed there (posuit) in that year. The window at Hasfield, however, is the earliest signed and dated work known to be by George.
[xiv] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 15 October 1853.
[xv] Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 196, December 1854, p. 574-578.
[xvi] Comment about the cost of replacing the window by Sir S Bignold in The Builder, 11 November 1854, p. 586.
[xvii] The art journal, no. 50, February 1859, p. 39.
[xviii] E. W. Harvey Piper (Hon Member), ‘Two Benedictine Minsters’, a lecture given before the Society, 16 May 1907 in The Architect’s Magazine, July 1907 p. 166; also, in The British Architect, 24 May 1907.
[xix] Martin Harrison, Victorian stained glass, (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1980), p. 37.
[xx] Obituary of Keith Roy Darby who died 6 February 1996 was published on the website of the Society of Antiquaries.
[xxi] Cambridge Independent Press, 11 September 1858, p. 7.
[xxii] Birkin Haward, Nineteenth century Suffolk stained glass: gazetteer, directory: an account of Suffolk stained glass painters, (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1989) and Birkin Haward, Nineteenth century Norfolk stained glass: gazetteer, directory: an account of Norfolk stained glass painters, (Norwich: Geo Books, Centre of East Anglian Studies, 1984).
[xxiii] Public Record Office of Victoria, shipping list of the Lincolnshire. Victorian unassisted passenger lists record series number VPRS 947 for 1859.
[xxiv] Dr Alfred Gatty A life at one living, (London: Bell & Sons, 1884) p. 155.
[xxv] The original letters are held at the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Edited versions were serialized in The Bulletin, 1951-1952 with pen drawings by Norman Lindsay. In late 1952 the edited letters and the pen drawings were published as a book The Letters of Rachel Henning. There have been many subsequent print editions. It is now also available as a free download, minus the pen drawings, from Project Gutenberg Australia and digitised versions of The Bulletin serialisations are available on Trove
[xxvi] NSW Registry of BDMs: marriage registration 1157/1866; birth registration 3750/1867.
[xxvii] Catalogue of exhibits, Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition, held in Prince Alfred Park, August 1870, (Printed by Gibbs, Shallard and Co., 1870).
[xxviii] George’s appointment New South Wales Government Gazette, 14 July 1871 p. 1535; his career has been traced in subsequent NSW Government Gazettes, survey field books and correspondence files held at New South Wales State Archives and Records.
[xxx] Traced through Sydney Sands directories and entries from The Letters of Rachel Henning.
[xxxi] Hall’s Mercantile Agency, Business, Professional and Pastoral Directory of New South Wales for 1895, (Sydney: James Best, no date), p. 498. In the profession section under Fruitgrowers, Geo. Hedgeland and Edmund Hedgeland, both of Canley Vale, are listed.
[xxxii] NSW Registry of BDMs death registration 11305/1898.
[xxxiii] Launceston Examiner, 25 September 1866, p. 2.
[xxxiv] ‘Window on our sacred past’ by Jenny Gill in The Examiner, 11 February 2018.
[xxxv] Email correspondence between the author and Martin Harrison FSA and the author and Dr Bronwyn Hughes.
Note from the Editors
Since writing the excellent article on George Hedgeland for Glaas Inc Research, Angela Phippen has completed another, which was uploaded to the Dictionary of Sydney in March 2019. Naturally, it has a different emphasis and concentrates more on George’s Australian life. Angela has received constructive feedback through the web articles, and she is now in contact with others, including a researcher who completed his Masters on 18th and 19th century Norwich churches. She is delighted that aspects of her extensive research reach out and touch fellow researchers in adjacent and intersecting fields of study. A very positive outcome after years of research into George Caleb Hedgeland and maybe the start of a new phase in her research.
See Angela’s DoS article here: https://dictionaryofsydney.org/person/hedgeland_george_caleb
The story continues… Angela Phippen encouraged George Hedgeland’s descendants to place his surviving works on paper into repositories where they could be conserved and potentially used by other researchers. Some works are now with the Stained Glass Museum at Ely in England (See link in Ray Brown’s comment below) and also in Norwich Cathedral. A short article can be viewed here: