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Dirleton Kirk Stained Glass

The small church at Dirleton contains stained glass windows which are entirely Scottish and, in a nutshell, trace the development of Stained Glass in Scotland from towards the end of the 19th century up until the early 1960’s. These windows can be viewed on an unusually intimate level due to scale, proportion and location of their surroundings. They do not have to contend with a grander more remote architecture, but can be discovered and inspected privately at leisure.

dirleton kirk stained glass


Historical Context

There remains only one example of pre-Reformation stained glass in Scotland which is still in situ at the Magdalene Chapel, Cowgate, Edinburgh, after which there came a lull in commissioned ecclesiastical works in Scotland.
The start, or re-start of stained glass works in Scotland came with James Ballantyne, a man-of-letters in Edinburgh’s gentle society, a minor poet, friend of Sir Walter Scott and scenery painter for the theatre. While his own stained glass designs were not exceptional, he was a powerful catalyst, even writing a treatise on stained glass which is unfortunately a great disappointment once discovered. Its content is thin, and in it he even espouses the use of ‘Munich’ glass. Glass produced by the Royal Bavarian Glassworks in Munich became prevalent in many Scottish Churches in the latter part of the 19th century, being produced “by the square yard: like linoleum” according to one more recent observer. It was only when Glasgow Cathedral rid itself of its dull range of Munich works, for example, that a blanket was lifted; the space becoming light and ‘glassy’ again, filled with relevant installations mostly of works by Scottish artists. Munich glass is currently, if predictably, enjoying a period of re-discovery by revisionist historians.
Notes by Douglas Hogg DA(Edin) FMGP FSA(Scot) FRSA
July 2003

CHRIST CHILD
by A Ballantine and Gardiner (1899)
South wall
The Ballantine dynasty lasted three generations: James Ballantine I, Alexander Ballantine and James Ballantine II. Ballantine and Gardiner were an Edinburgh based firm whose prolific work is technically very competent, if rather classically traditional. Alexander also lectured frequently on the subject of stained glass, reflecting its growing respectability. In this window we see a classically based composition with a curiously gothic sense in the faces and figures.
This is a very fine evocation of light and surface showing a mastery of effects created using glass paints and stains. The marbled architectural background effects are of particular interest in that this is extended by the actual quality of the glass used in the area below centre. Use of a streaky opal glass here shows a material similarity to marble itself, an effect which can be more readily seen from the exterior (back) of the window.

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN
by Daniel Cottier (Cottier and Co 1892)
South wall
Born in Glasgow, in his early years Daniel Cottier possibly worked for James Ballantine I, but quickly gained recognition for himself through good use of colour and an interest in the works of the William Morris studio as a competent designer and decorator. Establishing himself back in Glasgow, he worked in stained glass and mural decoration in domestic settings for wealthy clients and in larger corporate and ecclesiastical buildings. He opened new headquarters in London, with branches in New York and Sydney, also involved in art dealership. He died in 1891 aged 53, a year before this window was dated. His studio carried on his work long after his death. His lasting legacy, apart from the wealth of glass and decorative schemes, is possibly his introduction of the Aesthetic Movement in interior design to America and Australia, thus establishing a critical new market for contemporary art in Scotland and America. The Cottier Theatre in Glasgow continues in name the association with his home town.
More information on Daniel Cottier
More information on Cottier Theatre

ST FRANCIS
by Margaret Chilton
(signed MIC 1935. The maker’s mark incorporated the monogram of her firm, Chilton and Kemp)
South wall, Archerfield Aisle
Margaret Chilton was born in Bristol in 1875 and studied at the Royal College of Art in London. She was a vigorous exponent of the precepts of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This directed that the individual artist be in sole charge of every stage of the process of design and production, turning away from the more mechanistic and remote process of manufacture.
Moving to Glasgow after W.W.1, she was briefly employed at the City Glass Company before taking up a part-time post as stained glass tutor at Glasgow School of Art. Here she met a student, Marjorie Kemp, with whom she set up a studio in Edinburgh. Chilton and Kemp were widely known as “arsenic and old lace” by those artists and craftsmen who on occasion would use their studio. Chilton is also noted for her lovingly executed bird and animal forms in much of her work, this being a supreme example, containing an impressive array of the flora and fauna found in East Lothian.
Around the static central figure swirls a huge turbulence of Nature as a great movement carries flocks of birds through the three lancets from the top left to the lower area on the right. The repeated architectural arches towards the tops of the side windows perhaps denote the divide between the crush and bustle of all life on earth, with the depiction of terns against a clear blue background above. However, one cannot quite ratify the (apparent) peace of heaven with the incessant clamour of terns! It is a worthwhile exercise for adults and children alike to identify the type and number of the birds and animals depicted and hidden within this window.

I AM THE VINE
by Douglas McLundie (Abbey Studio, Edinburgh 1961)
East chancel wall
The grandson of the founder of the City Glass Company in Glasgow referred to in the window above, Douglas McLundie attended the Slade School of Art in London from 1926-1929.
Moving to the Edinburgh branch of the family firm, Abbey Studio, he proceeded to develop his glass-painting skills learned from notable exponents in Glasgow and, in the event, combining 20th century Scottish east coast preference of colour palette with an identifiable style of west coast modelling in glass-paint. This gives an overall burnished metallic appearance to all modelled forms and surfaces, a stylisation which renders a strongly controlled static and heightened iconic impression as a result. A very clean use of imagery and precise design work can be seen, for example, in the beautifully and carefully considered lower cameos.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Unattributed, possibly by the City Glass Company of Edinburgh, or Alex Kerr also of Edinburgh (circa 1955-60).
North wall, beside pulpit
The template for this window is that of a typical Celtic Saint seen strongly in the previous window. The Italianate reference to the fortified town in the background emphasises the rural occupation of a shepherd, with the symbolic inference of the inclusive nature of Christ’s interest in all people whatever their station in life.
This window came from Heatherlie Church, Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders and was donated by Mrs Janet Kirkby in 2001.

DAVID BEING ANNOINTED BY SAUL
by Douglas Strachan (1916)
North wall
Originally a portrait painter and graphic artist, Douglas Strachan became a pre-eminent stained glass artist bringing strong graphic imagery, form, colour and composition to works which can also be very physical in their construction. The glass used is thick, hand-made material often augmented by ‘Norman slab’ glass, used in backgrounds. This is a particularly fine example of his work, dating from just after the time when he was excused call-up to the army. A petition, submitted by fellow artists stated that his cultural significance well outstripped his expendability on the field of battle, and this gave him a reprieve from National duty for which both he and his family were eternally thankful.
He continued to work prolifically, notably for the Scottish War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle (free entry to Castle for those visiting only the Memorial, which is a national shrine). A large five-light window in the High Kirk of St. Giles on Edinburgh’s High Street, “Fishers of Men”, takes a compositional risk by portraying the boat across three perpendicular lights, perhaps as a response to thoughts on the nature of war, helmeted warriors appear as angels in both of these works.
Here at Dirleton, we can be impressed by the strong physicality of style, strength of drawing and colour, and robust nature of the window’s dramatic translucency.
This window came from Heatherlie Church, Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders and was donated by Mrs Janet Kirkby in 2003

THE UPLIFTING VALUE OF MUSIC
by Douglas Hogg (December 2014)
Choir Window, beyond the organ
The two swooping doves, each holding an olive branch, are representative of St Cecilia the patron saint of Music.
The direct simplicity of the presentation parallels the mobile and universal nature of Music which, as with other indigenous forms of cultural expression, has the power to transcend national boundaries, languages and politics to make statements relevant to the core experience of the human condition.
Dedicated to the late Archie and Amy Imrie (Amy was a long-serving member of the church choir at Dirleton), generously gifted by their daughter.

FRAGMENTS of TIME
Commemorative Glass Installation
by Douglas Hogg (October, 2012)
The theme presents a collection of references, as if randomly selected, brought together on this wall.
The central wall pieces are cast over sand which was collected from Gullane beach: the encroachment of sand being the cause of re-location of the Kirk from Gullane in 1612.
The activity of the sea is depicted within the three tablets, the lowest of which contains Alpha and Omega – ‘The Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 22:13).
Sand and shell fragments can also be seen on the surfaces of the larger cast elements on both left- and right-hand sides.
In the left recess, architectural pattern details are taken from stones comprising the old Norman arch at the vacated church at Gullane.
A shadowy presence of the original baptismal font is featured within the coloured area below.
In the right recess, the discarded remnant of an old period window suspends above the moonlit waters of the Firth of Forth, mirroring the zinc-framed window behind, giving the impression of another time, another place; an illusory reference to the super-imposition of time references.
The design appearing on the diamond quarry window fragment is based on a medieval pattern I recently discovered, and modified to reflect more of an early Victorian nature.
The cast pieces have a feeling of geology about them and point to a much deeper sense of a time-line. The un-picking of small events in isolation leads to a deconstructed sense of time relevant to this conceptual presentation.
At the top of each recess, icons of Day and Night have been appropriated from the Elizabethan period of four hundred years ago. The King James Bible had just been completed in 1611, a year before the Kirk was built; and the Sun and Moon motifs have been extracted from the original title page of this historic ‘Authorised Version’ of the Bible.
Time, myth and circumstantial “truths” combining together then, expanded just as now to give us our rooted sense of ‘reality’.
Science, then as now, combining with our base fears, predictions and imaginations deems that we are all still in the hands of a larger power, and despite our earthly and perhaps boastful attempts, ultimately at the mercy of Nature itself.