St Martin’s Church
Location : Brampton
Grid Ref : NY 528610
St Martin’s Church in Brampton is famous as the only church designed by the Pre-Raphaelite architect Philip Webb, and contains one of the most exquisite sets of stained glass windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and executed in the William Morris studio. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described it as a ‘remarkable building, the windows glowing with gem-stone colours’.
The East Window was the County Memorial to its MP, Charles Howard, and is a blaze of intense colour. Christ the Good Shepherd and the Pelican, the traditional symbol of sacrifice, are surrounded by praising angels. The four saints are Martin the patron, and Mary the Virgin, Dorothy and George, the last three chosen because Mr Howard’s wife, mother and son bore these names.
The cartoon drawings for The Good Shepherd, St George and all the angels are in the Tullie House Museum, Carlisle.
The figures of St George and St Martin were the most used of Burne-Jones stained glass designs, being used again 44 and 40 times respectively. The others were little repeated, and the pelican not at all.
The cartoon of the pelican was later coloured, and is now on display at the William Morris Gallery, at Walthamstow in London as ‘The Pelican in her Piety’, 1880.
The pelican design is one of Burne-Jones’s most remarkable. He took a standard piece of iconography, the pelican tearing at her breast to feed her young with drops of blood.
This is said to represent Christ sacrificing himself to redeem mankind. He set it on a twisted tree, and this shows how close Morris and Co could get to the style of Art Nouveau.
The Church was consecrated on 11 November 1878, having been built to replace the Old Church, part of which still remains, which had existed on the site of a Roman Fort for at least a thousand years. Much financial help was offered toward the new Church by Charles Howard M.P. the brother of the 8th Earl of Carlisle, and his son George, later 9th Earl, on condition that George Howard chose the architect.
The figures in the inverted triangle at the top of the circular window represent souls being received into Paradise while the four figures along the bottom of the window are angels, two with trumpets and two with scrolls.
George Howard was an able artist and friend of the Pre-Raphaelites, and a keen patron of Philip Webb. Webb had built two houses for his Naworth Castle Estate, Four Gables and Green Lane House, the latter intended for the vicar. Webb’s plan is quite unlike most other Victorian Churches, with the body of the church being almost square. Mr Howard’s interest in the Pre-Raphaelites led to the windows being designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and made in the William Morris workshop. The themes were Worship, the Good Shepherd, Heroes of the Bible, Virtues, Childhood and Paradise.
Various booklets and leaflets are available describing the church, the windows, and the men who built them. Much has been written in books on Burne-Jones about the East Window at Brampton, which is one of the William Morris Company’s finest works in stained glass.
The Pre-Raphaelite Church of St Martin’s is open to visitors all year round during daylight hours. Shop open 10am-4pm wed to sat.
For more information see www.stmartinsbrampton.org.uk.