Thursday, 2 September 2010

1910 window dedicated to Frances Leigh; stained glass of Hereford Cathedral



In the south aisle of the nave of Hereford Cahedral, the fifth window from the west depicts four biblical mothers with their children as the main figures with four virgin martyrs below them

From bottom to top, left to right
  • Dedication: “To the Glory of God and in memory of Frances Leigh, wife of the Dean of Hereford.Died 18 December, this window is the gift of English and American Friends.” 
  • Virgin Martyrs, Saints: Agnes, Dorothy, Margaret, Catherine. 
  • Mothers & Children, Saints: Ruth & Obed, Hannah & Samuel, Elizabeth & John the Baptist, Eunice & Timothy 
  • Saying: If God so loved us, God is Love, We ought to love one another 
  • Saint Francesca surrounded by children. 
The inclusion of black child around Francesca is a tribute to Frances Leigh and her work towards improving the lot of freed slaves in America, something that leads to an interesting family history linked to slavery in the US and the treatment of freed slaves after the abolition of slavery.

Frances’ mother was Fanny Kemble, an actress who married Pierce Butler. He owned significant property in Georgia, US, and inherited a plantation with over 400 slaves.

Pierce took Fanny to his plantation in 1838 where she was shocked about the slavery and became active trying to better their situation. She had two daughters Adelaide and Frances, who stayed with their father when she finally divorced him.

Fanny went on to write a journal of her stay on the plantation, using it as a basis to argue against slavery; it was published during the American Civil War, which led to the abolition of slavery in the US.

Kemble, Fanny. Journal of a residence on a Georgian plantation in 1838-1839. New York : Harper & Bros., 1863. http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/4055512?n=52&s=6

Her daughter Frances returned to the plantations with her father after the civil war, where they began working the plantation again, this time with their freed black labour force of former slaves.

Frances carried on running and improving the estate after her father’s death, meeting and marrying James Wentworth Leigh, the future dean of Hereford Cathedral, who helped improvethe estate further. Mirroring her mother in terms of trying to improve the black (ex-slave) worker’s lot, Frances saw the past institution of slavery in a more sympathetic light, apparent in her writings Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation Since the War: Leigh, Frances Butler, 1838-1910 http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/leigh/leigh.html.

Both women wrote at a time where the superiority of the white race was implicit in their beliefs, whatever their views on slavery. So if you read their accounts, I recommend reading as a counterbalance the following article on Slavery in the US

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery_in_the_United_States) and the speeches of Obama (http://obamaspeeches.com/) and Nelson Mandela (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Inaugural_Speech_17984.html).

The window was designed and made by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) who were successfully active in stained glass and glass until 1981, when bought by Caithness Glass
http://www.whitefriars.com/history2.php; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Powell_and_Sons

Also see: Hereford Cathedral: Stained glass (ISBN 978-0-7117-4491-2)


Eight stained glass windows in Hereford Cathedral are described individually and in detail in separate articles, links below 

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