William Morris, Minstrel Angels, designed 1864, 121 x 25 cm
The Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was and is a psychiatric hospital situated on Wilmslow Road near Cheadle in Cheshire. Although the initial building was erected in the C18th, the hospital on the current site near Manchester was built in the late 1840s. The main building was designed by Richard Lane in the Elizabethan style. It is still a psychiatric facility today, but was long ago renamed Cheadle Royal Hospital.
The Cheadle Royal Hospital played an important role in the history of decent treatment of mentally ill patients during the C19th. The stained glass was commissioned to glaze the windows of the hospital chapel and was purpose-designed by Morris & Co between 1909–1915. Since the chapel was expected to play an important role in patients’ recovery, we can assume the windows were designed with the mental wellbeing of the hospital patients in mind.
The catalogue says the richly-coloured windows are mostly single figures of Old Testament prophets, saints and angels. The cartoons used had originally been designed by Burne-Jones between 1866 and 1896 for some of Morris & Co.’s most important commissions, such as All Saints church Cambridge; Calcutta Cathedral; Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge etc. Vitrearum's Church Art blog discusses William Morris' connections with church art, but not Cheadle's chapel.
But in 2001, art history tragedy struck. The hospital was privatised, the chapel was decommissioned and the windows had to go; only one window remains in situ.
Burne Jones, Jesus Blessing the Children, designed 1874, 98 x 44 cm
Fortunately the windows were put in storage, rather than destroyed. Now six of the stained glass windows that were originally removed from the chapel have been acquired by the Stockport Story Museum. Four of these windows were based on the designs by Edward Burne-Jones 1) St Peter; 2) St James the Greater; 3) Virgin Mary and Christ Child and 4) Christ Blessing Children. 5) Two Minstrel Angels was based on a design by William Morris, showing one playing a dulcimer and the other a pair of pipes and 6) Christ’s Ascension, slightly damaged and incomplete, was based on the design of JH Dearle. These six glass objects will go on display at the Stockport Museum soon.
Examine one of Burne-Jones’ narrative scenes, portraying Jesus Blessing the Children at his Feet. His cartoons were originally drawn between 1868-76, and displayed a background motif of diamond-shaped panels of light green foliage that was so popular in the Morris & Co style.
The only Cheadle stained glass window that looks as if it will end up in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne is the St Paul, designed by Burne Jones in 1892 and created by Dearle in 1911 for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. London.
Burne-Jones, St Paul, designed in 1892, 122 x 45 cm
Sadly the best place to see the windows together is in an Exhibition Catalogue of 37 Stained Glass Windows and Panels made by Morris & Co. from designs by William Morris (1834-1896), Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and JH Dearly (1859-1932), by Haslam & Whiteway Ltd, London, June 2008 to accompany their ongoing sales exhibition.