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Joan Howson

Joan Howson (1885-1964), stained glass artist, worked on the re-glazing of the windows in the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey after wartime bomb damage. She set the remaining panels of 19th century glass into alternate windows with new designs of coats of arms set in clear glass in the other windows. The arms include those of sovereigns, the nobility and major benefactors of the Abbey. Also arms of architects and others. In a spandrel of the south west window (to the right as you enter the Chapter House) is a small panel in the glass with names of those who assisted her, under the auspices of the Ministry of Works: 

These windows were designed & made in the workshops of Caroline Townshend & Joan Howson the workers on them were Joan Howson and Leonard Banks, George Braggs, Nancy Collins, Bernardine Kellam Harris, Thomas Merritt, MaryEily de Putron, Eric Szabo, Percy Whale. The architects in charge were J.A. Wright & T.A. Bailey of the Ministry of Works 1949-1951. The foreman stonemason in charge of stonework repairs was F.Newell

The windows were completed in 1951. In the south west window are small quarries depicting wartime scenes and activities such as falling bombs, aerial combat, firefighters, WVS workers, Home Guard, air raid wardens, telephone operators and surgeons at work.

She was the daughter of the Reverend George Howson and Ethel (Dealtry). One of her brothers was Major George Howson M.C. founder of the British Legion Poppy Factory (supporting disabled ex-servicemen). Joan studied design at Liverpool Art School and was apprenticed to stained glass artist Caroline Townshend (died 1944). During the Great War she worked in a hospital laundry and joined a Quaker group doing work in northern France. During the 1939-1945 war she helped refugees and evacuees from the Liverpool area. In 1945 she started working in a studio in Putney and worked on many restoration projects and war memorial windows, including some for the Royal Family.

Further information

Historic England hold archive photos of Joan at work on the Chapter House windows

Westminster Abbey Chapter House...edited by W. Rodwell and R. Mortimer, 2010

The 100 best stained glass sites in London by Caroline Swash, 2015

Occupation

Artist

Location

Chapter House

Material Type

Glass

Joan Howson
Chapter House window, south west

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Joan Howson
Chapter House window, south east

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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