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J.R. Clayton & Alfred Bell

John Richard Clayton (1827-1913) and Alfred Bell (1832-95) designed several windows for Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church Westminster. Clayton also designed the memorials to James Russell Lowell and Dean Bradley in the Abbey and the Last Supper mosaic on the High Altar was his design, executed with Italian Antonio Salviati.

John was born in London and became an illustrator and was a close friend of Rosetti and other prominent Victorians. Alfred came from Devon, son of a farm worker. When Sir George Gilbert Scott saw his work he thought it so impressive that he took him into his firm. Scott trained Clayton and Bell and gave them many commissions once they had set up in partnership together in the 1850s. Their respective sons John Essex Clayton (d.1904) and John Clement Bell (d.1944) later worked with their parents. J.R. Clayton worked as a sculptor under Sir Charles Barry and his first Abbey work was the statue of St George on top of the Westminster School Crimea war memorial in Broad Sanctuary, opposite the west door of the church. For the High Altar mosaic he invented a technique for encasing tesserae in glass to preserve the colours. The windows they designed in the Abbey commemorate James Turle, poets George Herbert and William Cowper, and the loss of HMS Captain together with a small window in the east aisle of the south transept. Their windows in the Chapter House were damaged by blast during the 1939-1945 war but some panels have been incorporated in the post war design. Three other sets of windows were destroyed by blast and two have been removed from the Abbey (Siemens and Locke). An elaborate frieze painting in the Jerusalem Chamber had to be painted over in the 1950s due to damage to the roof. In St Margaret's church seven of their windows were destroyed in the war and only those to poet John Milton, and Sir Walter Raleigh remain, together with a small window in the vestry.

Further reading:

Stained glass of Westminster Abbey by C. Reynolds, 2002

Victorian and Edwardian stained glass... published by English Heritage, 1987

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

Unfortunately the Clayton and Bell archive was destroyed in the Blitz

Field

Artist

Location

North Transept; South Transept; High Altar; Chapter House

Memorial Type

Window

Material Type

Glass

J.R. Clayton & Alfred Bell
High altar mosaic of the Last Supper

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

J.R. Clayton & Alfred Bell
James Russell Lowell memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Brass plaque with figure of George Granville Bradley and four coats of arms
George Granville Bradley memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

J.R. Clayton & Alfred Bell
William Cowper window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.

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