HCT owns two chapels where stained glass windows by Hardman & Co. was a major feature.
At HCT’s Longworth Chapel in Bartestree, just outside Hereford a three-light Hardman window over the altar was one of the glories of the small space. This is currently in store for safety but an appeal is being launched to restore it and put it back in situ. At HCT’s Petre chapel, Thorndon Park, Essex a complete set of Hardman glass was almost entirely lost to mindless vandalism before the building came into HCT hands, creating an interesting conservation issue.
The Birmingham firm of Hardman & Co. is best known as the favourite supplier to architect and pioneer Gothic revivalist A W N Pugin. Indeed, the collaboration between the designer and manufacturer is a central one to the Gothic revival in England. Hardman’s firm made celebrated metalwork for churches too – everything from light fittings and screens to chalices and liturgical ware.
Hardman & Co. started making stained glass in 1845 at the direct suggestion of A W N Pugin. Coloured glass had been used in the Georgian period – especially for churches and armorial windows. But the revival of the medieval style with the lead between pieces of coloured glass being an essential part of the design and the practice of filling the entire window with opaque medieval style work was a striking departure in the 1840s – and part of a quest for an aesthetic drawn from pre-Reformation England.
Pugin and Hardman’s method of working was, in some respects, more modern than medieval; Pugin’s drawings were sent to Birmingham by train and the glass was produced in efficient, easily controlled gas-fired furnaces, very different from the wood-fired furnaces on site used in the medieval times.
Above all, there was a sharp and un-medieval divide between designer and maker. Pugin regretted this division and wrote to Hardman ‘Our greatest disadvantage is my never seeing the work in progress… we shall never produce anything good until the furnaces are within a few yards of the easel’. This was something that Arts and Craft movement pioneers sometimes achieved later.