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Friday 16 May 2008

Ulverston Victoria High School

After the Great War schools, particularly Grammar Schools, were keen to establish memorials to old boys, & occasionally girls, who had served or died. That at Ulverston Vic, formerly the Grammar School, is a rather fine example. The school magazine for Christmas 1919 describes the unveiling by Lord Richard Cavendish of Holker on December 12 , as a 'solemnly-impressive ceremony'.

The memorial's cost was £194 1s 9d. It was made by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd, London, commonly abbreviated to Powell of Whitefriars. The firm, established in 1834 when James Powell bought the Whitefriars glass factory, was a major manufacturer of scientific glass, fine art glass and stained glass windows but it also established itself as an enterprise able to create memorials and ecclesiastical pieces in a variety of styles. Going round Cumbria I have a suspicion that quite a number of unascribed memorials are works by Powell. Ulverston Vic's however, is a classic example of craftsmanship in glass. The main body of the memorial is of a beautifully veined green marble inlaid with decorated black marble name panels. The names themselves are cut and gilded, as is the dedication at the bottom -

In grateful memory of members of this School who died for England in the Great

At the top is an alabaster cartouche of the Royal coat of arms. However, the banding around the panels and the central figure of St George is made as a mosaic of coloured glass, a style perfected by Powell's and known as Opus Sectile.

The cartoon for the central figure of St George in this memorial was drawn by Lilian Josephine Pocock (1884 - ????), possibly utilising a sketch by Mr Nott, the school's art master. She was the daughter of Lexden Pocock, a Victorian painter and sculptor of some repute and father of a family of artists. As well as creating cartoons Lilian was also a theatrical costume designer, book illustrator and watercolourist - pretty much in the Pre-Raphaelite genre.

Her cartoon of St George for Ulverston would be employed again by Penwarden, one of Powell's principal designers, at Bungeo, Herts; Stapleford, Sussex; the Congregational church at St Helens and in St George's church, Barrow, where it forms part of the memorial to Capt George Fisher of the 4th Norfolks, killed in Gaza in 1917. Baptised in St George's in 1879, he was the son of George Carnac Fisher, one time vicar of the church.

Powells had been creating objects utilising Opus Sectile from the middle of the 19th century and would continue to do so until the 1930s when the firm sold of much of its surplus stock including glass tiles at knock down prices so that it could concentrate on its core business of scientific and domestic glass with a much reduced workforce.

Personally, I really like these opus sectile tablets, the colours retain their astonishing vibrancy and they are of exquisite craftsmanship.

1 comment:

bargiepat said...

Here is a link to another example of Powell opus sectile / mosaic.

regards, Patrick.