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News > Archives > The Windows in the Assembly Hall by Clive Bartram

The Windows in the Assembly Hall by Clive Bartram

Learn more about the history of the School Hall's windows in this fascinating piece of research by our School Archivist

The windows as you see them in 2022 flanking the assembly hall started off life in 1902 at the end of the hall facing the pupils and staff as they sat in assembly. They were designed by James Powell, Founder of the famous Whitefriars company and cost approximately £100 each to make, which equates to about £10,000 each in today’s money.  A princely sum!  The inspiration for the windows (tinted not stained by the way; there’s a difference!) stemmed from the School wanting to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.  Here is the original letter posted in the summer edition of the school magazine, Chips and Sparks in 1897:

Remember, in 1897 the School was still very small, with no outside playground (that was to arrive thirty years later) and surrounded by a laundry, a pub and some fairly unprepossessing low rent housing (now million-pound houses!). And thus, from this original letter in the school magazine, the germ of an idea was set in motion. The main factors in play here were money (of course), the content of the windows, and whether Victoria was going to stay the course long enough to see them finished. The answers to these were: lots, biblical women, and alas, no.

So, a lot of money needed to be raised, and this proved to be the main hurdle that held back the installation of the windows. James Powell of Whitefriars Glass Works was employed to design and make the windows. Here it is, all laid down in the spring edition of the school magazine.

Poor Miss Hutchinson. I wonder what she was doing the rest of the time? We shall never know!!
So, the ideas had been laid down. The representation of the Queen as both a young woman, and in her dotage flanked by the six virtues as epitomised by six women of the bible, three from the Old Testament and supposedly three from the New Testament. Which of these virtues would you pick as the most important? 

Justice; Truth; Humility; Faith (Constancy); Hope (Fortitude); Love (Charity). 

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians may have the answer!

And as you will see from our present-day windows, these ideas were quite radically changed between conception and outcome.

The Main Hall from the turn of the last century
The dining room we use now below ground level was at that time a series of small and boxy rooms, known as the crypt! And the place where the girls and staff sheltered when the doodlebugs dropped their bombs in the First World War. 
The final word of this chapter of the windows comes from the 1902 magazine.  Note the first paragraph asking the girls in future generations to remember Queen Victoria, who oversaw “three generations of Englishwomen and sixty years of change and prosperity”.  As you can see, the idea of New Testament women was lost somewhere along the way along with the six female poets. We have now six Old Testament women.  The school flower of the time was the daisy, and this is prominent in all the windows.  

This illustration of the hall is from around the time of the First World War, maybe a little later.  Note the windows in their original position, and also see the mighty organ siting at the side of the hall.  I say bring back the organ! The actual windows, for a reason I have yet to unearth, eventually chose women only from the Old Testament.  If anyone could shed light on this or has an intelligent idea let me know!

Above, from Graham Street Memories (published 1931) is the full list of the windows, describing what they represent.

Recent times
When the Hall was extended back in 2009, the windows had to be moved as the wall housing them was destined to be knocked down. Here is what our Facilities Manager has to say about this difficult operation:“The work to the windows was carried out in 2009 and they were reinstated during the February half term (2010) in their new location ready for the start of term. The architect responsible for the cleaning and repairs to the windows was from Lawray Architects (Mr Martin Fox) who was the lead architect for the whole of the Carmel Hall work and extension of the main school hall and dining room." In 2009 they would have been over 100 years old and survivors of both First World War zeppelin raids and the Second World War Blitz.  
So, next time you are in the main hall take a moment to appreciate and enjoy our stained-glass windows, borne out of a love for Queen Victoria and for over a century now imbuing all that Francis Holland School stands for: Constancy, Justice, Humility, Truth, Fortitude, and Love.

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