hile still studying drawing, and before being articled to G. F. Bodley, the young Ninian Comper assisted at the stained glass studio of C. E. Kempe. What he learned there inspired a lasting love of the medium, and he would work in it, to acclaim, for the rest of his long life.
His first commission for church windows was for the small church at Drayton St. Leonard, near Oxford, in 1892, by which time he had "already grasped and mastered the art" (Hope 93). He kept rather aloof from either PreRaphaelite or Arts and Crafts trends, working more traditionally with "late medieval precedent" (Symondson). In technique, however, he was adventurous: "His experiments in painted glass employed glass of strong but delicate tone on white grounds decorated with yellow stain. He revived the medieval practice of making blue glass in clay, rather than iron, pots using sand and seaweed" (Symondson). Such was his reputation in this area that he worked extensively in Westminster Abbey:
In 1907 the Dean of Westminster approached Comper to design a series of eight stained glass windows for the north side of the nave depicting figures of kings associated with the Abbey together with an abbot of Westminster from the same era. These windows form memorials to engineers and scientists Henry Royce, Charles Parsons, John Wolfe Barry, Benjamin Baker, Lord Strathcona and Lord Kelvin. There is also a memorial window to the Royal Army Medical Corps and one to British prisoners of war who died in Germany during the 1914-18 war. He also designed a separate window to John Bunyan in the north transept and a window in the east triforium. ["Sir Ninian Comper"]
No wonder then that he was commissioned for the east window and another window at the prosperous Christ Church, Esher, with its royal connections — and for windows in many other churches, too. From 1903 Comper "signed" his windows with a wild strawberry, as can be seen in the window here, in loving memory of his father, who had been stricken down when offering strawberries to some parish children (Hope 96). — Jacqueline Banerjee
Works in Stained Glass
- East window (The Last Supper), Christ Church, Esher
- Caritas and Fides, Christ Church, Esher
- Baptistry window, Holy Trinity, Northwood
- The Coronation of the Virgin, St Barnabas, Pimlico
- The Nativity, St Barnabas, Pimlico
- East Window (Christ in Majesty), Southwark Cathedral
Eberhard, Robert. "Stained Glass Windows at Christ Church." Church Stained Glass Windows. Web. 7 November 2015.
Hope, Michael. "Sir John Ninian Comper, 1864–1960." Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects 3 (1984): 90–99.
Nairn, Ian, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Rev. Bridget Cherry. Surrey: Buildings of England. London: Penguin, 1971.
"Sir Ninian Comper.". Westminster Abbey. Web. 7 November 2015.
Symondson, Anthony. "Comper, Sir (John) Ninian (1864–1960), architect." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 7 November 2015.
Last modified 7 June 2019