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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 stained glass was issued soon after he entered into partnership with William Bucknall (1851-1944). It was completed in 1892, for the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Geddington, Northamptonshire, where the east window, designed and executed by "Messrs Bucknall and Comper, architects" was dedicated on 17 December that year (see "Geddington Church Monthly"). In 1894, windows designed by the same firm were installed in the small church at Drayton St. Leonard, near Oxford (see "Parishes: Drayton St Leonard"). By the time the partnership was dissolved in 1905, Comper, who had been responsible for almost all the design work for the practice, had thoroughly mastered the skills involved in producing stained glass (see Hope 93).

In style, Comper 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, with the information about Geddington Church kindly contributed by churchwarden John Bennett, MA

Works in Stained Glass

Related Material


"Bucknall and Comper." Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Web. 26 September 2019.

Eberhard, Robert. "Stained Glass Windows at Christ Church." Church Stained Glass Windows. Web. 7 November 2015.

Geddington Church Monthly. 1 January 1893.

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.

"Parishes: Drayton St Leonard." A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7, Dorchester and Thame Hundreds.Ed. Mary Lobel. London, 1962: 71-81. British History Online. Web. 26 September 2019.

"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 15 March 2020