Pusey House & Keble College
The winter months are more inclined to produce days where favourable lighting is concerned and today was close to perfect with light cloud cover producing a bright, diffused sunlight that filled the chapels with soft, neutral light.
Today I had no confirmed visits: it has proved more demanding than expected to secure access to some chapels. Notwithstanding, I opted to try my luck visiting two locations with which I had received positive responses with regard to the research, in the hope that my arrival would be convenient.
Pusey House is associated with the University of Oxford and dates back to 1884. It is an Anglican religious institution firmly rooted in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England. Since 1981 it been occupied in part by St Cross College.
Pleasingly, my arrival was greeted warmly and the chapel was not it use so I had free reign to photograph the interior and the stained glass window. Only the East End has stained glass, and good line of sight access was possible from the top of the rood screen (visible in the photograph below, behind the altar and candles).
With just the one example of stained glass, it seemed appropriate to photograph the window in its entirety. However, it was necessary to photograph from both ends of the screen as the view from the middle was blocked by tracery.
With the glass having been designed by Ninian Comper, (his work seen previously within the Chapel of St John the Divine HERE) I was keen to spot and photograph his signature wild strawberry – something much more demanding to find than was the case at The Friary. However, once located, it also revealed the date MCMXXXVI (1936):
The stained glass images will take considerable time to process and will follow in due course.
Regent’s Park College
Just a few metres from Pusey House was my next intended site visit: Regent’s Park College. Sadly on arrival it transpired that the chapel was in use throughout the day.
Thinking on my feet, it seemed appropriate to revisit Keble College in the hope that the maintenance work within the chapel was now complete. This site is understandably very sensitive where photography is concerned – it houses a number of outstanding works of art. On arrival I was advised that the chapel work was now complete and the building was not being throughout the day. However, it was necessary for the Porter’s Lodge to confirm with the Archivist that I had permission to photograph – a pleasingly quick process!
Keble College was established in 1870 by Edward Pusey as a monument to John Keble, a leading member of the Oxford Movement which sought to stress the Catholic nature of the Church of England. Its distinctive red-brick neo-gothic buildings were designed by William Butterfield.
The Chapel and Hall (also designed by Butterfield) were built later than the accommodation blocks thanks to full funding by William Gibbs. Keble College Chapel was opened on St Mark’s Day (25 April) 1876 and is one of the grandest ecclesiastical spaces in Oxford.
The chapel is a vast space with high roof and delights with its use of colour. It is decorated throughout with lavish mosaics at a height where stained glass would typically be found. These illustrate God’s dealings with his people and, together with all of the stained glass, were designed by Alexander Gibbs under the watchful eye of Butterfield.
It has been some years since last I sung in the chapel and I had forgotted quite how stunning it was. However, before any of my usual work, I felt it necessary to revisit the Side Chapel, home to William Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World:
Photographing the stained glass within Keble College Chapel presented difficulties that I had not anticipated. While the very high vaulted ceiling was always going to result in images with pronounced converging verticals, I had failed to remember the existence of the extensive mosaic work that occupies wall space more typically filed with glass. As a result, the stained glass only exists very high up within the building. Exasperating this problem was use of traditional pews rather than collegiate seating which affords raised locations for mounting a tripod. Therefore, photography of any windows on the north or south side was impractical, leaving only the ends of the chapel, with the most impressive glass featuring appropriately in the East End.
The impressive East Window by Alexander Gibbs (1873) is composed of five cinque-fold lights portraying the Ascension of our Lord, watched by the Virgin Mary and the Eleven Disciples, with ministering angels depicted in the tracery. Much of the finer detail would be lost in a photograph of the entire window, so I opted to focus upon the central light.
UPDATE: 10 November, 2019
Through pressures of time, the edit below is provisional. The light lends itself well to the removal of tie bars in addition to the removal of some of the subsequently added calmes that hide repaired damage to the glass. It is my intention to reedit the work in the near future. EXIF data:
- Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
- Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II USM
- 400mm | ISO-50 | f/8.0
- Exposure range: 1/80sec – 1/6sec
The image is the result of the exposure blending by hand of 12 separate images.