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07 August 2007

Glad tidings: detail of an angel summoning the shepherds to Bethlehem, in the great west window of the incarnation, by John Hayward, installed in Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, in 1997 JOHN HAYWARD

Glad tidings: detail of an angel summoning the shepherds to Bethlehem, in the great west window of the incarnation, by John Hayward, installed in Sher...

Doris Rollinson writes:

JOHN HAYWARD, who died on 19 May, aged 77, was a stained-glass artist, who designed and made nearly 200 windows that irradiate churches and cathedrals throughout Britain and abroad. His eloquent use of symbolism, colour, and paint involved a severe discipline that harnesses that eloquence to a particular and individual meaning to all those who stand before his windows. From 1974, he devoted himself to glass, but before that he also designed and made what he called “other things” for church interiors.

John was born in Tooting into a Methodist family. His father, David, was a printer and accomplished organist, from whom he inherited a charming modesty that disguised intense convictions. His striking head of fair, wavy hair was inherited from his mother Violet. His sister Betty and brothers Mike and Bill completed the family.

He was educated at Tooting Bec Grammar School, and remembered an inspiring art teacher, Jack Levin, who recognised and encouraged in him a talent for drawing and painting. Summers of his boyhood were spent in fields, leading to an enduring fascination with landscapes. Later, at St Martin’s School of Art, he was impressed by Seurat and Piero della Francesca, who used the device of figures in a landscape as a language to express ideas. Another intriguing study was images of the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna and iconography.

Although offered a place at the Royal College of Art, he decided to join Faithcraft, designing church furniture and arranging whole interiors where glass was one important element. He was influenced by the architectural principles of Laurence King and Cachemaille-Day, who were interested in the Liturgical Movement, which was concerned with what churches were for, not what they should look like. They were for the performance of liturgy.

He married Ros, an artist, in 1952, and they had two daughters. In 1961, he carried out his ambition to go freelance, and set up a studio in Bletchingley, close to the headquarters of the Southwark Ordination Course.

There was a great demand for artists in the post-war church-building boom, and his first major commission was a scheme of windows for the ruined Wren church St Mary-le-Bow. It was the beginning of 13 years when he worked on glass and “other things”.

His windows for Paternoster Royal in London (with Dick Whittington’s cat) followed Bow. He made a whole wall of glass “Images of Heaven” at Croydon. At Old Basing, the Angel of Peace window, he said, “almost designed itself”. There were numerous commissions for church furniture, altars, crosses, and coronas. He painted a series of wall paintings, and made an aluminium sculpture for St Michael and All Angels, Hackney — and the church is now Grade II listed because of his art.

Perhaps the greatest example of his enthusiasm to create a whole interior as a work of art is Blackburn Cathedral, where he designed the central altar, and, above it, a steel corona lit from above by a glass lantern (which he made). He designed chapels, painted icons, and made windows. On the west wall is another of his sculptures, a huge Christ the Worker.

After 1974, the demand for new church furniture declined, but churches still wanted stained glass, and he created a stream of windows, too many to list here. Each commission, whatever its size, was designed for its unique space, meticulously painted and stained. He had a prodigious energy, and always worked alone.

In 1989, he moved to Dorset to retire, mainly because his childhood holidays were enjoyed in Swanage. Almost immediately, he was asked to design a window to replace the Victorian great west window at Sherborne Abbey — an appeal that he couldn’t resist. The original window had lost most of its paint, and was in poor condition. There was a heated debate between those who wanted the window to be restored, and those who believed a new window would enhance the Abbey. The media picked up the story, and followed its progress through a Consistory Court and the Court of Arches.

Eventually the decision was for John’s window — The Incarnation — to be made, and it was installed ready for its dedication before the Queen in 1998. It is a brilliant statement of his personal beliefs, expressed symbolically, for the moment of the incarnation. He said that the Sherborne west window would be his last, but he found a new enthusiasm, and completed a dozen more.

In 2001, he made three Millennium windows: one, for Sherborne, commemorating the royal visit; another at Blackford, Dorset, which shows Christ as an unusually young and beardless Good Shepherd; and a monumental Madonna and Child at Norwich Cathedral. In the same year, he achieved a life-long ambition to visit Chartres, and the great basilica at Ravenna holding the mosaics that had inspired his work.

He was often in demand for lectures, for which he is irreplaceable. Those who have heard him will remember his grasp of detail, his passion for his art, and his wry humour, which revealed a perception of the ironies of life, and the absurdities of people, not least himself.

He finished his last window for St Peter’s, Limpsfield, Surrey, in April this year. It depicts a seated St Cecilia in his characteristic blues, greens, and golds, and will be dedicated on the saint’s day on 22 November.

A thanksgiving service for him will be held at Sherborne Abbey on 14 September at 4 p.m.

His daughter Catherine, a jeweller, predeceased him. His wife, his daughter Cecilia, a sculptor, four grandsons, and a great-grandchild survive him.

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