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Ward & Hughes, stained glass manufacturers

Ward and Hughes is a very well known firm to admirers of Victorian stained glass. They produced a tremendous amount of work in England in the middle of the C19th. However details of the firm's history are not easy to follow. The firm's name altered a number of times and some members of the firm undertook work privately.

The firm appears to have originated from Derby. John Hancock was connected with the Derby china factory, and, before he left Derby, he began to manufacture enamel and glass colours (one of the first to practise the art in this country). Hancock was in partnership with Nixon and Dunt at the time of an exhibition of a copy of Spagnoletto's Descent from the Cross, which had been made in painted glass. The partnership between Hancock and Nixon came to an end around the time Nixon was working for Hedgeland. Nixon then became a partner of Thomas Ward (1808-1870), who was primarily a lead glazier, although he did design some ornamental work. Ward had come to 67 Frith Street, Soho, London from Normanton in Yorkshire. For some twenty years Nixon and Ward produced many windows which were sent to various parts of the world.

Henry Hughes (1822-1883),was born at Market Drayton, Shropshire. He was the son of a butcher, but was given an apprenticeship as an artist at Ward & Nixon, stained glass manufacturers. James Nixon began to fade away from the business around 1856, and died in 1857.

Hughes married Elizabeth Curtis in September 1851 in St Marylebone Church, London, and lived in Green Street, Park Lane. They had one son and three daughters. After Nixon's death, Ward began a partnership with Henry Hughes, continuing to work from Frith Street, London. Hughes was a well known, and well respected artist, and won, amongst others, the contract to supply windows for the Guildhall and later St Mary-le-Bow.

For the rest of the C19th up to the end of the first world war, Ward and Hughes manufactured an incredible amount of stained glass work. They were the first firm to use a range of pot-metal coloured glass, resembling that of medieval glass work, produced by the barrister and stained glass enthusist Charles Winston, with the aid of Medlock and Green of Powell's. Wards early patterning and Hughes' figure compositions and colouring were quite exquisite, but as their firm expanded, so their artistic standards deteriorated due to commercial expediency. They employed over 100 people, and often commissioned other artists, including Thomas Figgis Curtis (1845-1924).

When Hughes died in 1883 the firm was taken over by Curtis, a relation, and continued production as T F Curtis, Ward and Hughes until the late 1920s. Hughes was buried in Highgate Cemetery. His wife, Elizabeth and three other members of the family were all interred in the same grave. Curtis died in December 1924. The firm continued to trade until c.1930, under Edith Kibblewhite, a cousin of Curtis, after which it ceased trading. (In 1830 Vincent Novello set up his very first premises for Novello & Co at 67 Frith Street, London).

The work of Ward and Hughes varies greatly in artistic quality, but the firing, leading and construction were always excellent. This is probably witnessed to best by a study of their windows in Gloucester, Lincoln and Lichfield Cathedrals. Ward and Hughes had more patrons in the Diocese of Lincoln than anywhere else, which may have been due to their considerable contract for providing a large amount of work for Lincoln Cathedral. The windows in the north aisle were their work, as well as the great east window of 1855. Sadly much of their work in London was destroyed during the blitz.

With thanks to The Missionary Parish of Wood Green from whose website this material is drawn

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