BANNOCKBURN HOUSE – Stained Glass Memories part 1

31 August 2023
Join us in this 4-part blog series and peel back the layers of history and artistry, as we unlock the grace of one of the families that lived in Bannockburn House.

The Mitchell family, Showing their commissioned stained-glass windows.

With each pane, we discover the stories and honour the past, illuminate the present, and potentially kindle a flame of inspiration of what could be!

See below for the 1st instalment of our ‘Stained Glass Memories’ which features Ladywell Parish Church.

Bannockburn House – Stained Glass Memories 

The house recently had the pleasure of hosting a stained glass workshop run by Chrissy, one of our talented volunteers.  Chrissie has previously completed some detailed renovation work on the internal front door of the house, using her stained-glass skills and at the workshop showed the attendees the principles of making stained glass panels using a metal outline of lead filled in using coloured glass pieces.  They each created their own unique panel to take away.

This beautiful art form provides us with a connection to one of the previous families of Bannockburn House – the Mitchell family, who owned the house from 1910 to 1960.  The family consisted of James Mitchell, his wife Anne (neé Rankin) and their three grown-up children Annie (Miss Mitchell), David and James.  James and Anne’s marriage in 1882 linked the prominent Mitchell and Rankin families of Airdrie.  Both of these families used stained glass memorial windows to commemorate important family members and events.

Stained glass windows have been around for many centuries and in medieval times were sometimes known as ‘the poor man’s bible’, as they could be used by the church to provide religious messages at a time when literacy was very limited.  During the Renaissance, many stained glass windows were destroyed and replaced by plain glass, and some traditional techniques for producing stained glass were forgotten.  Stained glass as an art form became popular again during Victorian times, when an alternative to mass production was sought by artists, and the architectural movement ‘Gothic Revival’ led to the building of many churches that were richly decorated with stained glass windows.

The Mitchells of Bannockburn embraced the use of stained glass memorial windows as a way to honour family members who had passed away.  There are at least four examples of stained glass memorials from around Stirling and Airdrie that they were directly involved in commissioning and which are still present today:

  1. Ladywell Parish Church in Bannockburn 1952 – to commemorate Miss Eleanor Wilson, the friend and companion of Miss Annie Mitchell, who lived with her at Bannockburn House.
  2. New Monkland Parish Church, Glenmavis, Airdrie 1924 – in memory of James Mitchell and his two sons, James Thomson Rankin Mitchell and David Cumming Mitchell.
  3. Airdrie Library 1893 – to commemorate James Thomson Rankin  – Provost of Airdrie, and the father of Mrs Anne Mitchell of Bannockburn House. 
  4. Flowerhill Church, Airdrie. 1903 – to commemorate David Mitchell, banker and Church Elder at Flowerhill Church – the father of James Mitchell of Bannockburn House.

The stories of the Stained-glass windows with be told over the next 4 weeks as we travel around ‘Central Scotland’.

Ladywell Parish Church, Bannockburn – memorial window installed in 1952

Miss Annie Mitchell commissioned a pair of memorial windows for Ladywell Church in Bannockburn (http://www.ladywellchurch.co.uk/) to commemorate her friend and companion Miss Eleanor Wilson’s devotion and life-long service to the Church, including her role as a Sunday school teacher and secretary of the Women’s Guild. Miss Wilson was known for her charity work and fundraising, in particular for the Red Cross and the Earl Haig Poppy Fund.  She also had her own ‘Band of Hope’, which was part of a temperance organisation for young people – aiming to instil in them a set of moral values based around abstinence from strong drink.

The windows were commissioned from Gordon Webster, a leading Scottish stained glass artist based in Glasgow.   Webster’s studio, and the full process of making a stained glass window from the point of commission to making cartoons of the design and the construction of the window, at his house and studio in Glasgow, are described in great detail in the below article by Gordon Webster’s son – Robin Webster OBE.

Gordon Webster — LIVES RETOLD

Miss Mitchell was particularly keen on visiting Webster’s studio at 5 Newton Terrace to view the work during construction, and arrangements were made for this through her family solicitor.

The theme of the memorial windows chosen by Miss Mitchell was the friendship of women and the following inscriptions were incorporated into the window:

Window 1: Ruth and Naomi “Entreat me not to leave thee”

Window 2: The Annunciation “Blessed are thou among women”

“To the Glory of God and in memory of Miss Eleanor Wilson”.

The image is signed and dated by the artist at the bottom of the right window (Gordon Webster 1951)

The windows were unveiled and dedicated to the church on Sunday 20th Jan 1952 by Miss Mitchell, set one on either side of the pulpit.  The great influence that Miss Wilson had on the lives of many people was acknowledged in the dedication service.
In 1956 the building for the new Ladywell Church began and Miss Mitchell laid the foundation stone. The windows were removed by Webster from the original church and he re-configured the top of each window straight across, instead of as the original arch.  They were then re-fitted into the new church, side-by-side as if to form one large window.  This time the windows were set into an internal wall, with backlighting added so that it can shine directly through the glass, in a prominent position behind the altar.  The new church was opened in 1957.

The memorial windows are still an integral part of the church to this day and form a beautiful backdrop to the services and activities of the church.

Check back for next week’s instalment on The New Monkland Parish Church
Post by Dr Helen Young
Dr Helen Young is a member of the History Team.
Catherine Bradley.<br />

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