Guildford Cathedral Window Design

Object 65: A History of Charterhouse in 100 Objects

Our next item (preliminary sketches for the Charterhouse window at Guildford Cathedral) demonstrates the strong link between the two institutions and is particularly apt, as 2021 is the 60th anniversary of the Consecration of the Cathedral.

The construction of Guildford Cathedral was a 40-year process that spanned the Second World War, building restrictions and supply shortages, finally being completed through sheer determination in the local community, despite a shortage of funds.

Early in the 20th Century it was decided that the Diocese of Winchester should be split in order to better serve the needs of the expanding population. In 1927 two new dioceses were therefore created – Portsmouth in the South and Guildford in the North. Holy Trinity Church on Guildford High Street was originally chosen to be the Cathedral, but it soon became clear that it was not large enough and so in 1928 it was decided that a new Cathedral should be built.

A competition was held to choose the best architect and in 1933 the job was awarded to Edward Maufe. He had a strong vision for the Cathedral, merging aspects of the Gothic tradition along with (for the time) cutting edge construction techniques to achieve space and light within the building.

The Foundation Stone was laid on 22 July 1936 and building work began. However, when the Second World War broke out, work on the Cathedral was suspended and, due to shortages of money and building materials, little work happened for at least ten years. Nevertheless, the community were not ones to give up and from 1947 onwards regular services were held in the Crypt Chapel. Once wartime building restrictions were lifted there was a strong determination to get the building finished, helped by the 'Buy-a-Brick' campaign led by Miss Eleanor Iredale, the sister of Assistant Master Harry Iredale (BH1930-1950), who himself became more involved in the building of the Cathedral after his retirement. Fundraising efforts continued throughout the 1950s to raise the much-needed money to complete Maufe’s vision.

Throughout the building work Charterhouse showed a keen interest in developments, with the architect Edward Maufe himself coming to the School on several occasions to give lectures, and the Architectural Society visited the construction site regularly, alongside fundraising efforts – by 1939 the Charterhouse contribution to the Cathedral already stood at £147 11s 1d.

In 1954 an exhibition, organised by Sir Edward Maufe’s wife, was held in the Charterhouse Music School to raise support at the School and the neighbouring communities. The exhibition including photographs, models, vestments, and a pencil drawing of the Rose Window which had recently been unveiled. During this exhibition, those visiting were urged to donate – money and labour - and many bricks were sold at 2s 6d. Money raised was added to the Lenten offerings collected at a concert, and other donations which were to go towards the cost of  a window in the Chancel of the Cathedral.

The Charterhouse window was commissioned in 1955 and was one of the earliest windows commissioned for the Cathedral, with fundraising for the window being undertaken by the school community and Old Carthusians. The artist chosen for the design of the window was Rosemary Rutherford, an accomplished designer of stained glass, who was also the sister of the School Chaplain, Canon John Rutherford (BH1946-1970). Within our collections we have rough sketches for the window, showing three different concepts that Rosemary Rutherford considered for the design 

The completed window depicts, on the left a Gownboy Scholar at his studies, with Thomas Sutton standing over him; in the background are Washhouse Court from the London Charterhouse and the towers of Charterhouse in Godalming. On the right is the same boy offering his talents to Christ. Throughout the design process the Cathedral Architect, Sir Edward Maufe, was in constant correspondence with the School as he was concerned that his vision of light within the Cathedral might be diminished. The Charterhouse window was dedicated on 30 October 1955 by the Bishop of Guildford, and was officially unveiled by the Headmaster.

Through sheer determination in the face of numerous challenges and setbacks, the Cathedral was finally consecrated on 17 May 1961, with HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in attendance, although the building work was not finally completed until 1966.