The glass was repaired and cleaned during 2005/6 in a major project largely sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, for whose help the Church is extremely grateful.
The Finnie Window
The Finnie Window, the largest window in the Church, was designed by one of the foremost stained glass studios, William Morris and Co and incorporates designs by a number of Morris’s colleagues. The main feature is ‘The Last Supper’ by Henry Dearle, who took charge of the stained glass department after the death of William Morris in 1896, and some upper parts of the window, ‘such as Christ in Majesty’, and the surrounding angels are the work of Edward Burne-Jones. These artists were part of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood which operated in England in the second half of the 19th century, and this window is a good illustration of their style. They took their inspiration from early Italian Renaissance painting and loved bright, translucent colours rather than the darker tones of the early 19th century. Religious subjects were amongst their favourites, they liked outdoor scenes and their pictures had a wealth of detail.
The window, shown opposite, occupies prime position in the west wall of the Church behind the pulpit and measures 5 metres by 10 metres. Installed in 1906 as part of the chancel project, the window was gifted to the Church by the Finnie Sisters in memory of members of their family, including Sir Archibald Finnie, provost of Kilmarnock.
Dearle's "The Last Supper"
The main feature of the window is this version of The Last Supper by John Henry Dearle. Henry Dearle (1860-1932) was apprenticed to Wm Morris&Co in 1878 and spent his working life there. He was very much a protégé of Morris and became chief designer of the company on the death of Wm Morris in 1896. The Morris Studio was at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Dearle is probably best known for his tapestry and wallpaper designs, but he also worked in oils, watercolour and crayon. In common with the other Pre-Raphaelites he often used religious subjects and “The Last Supper” is a fine example of his work.
The scene depicts Jesus with the twelve disciples sharing the Passover meal of bread and wine on the evening before the crucifixion. Typically Pre-Raphaelite, the colours are bright and the openings in the wall behind Jesus look out on a pastoral scene. All of the figures have haloes but none apart from Jesus is identified. However the Pre-Raphaelite love of detail gives some clues. In the second light from the left the seated figure dressed in green is almost certainly Judas Iscariot. He is traditionally in green for envy, and a closer look reveals a money pouch attached to his right wrist. Judas was the treasurer of the group, hence the pouch; or is it the thirty pieces of silver!
In the right hand light the figure standing at the back is looking away from Jesus, the only one in the picture to do so. Doubting Thomas perhaps?
Details in the Finnie Window
Above the Dearle Last Supper the window is decorated with figures of angels, an Agnus Dei and the figure of Christ in Majesty. These are designs by Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb and are looked at in more detail below. Beneath the main picture there is an inscription dedicating the window to members of the Finnie family.
At the very top of the window, in a quatrefoil, is the Burne-Jones “Christ in Majesty” , the figure of Christ after His ascension surrounded by angels. He appears to be holding a globe perhaps representing the world. Directly below is the Agnus Dei by Philip Webb, an architect with Morris and Co. Agnus Dei is a Latin term meaning Lamb of God and is a Christian symbol for Jesus in the role of sacrificial lamb, from the words of John the Baptist “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.” It harks back to the Jewish tradition of sacrificing a lamb at the Passover. In art, as here, Agnus Dei is represented as a lamb holding a religious banner, usually bearing a cross. The words “Agnus Dei” appear on the banner.
Surrounding the features described above are six figures of angels each playing musical instruments, four stringed instruments and two pipes. All of these figures are in typically bright colours and the instruments are all more 16th than 19th century in design, features which nicely illustrate the Pre-Raphaelites inspirations.
The Finnie Inscription
The inscription along the foot of the window reads as follows:
“To the Glory of God and in memory of Archibald Finnie of Springhill and Grange who died 11th August 1876 and of Margaret Monteath Guthrie his wife who died 4th June 1890 and of their sons Archibald who died 10th August 1883 and John Guthrie who died 25th October 1865. Erected by their daughters Maryann Jean and Margaret, January 1906.”
The Finnie family of Kilmarnock were prominent supporters of Dundonald Church and provided much of the money for the addition of the Chancel in 1906. The family were in business as engineers in the town with offices in John Finnie Street, and the Archibald Finnie commemorated on the window was Provost of Kilmarnock from 1858 to 1861. His father, another Archibald, was provost earlier in the century.
Overall Design of the Finnie Window
While the Finnie window was produced exclusively for Dundonald Church its component parts appear in other windows designed by Wm Morris and Co. For example the Burne-Jones angels with pipes appear in a window in the Church of St Michael and St Mary Magdalene in Easthamstead in Berkshire, and Christ in Majesty was originally designed by Burne-Jones for St Stephen’s Church in St Peter Port in the Channel Islands. The design for each individual part of the window would be held on file in the Morris workshop and used to compose designs for specific commissions. The catalogue specifies the glass-painters for the Finnie window as Titcomb, Bowman, Stokes, Knight and Wren.
The result of blending these various pieces of artwork from the Morris Studio represents a fine example of the work of these turn of the century artists and, thanks to the recent restoration work, the window can be viewed in all its original glory.
The Gillespie Window
Mounted in the lower part of the south wall of the Church is a window dedicated to the memory of Rev J H Gillespie who was minister in Dundonald from 1902 to 1942. He wrote a scholarly and definitive history of the Parish and was actively involved in the design of the new chancel which houses the Finnie window. The window was installed in the 1950s by members of his family, some of whom still live in the village.
This Gillespie window is the work of Gordon Webster, one of the foremost Scottish stained glass artists of the last century. The theme of the window is based on Psalm 127, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
This theme is entirely appropriate for James Gillespie as he was instrumental in several construction projects in Dundonald. He arranged for the building of the houses in Winehouse Yett, he had Merkland Cottage built for the gardener who attended to the glebe and he arranged for the building of the flats in St Giles Place.
The window, which features some symbols of the mason’s trade, is a good example of Webster’s work. His particular talent lay in his sense of colour and an ability to work in high quality glass resulting in windows of great brilliance and depth.
The Thorneycroft Window
Very little is known about the Thorneycroft Window other than that it commemorates James Baird Thorneycroft of Hillhouse who died 15th December 1918.
The dedication reads “Take unto you the full armour of God.” Ephesians VI, 13.
James Thorneycroft was deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County and the family were prominent supporters of the Church.
The Restoration Project
By 2004 the windows had been in place for many years without ever being given a major overhaul and clean, and, as a result, the windows had suffered some wear and tear and had lost much of their sparkle. Thanks to the award of the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund the Church was able to undertake a major restoration project. The work, at a cost of around £30000, was undertaken by The Stained Glass Partnership of Kilmaurs, Ayrshire, and was carried out over 18 months in 2005-06.
The repairs included replacement of some damaged pieces of glass, replacement of the outer protective screen on the Finnie Window and repairs to some of the metal support bars. All of the windows were thoroughly cleaned using a non-abrasive detergent. Most of the work was done in situ but the Gillespie Window had to be removed to the contractors workshop for a complete rebuild. It had suffered severe distortion and was in imminent danger of collapse.