Research at the Registry
Pursuing our research into the Camm Brothers window, we visited the Brewhouse Yard Registry. Documents had been retrieved from the stores and kindly laid out for our inspection. These included the Day Book 1878-1892 – a complete listing of items loaned in or out of the museum, committee meeting minutes, some original correspondence & a floor plan showing the location of the window. The 1st Annual Report of the Castle Museum Committee on 31 October 1878 mentioned that the Opening Ceremony of the museum cost a total of £5316 11s 4d and was attended by their HRH the Prince & Princess of Wales.
The 2nd Annual Report 31 October 1879 was more intriguing as it stated that on the anniversary of the opening, there was a presentation of stained glass by Camm Bros of Birmingham, although they do not state whether this was from the window itself. Cross-referencing with the Day Book, on 21 June 1879 it appears that 2 designs were loaned by Camm Bros to the museum: “ Late Prince Consorts Memorial” & “Wise & Foolish Virgins”. Could it have been these that were shown to the committee, perhaps for demonstration purposes? Because the 2nd July 1879 Minutes show that the committee “gratefully accept the gift of a stained glass widow from the Mayor & that a suitable inscription be placed above it”. Incidentally the Mayor at this time was Sir James Oldknow, also Chair of the Committee.
Unfortunately there is no record of the date of the installation of the window although it is suggested to be in 1881. The Day Book also lists two further loans from Camm Bros which would appear to be to do with the window. On 14 January 1880 1 design for Sir James Oldknow’s window & on 29 November 1881, 2 framed panels; 2 glass panels.
It was also fascinating to see some of the original correspondence from 1880, including the turning down from Camms of a suggested reduction in price: “ we are pleased to receive the order but we don’t think we are able to reduce the price from the original estimate for £110, although if we find it comes out better than expected we will make the allowance proportionately.”
Another letter states that “we will endeavour to get the portraits referred to as we are anxious to make the window as interesting as possible.” We assume that these are the portraits of the Prince & Princess of Wales as further correspondence asks that “The two panels The Prince and Princess had better be returned (that the other may harmonize in treatment with the Prince)”
Altogether a fascinating experience although also frustrating that there is little information available. It was suggested that perhaps the reason for so little mention of the window is because it was regarded at the time as part of the fixtures & fittings rather than an object for display. There are comprehensive lists of items purchased, donated or loaned to the museum but these don’t include the window.
So… we have yet to ferret out all the information we need. Quite a challenge for us but we will continue the search…
Jann Kirk, project volunteer