The building that is Sacred Heart Church in Ilkley is a fascinating stop on our tour of local art, due mainly to the interesting stained glass it holds. The church itself mixes modern and more traditional styles , with an entrance porch and apse in the Victorian Gothic style and north and south nave extensions from the 1970s, influenced by the saw –tooth wall arrangement of Coventry Cathedral.
The older part of the building dates from 1879 – until then Roman Catholics in the Ilkley area had worshipped in the chapel at Myddleton Lodge.
The Stained Glass Windows
The windows at Sacred Heart are of note as they were produced using a technique called “Dalle de Verre” (French for “glass slab”). This glass art technique, which was developed by Jean Gaudin in Paris in the 1930s, uses chunks of thick coloured glass (as opposed to the thinner glass of traditional stained glass windows) set in a matrix of concrete or epoxy resin (as opposed to traditional lead). The deep colour effects produced using this method result in a stunning visual experience.
The technique became popular in the 1960s and 70s when experimentation with new materials was one of the interests of artists of the time – but its popularity has since decreased ,as unfortunately many windows made using this unusual method have been damaged due to heat expansion, leakage and structural problems and as such pose a challenge to conservators and restorers.
The earliest Sacred Heart windows, those in the apse, are the work of Pierre Formaintraux of the firm Whitefriars. These windows are made with thick glass set in a concrete matrix.
The other windows, in the nave, are set in resin and were designed and made by R.R. Hickling of the John Hardman Studios , Birmingham in the late 1970s.
The use of bright colour is symbolic as well as creating startling visual effects when illuminated by either bright natural or artificial light. Blue represents truth and heavenly love, green – hope and victory, yellow and gold the goodness of God, red – royalty and divine love. Mauve symbolises the passion and white is purity and faith.
Though the windows have an almost abstract quality and can be appreciated simply for their beauty or as an explosion of strong colour and light, a closer examination reveals a wealth of detail and stylised depictions of various Biblical themes. On the south side of the nave, in the Lady Chapel, Our Lady is shown as the queen of heaven.
Four single windows on the south side show emblems of Our Lady and the Holy Family, leading to a group of three windows depicting the Holy Spirit. The west window represents the glory of the Sacred Heart.
The north side windows show the emblems of baptism, the passion, the Eucharist and finally the holy trinity.
It is worth noting that the architect of the current building, P.H Langtry – Langton , himself wrote that “the whole idea is not to give too much importance to the symbolism, or even the colour, but to provide an overall harmony and unity…” I think it is true to say that visiting this building and it’s amazing window is an incredible experience and that the longer one spends there, the more impressive they seem. With the constant changes in natural light due to the weather outside, the colour effects are subsequently ever changing – something that no photo can do justice to although we have tried!
OPENING TIMES Sacred Heart will be open between the times of 12.30 and 17.30pm on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October for Art Trail followers to look around. If you wish to visit the church at any other time, please check the Sacred Heart website.
*Wikipedia – entries for Dalle de Verre and Hardman and Co
Books and articles *Ilkley, Mike Dixon, Tempus, 2002
*Article written by P.H Langtry – Langton, architect, on the extension of the church 1979
THANKS To Monsignor Keiran Heskin for his help and advice.