St Mary's Church Whitton

The Burne-Jones/William Morris Window

As you enter St Mary’s Church and look towards the Chancel, Whitton's treasured Burne-Jones / William Morris window glows in the morning sun. This is an excellent example of Pre-Raphaelite art during the last twenty years of the 19th Century, and the church is worth visiting for this alone. The window was designed by Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris and is an important and beautiful example of their art. A detail from the window is illustrated more clearly below.

Window designed by Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris

Burne-Jones and William Morris met at Oxford as young men whilst studying theology and forged a lifelong friendship and close working relationship. Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was born in Birmingham and dropped theology for art after advice from Rossetti, becoming his pupil in 1855. Rossetti commissioned him to design a stained-glass window, leading to a prestigious career in this field. He produced many stained-glass window designs for his friend William Morris’s company, becoming their principal designer, and his windows can be seen in many churches throughout Britain, particularly in Birmingham, Oxford, London, Salisbury Cathedral and - not least - Whitton.

William Morris was born in Walthamstow in 1834, although both his parents had originated from Worcester. Like his friend Burne-Jones, he quit theology for art and after an initial interest in architecture specialised in design. He formed his own company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co (later renamed Morris & Co) specialising in wallpapers, tapestries and furniture, but becoming particularly renowned for its stained glass. He died at his home, Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, in 1896.

Why Whitton? It is a mystery why Burne-Jones designed a window for a small country church like St Mary’s in Whitton, but it is believed that it was a gift from Whitton Court in the locality in about 1892-1893. St Mary’s is certainly not the only country church with a Burne-Jones window, but it must be one of the smallest. One of the reasons for the extensive fund-raising efforts by the local community is the urgent need for conservation work as a result of movement in the Church Tower. Plans and specifications for the proposed work can be viewed in the church. We hope that if you visit you will feel able to drop a coin or two in the box.

Nativity scene from Burne-Jones window

Detail from the window

Cards showing the Nativity Scene from the Burne-Jones/William Morris window were produced for the first time in 2005 and can be ordered through Michael Holmes (telephone 01584-890332), with proceeds going towards the Tower restoration fund. They are available blank for your own message (useful as general correspondence cards). Prices for packs of ten are:

up to 50 cards£5.00 per pack
50 to 100 cards£4 per pack
100 cards or more£3.50 per pack

Photographs of Burne-Jones/William Morris window courtesy of and © Richard Tompkins