Two female Saints, Etheldreda and Margaret
Generations of pupils at the Royal Masonic School for Girls
at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire have passed them or sat
under them while eating or listening to a sermon. But, by and
large, one suspects that the extraordinary wealth of paintings
and stained glass in the school has been accepted by most
pupils and staff – familiar but only as part of the fabric.
Yet the art in the school deserved more than a passing
nod, and in conjunction with Jennifer Brooke, I decided
to spend some time researching the lives and work of the
three artists primarily responsible for decorating the school.
The oldest stained glass, largely sited in the Assembly Hall
and along its adjacent corridors, was produced by a preeminent
stained glass master, Edward Frampton (1850-1929).
Frampton, the son of a Dorset man, had to overcome the
resistance of a sternly non-conformist family before he was
allowed to abandon law and study art.
Even so, permission was only given on the understanding
that he should confine his studies to ecclesiastical art! But
such art ran in the family because his only son, Edward
Reginald Frampton – who died before his father in 1923 –
also became a distinguished landscape, figure and religious
painter and sculptor.
The windows were presented by various prominent
Masons and were installed over the period 1891-1904, but
only some are signed with Frampton’s name. As there were
some 20 glass-painters in Frampton’s studio in Buckingham
Palace Road, London, presumably apprentices helped with
the mammoth production.
All Frampton’s work was transferred from the old school
in Clapham. The huge stained glass windows in the Assembly
Hall show the arms of the Masonic Provinces and Lodges
that presented them, with the ‘Royal’ window dominating.
This includes the arms of Edward VII – then serving his long
apprenticeship as Prince of Wales – and other 19th century
minor Royal patrons of the school.
Frampton was apparently an avid reader, with Dickens
and Shakespeare particular favourites, and the windows
illustrate stories from Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer,
Tennyson, Browning, Goldsmith, Spenser, Macaulay,
Campbell and the Ingoldsby Legends.
Unfortunately, the rumbustious and colourful
Shakespearian pictures, which include a splendid Falstaff,
are placed on the Administration block staircase. It is a good
site to display their attractions, but has the major disadvantage
that the pictures are seldom if ever seen by the students they
were presumably designed to amuse and edify.