Our Top Ten Windows in London

Our Top Ten Windows in London

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The Footprints of London guides love to point out windows on our walks – some for looking through, some for looking at, sme that are not even real windows – here are ten of our favourite London windows

1 The East Window in St Martin’s in the Fields

East Window St Martin's in the Fields

Stephen Benton’s choice is “The East Window at St Martin in the Fields. This dates from 2008. It was designed by Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne and was part of a major refurbishment of the church. It is so modern and yet fits perfectly in an 18th century church, where stained glass would not.”

2 World War One and Two Memorial Window, Lloyd’s Building

Hugh Easton Window, Lloyds

Hugh Easton Window, Lloyd's copyright Viv Schrager-Powell 2015

Viv Schrager-Powell chose “Hugh Easton’s WWI and WWII memorial window inside the Lloyd’s building, Lime Street. The detail is so precise and the colours are rich and stunningly vibrant.”

3 Houghton Window in Ely Place

Houghton window in Ely Place

Dave Brown chose  the Houghton window in Ely Place “It’s a very large window, full of brilliant colour, and really outstanding in terms of design and function.

The window was created by Charles Blakeman in 1964, and shows the Tyburn scaffold, and the five martyrs who died on the 4th May in 1535 at Tyburn.  The three brothers dressed in white are John Houghton, Prior of Charterhouse in the middle, with two other Carthusian Priors (who had both been brothers at Charterhouse), Robert Lawrence, Prior of Beauvale, and Augustine Webster, Prior of Axholme. They were executed with two others – Richard Reynolds a monk of Syon Abbey and John Haile a priest from Isleworth.   The two side panels show scenes from the execution (on the left) mirrored by scenes from Christ’s Crucification (on the right).
All the men in the window died for their faith.  If they had agreed to Henry VIII’s supremacy over the Church, they would not have been executed, and were offered the opportunity to recant at Tyburn.  They refused, were executed by hanging, drawing and quartering as traitors (Houghton is said in some accounts to have been alive when his heart was torn from his body).  Houghton’s body was quartered, and the right arm hung over the gate of Charterhouse.  Despite this the majority of the remaining Brothers decided to continue to resist the King, and most died of starvation in Newgate Prison.
The window also has strong allusions to Ely Place – including the arms of the Spanish Gondomar family, who helped pay for the window, and whose ancestor Count Gondomar was ambassador to the court of James 1, and lived in Ely House in Ely Place.  During his time the Chapel was Roman Catholic.  The Roman Catholics reacquired the church in an auction in 1873, and today it is an active church, and one of London’s best medieval buildings.  Visit it on one of my tours of Ely Place and Hatton Garden.”
4 Window at the Museum of London
Window Museum of London

Jill Finch chose this window at the Museum of London because of its special view “Look through any window … and it may just be a view back in time. When walking around the Museum of London and heading for the Mithras exhibits in the Roman section, take a look out of the window on your right. It’s a great view of a section of the fort, part of the old City wall. You look down on it from the Highwalk just outside the Museum but this is such a good view.”

5 One New Change

St Pauls reflected in one new change

Picture copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

Neil Sinclair chose the reflection in the windows at One New Change “Cathedrals are traditionally places for worship, redemption, repentance and reflection. And nowhere in London is there a better reflection of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece St Paul’s Cathedral than in the windows of One New Change. The great dome of St Paul’s is seen in triptych through the prism of the huge plate glass windows of architect Jean Nouvel’s shopping mall on the corner of New Change and Cheapside. Like St Paul’s, the shops at One New Change are open on Sundays, a condition imposed on the mall’s commercial tenants by the City of London Corporation, The Corporation views One New Change as central to its plans to reinvigorate commercial life in the City at weekends.

6 St Mary Le Bow

Copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

Copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

Jill Finch nominated the windows of St Mary Le Bow One of my favourite windows in the City of London is actually three windows, at the east end of the Church of St Mary le Bow on Cheapside. For me they embody a love of the City and its churches – and its history – which I enthusiastically share. Wren’s influence can still be seen in the church’s exterior but many purists bemoan the inside and in particular that we now have stained glass where Wren would have used clear glass. Now I’m a huge fan of Wren but there are times when we have to let go of our obsessions and accept that there were reasons he didn’t want stained glass in his churches which are not actually in play today. So, let’s enjoy some of the stained glass in our Wren churches – and in particular enjoy John Hayward’s beautiful work in St Mary le Bow.

 Three pieces of Hayward’s work make up the East window of the church. I love them all but in particular am always mesmerised by the ‘Mary’ window (on the left as you face the east end).

Mary Window st Mary Le Bow

Copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

Mary is centre stage. Her face is pained and protective as she cradles the church which is named for her as lovingly as she would her own child. All around are the churches of a pre-fire City, full of architectural detail.. Beneath her feet are the arches from which the church takes its suffix – le Bow – the court of Arches of the Archbishop of Canterbury. .

christ in majesty window st mary le bow

The central window shows Christ in Majesty surrounded by the 7 gifts of the holy spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe) shown as balls of fire.

The third window on the right hand side shows St Paul – patron saint of the City – surrounded by the churches which survived WWII, with Wren’s Cathedral in the top right hand corner

St Mary Le Bow

Copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

The colours are stunning and unusual for stained glass. Lovely pastels mixed in with the strong colours and shapes that make John Hayward’s work so recognisable. The windows tell the story of the church and the church’s story mimics that of the City itself. 

In 1080 a Norman church (possibly replacing a Saxon one) is built on a Roman street. It suffers during the reformation and is destroyed by the Great Fire. A new church, built by Christopher Wren, rises from the ashes. Bombed during WWII and rebuilt post war – St Mary le Bow, like the City, has continually reinvented itself.

John David Hayward (1929-2007) was a British stained glass artist who made nearly 200 windows in churches and cathedrals across Britain and abroad. His work in St Mary le Bow was his first major commission. 

You can see more of his work in the City in St Michael Paternoster Royal. Elsewhere his windows are in Norwich Cathedral, various Norwich parish churches, Sherborne Abbey in Dorset or simply click below


A visit to St Mary le Bow church is part of Jill’s Wren and the City walk which should be on the Footprints Calendar in August or September this year

7 The Bow Window at Whites

150528 Whites Beau window (2)

Richard Watkins chose “White’s bow window: Standing at the top of St James’s street is the gorgeous Club House of the oldest Gentlemen’s club in London, White’s, with it’s characteristic Regency bow window.  That great dandy, wit and fashionable man about town Beau Brummell was well known at the time for sitting in the window holding forth.  Brummell and the window feature on Richard’s “alternative” Waterloo walk… “The Extreme Pleasures of Wellington’s London.”  One of those pleasures was the most reckless and preposterous gambling, and Whites hosted the worst of it.  In marathon gambling sessions described by Horace Walpole as “worthy of the decline of an empire”, men lost millions in today’s money.  Brummell himself had to flee abroad when his gambling debts from Whites and other place were called in.”
8 St Michael Paternoster
paternoster st m
Joanna Fox-Johnson chose another John Hayward window from St Michael Paternoster. “I love the Dick Whittington window but the other windows are of St. Michael and Adam and Eve by John Hayward – all amazing,  both for the colours the details and the modern concept.  These windows were part of the rebuild after the war. They are amazingly vibrant and allegorical.  The detail needs to be seen in situ , pictures do not do them justice. The city churches, the gold of the streets and the red of the sky harking back to the blitz and the great fire. The green of the future ambition, and of course the cat”

9 The Sailors Homecoming Window

the sailors homecoming window

Jen Pedler chose a trompe l’oeil window from Smithfield. “One of my favourite London windows is a window that’s no longer a window but offers a glimpse of a scene that might once have occurred in the room behind it. The trompe l’oeil window in the narrow passage of Cloth Court, opposite St Bartholomew the Great, depicts a sailor returning to the loving arms of his family.

The window that was once here overlooked the residence of the architects John Seely (Lord Mottistone) and Paul Paget who lived opposite. They were irritated by the lack of privacy – “…the neighbours across the alleyway could see us carving the Sunday joint”, commented Paget – and after buying this neighbouring house they decided to have the window bricked up. But then they found it rather dreary to look out at a blank wall so commissioned Brian Thomas, the mural artist who designed the windows for the American Memorial Chapel in St Paul’s, to create them a more interesting outlook. In the 1950s they rented this flat to the poet John Betjeman – commemorated on a blue plaque adjacent to the window.

Definitely a curiosity to look out for next time you’re in the Smithfield area.”

10 The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich

copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

copyright Neil Sinclair 2015

Neil Sinclair loves “the view of the cupola/dome and clock tower on top of the Queen Mary block of the Old Royal Naval College as seen through the window over the entrance to the Painted Hall”

Let us know what your favourite London windows are. We will have ten more of the footprints of London team’s favourites next month.





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