Tag Archives: Church of Christ and St Mary Armathwaite

Return to Eden


In 2008 we decided it was time to move from Poole in Dorset on the south coast and relocate to the north. The purpose of the move was primarily to be nearer our families and then a job opportunity arose in the north which would mean less travelling for me me and Phil would also be in a position to pick up more restoration and church work at the Albion Glass studio. After much searching for the ideal place, we found Armathwaite and we knew without a doubt, this was where we wanted to be.

Phil started working  1 week in Cumbria and 3 weeks in Dorset while the house was on the market. Being 370 miles apart was difficult and so Phil painted a small watercolour incorporating themes of moving north to Armathwaite in the Eden Valley and returns to Eden as a focus for positive energy.

It took a year for the right house to find us. With all our ducks in a row and planets aligned, the house was finally sold and we began our own return to Eden.


Each year the swallows make their incredible long haul flight from Africa  and return to Eden, reminding us that summer is in its way. Last year we spotted the first to return on 12th April.


The river Eden is at the heart of Armathwaite and each year the salmon return to mate and spawn. I saw my first salmon leaping up the waterfall on my birthday in November 2009 which was the month we moved here.


A year later in 2010, we were fortunate to see dozens of wriggling elvers making their arduous pilgrimage up the Eden from their birth place in the Sargasso Sea. The water falls over an intrusion of igneous rock estimated to be 55.8 million years old.


On their journey the salmon and elvers pass through an ancient sandstone gorge with towering cliffs that have 5 faces, a salmon and a poem (a corruption of ‘The compleat angler’ by Izaak Walton 1653) carved into them. The carving of the poem is thought to be the work of a Victorian gentleman, William Mounsey and dated 1855. The faces are thought to be considerably earlier.


Trees are very close to Phil’s heart as you know! This one represents the first Eden.

And now it is finished and installed into the church. You can see ‘Spirit of the Eden 2015’ post for the preliminary design and start of the window.


A Better Vanished Time

Hand tools…….They don’t make’em the way they used to!


The process of manufacturing stained glass windows has changed little since medieval times. Admittedly an electric temperature controlled soldering iron is a vast improvement on a lump of copper heated in a fire and a tungsten carbide glass cutting wheel is also an improvement on its predecessor; the diamond tipped cutter.

The rest of the tools required are fairly standard hand tools but I prefer a tool with a bit of character and where possible a family connection.

A sharp blade (Leading knife) for cutting lead calme. I made the one pictured thirty three years ago by burning and pegging a standard putty knife blade into one of my grandfathers woodworking boxwood gouge handles. You can still just see his name  J Dutton stamped into the handle. This one was retired many years ago as the blade has become to short for practical use. It was reemployed for the leading of the Armathwaite window purely because of its historical family connections.

The oil sharpening stone was a recent inheritance and is stamped with my great grandfathers name  J W Dutton.

The strange shaped piece of wood is known as a Lathekin and is used for opening the channels of the lead sections. I made five or six thirty or so years back out of an old teak table top. It is decorated with my monogram combining the initials P S J D.

Horseshoe nails to hold the glass and lead in position on the bench before it is soldered and a hammer to knock them in. Although l mostly use the handle of the leading knife for that purpose. The hammer is a fine specimen bought locally from ‘Hillarys Antiques’.

The small plane is used to adjust the lead profile, tapering leads purely for aesthetic effect. I made mine in school metalwork class when I was aged fourteen or fifteen. The body was cast into sand moulds in aluminium (a kindly donated greenhouse), the blade was made of steel and hardened by a process l recall as ‘Case Hardening’.





Spirit of the Eden 2015

Last weekend was August Bank Holiday and hosted the Spirit of the Eden open arts and crafts exhibition here in Armathwaite. I took some hand knitted tea cosies with teapots and thought if they don’t sell, well that’s several friends sorted for Christmas. I sold 2 hedgehogs and spent the evening knitting another. I’ve been asked to make one with a Highland cow as a Christmas present. I will have a go and let you know how it turns out.


Phil has started work on the stained glass window for the church where we got married 2 years ago last April and exhibited it as a work in progress, together with the drawings and a resume of the story depicted. It’s currently assembled on a piece of toughened glass made to the same size as the final window. The individual pieces of coloured glass are temporarily held in place with ‘Blu-tac’.  This enabled it to be displayed on the light box so visitors could see it more easily but also allows Phil to take it to the church periodically to see it in context and make changes to the glass if required. The theme of the window is ‘Return to Eden’ and the symbolism can be interpreted in both religious and secular context. The idea came about whilst we were looking to move North. We chose Armathwaite which is in the Eden Valley and focused on finding a suitable home to buy. We were living on the South coast and Phil was working periodically in the North, a journey of about 270 miles each way. We did a find a property but the sale wasn’t progressing very fast so Phil made this little painting of the house to focus our positive energy on making it ours. The house is still for sale four years later!

'Return to Eden'. This is Eden Villa, the house we wanted to buy and our offer was accepted.

‘Return to Eden’. This is Eden Villa, the house we wanted to buy and our offer was accepted.

The rainbow angel is me being dragged North by Phil from the South coast which had been my home for over twenty years. The ‘signature’ bottom left looks like Phil’s however it actually says BH15 which was the first bit of my post code. The plant beside the front door is actually our bay tree which was still in Dorset at the time. The salmon come up the Eden river to their original home every year without having to be dragged! The Goldfinch is often used in religious context to represent sacrifice; here it reflects the sacrifice I made to sell up and move with Phil. The red dots and blue lines at the bottom left to right represent the motorways and junctions of the journey from Poole to Armathwaite. The bottom right corner is blank as the story was ‘to be continued….’ This is written on the back of the painting which was put on the mantel where I could see it every day.

We finally succeeded in our return when we bought our home in November 2011. Phil offered to make a window for our village church, The Church of Christ and St Mary, Armathwaite and the offer was received with great enthusiasm by the Church Wardens. The plan went before the Diocese Advisory Council last year and was approved, so we have until March 2016 to complete the project. Here is the progress so far.

Preliminary drawing for 'Return to Eden' window

Preliminary drawing for ‘Return to Eden’ window

There’s a way to go yet; painted detail to be applied, hydrofluoric acid etching and painted pieces to be kiln fired.


Design overview: the theme of the window is ‘Return to Eden’.

1. The swallow.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when interest in the apocryphal books of the Bible flourished, artists were quick to incorporate the themes from these stories into their work.

One such story was found in the ‘Pseudo-Matthew Legend’ known in antiquity as ‘The book about the origin of the Blessed Mary and the childhood of the Saviour’. It tells of the Christ Child playing with toys or clay birds which His companions brought to Him, and which He miraculously brought to life. This ‘bringing to life’ quickly came to stand for the idea of Resurrection. The swallow, long considered as a sign of spring and the rebirth of the year, was assumed to hibernate in the mud through the winter and then become revitalized with the advent of warm weather. The similarity between the idea of the dormant mud-encrusted swallow and the clay bird is obvious. Its connection with the Resurrection theme (and thereby with Christ) led to its being called in parts of Germany, the ‘Madonna Bird’.

The swallow is depicted in the window with outstretched wings against a stylised sweeping cross to suggest the crucifixion. The constellation of Cygnus at the top of the window, also known as The Northern Cross, is positioned above the swallow to further represent the crucifixion. Swallows normally migrate at the end of summer however this bird has remained even when the leaves have fallen from the branches suggesting that Christ will not leave you.

2. The salmon
The fish represents a return to Eden as the salmon return to the place of their birth to spawn in the tributaries of the river Eden. The fish also echoes the IXTHUS symbol of early Christian faith.


3. The elvers
In 2013 we were fortunate enough to observe elvers climbing the waterfall on the Eden at Armathwaite over a geological feature known as the Cleveland Armathwaite Dyke. This is an intrusion of igneous rock estimated to be 55.8 million years old. 12 elvers represent the 12 apostles and their struggle up the dyke symbolises the arduous journeys made by the Apostles to spread the word of God.

4. The sun moon and stars
These are symbolic of the first day of The Creation when God said ‘let there be light’.

5. The tree
The tree is a symbol of the first Eden and the three fruits represent the Holy Trinity.



6. The river Eden
This water is symbolic of life force and the central feature of Armathwaite


7. The sandstone cliffs

These are part of a sandstone gorge carved through 250 million year old fossilised sand dunes by the river Eden. The towering cliffs have five faces, a salmon and a poem (a corruption of ‘The compleat angler’ by Izaak Walton 1653) carved into them. The carving of the poem is thought to be the work of a Victorian gentleman, William Mounsey and dated 1855. The faces, one of which is represented in the window are thought to be considerably earlier.

8. The viaduct arches
These may be seen as bridge arches or an open doorway through which the swallow has flown. Armathwaite was probably most densely populated during the construction of the railway and the viaduct connects the village with the wider community.

The glass is all hand made using traditional methods  by artisans. The majority was sourced from English Antique glass, Alvechurch, Birmingham. It’s the last remaining manufacturer of hand made sheet glass in the UK. The rest was from Lamberts which is a German manufacturer.

We will post further images as work progresses.