The Moira Forsyth Stained Glass Windows

The Moira Forsyth Windows at Holy Family Church, Farnham, Surrey

Holy Family Altar and Staines GlassMoira Forsyth (1905 – 1991) is one of the best known British stained glass artists of the 20th Century. Her work can be found in Cathedrals and Catholic and Anglican Churches.

Moira Forsyth was born in 1905 into a family that was recognised locally for the diversity of its artistic talent. Moira’s father, Gordon Forsyth, was an accomplished artist in both ceramics and stained glass and principle of Burslem Potteries School of Art. He was a man whose religious faith and strong socialist principles guided his life and inspired his work. In the 1920s, through the recommendation of the local MP Andrew MacLaren, he gained a commission to work on St. Joseph’s Church at Burslem which gave him, and later his daughter Moira, the opportunity to develop their interest and talent in religious art.

Moira Forsyth studied ceramics at Burslem Potteries School of Art and later won a national scholarship to the Royal Academy where she became increasingly interested in Stained Glass. Gordon Forsyth was a great admirer of the special quality of French stained glass and particularly the glass of Chartres Cathedral. During her time as a student Moira assisted her father in his work at St. Joseph’s and it is probably here, working with her father on the windows for the church in Burslem that she ‘fell in love’ with the jewel like quality of French stained Glass which was latter to become the haul mark of her own work in glass. Moira’s archived correspondence at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London reveal how the windows at Burslem were made by unemployed potters and miners taught by her father. Moira’s Father died in 1952 aged 73 and Moira completed his unfinished work accepting only sufficient payment to cover her basic expenses. Her crowning glory at Burslem however is not in glass but the huge ceiling painting ‘Christ in Glory’ (1935-37)

Moira Forsyth Exhibitions

An Epiphany portrayed in stained glass by Moira ForsythMoira’s talents gained wider recognition both in the UK and internationally when she exhibited at the 1925 White City Exposition. Shortly after the Exposition Moira won a National Scholarship to the Royal College of Art, following  which  she worked for many years at the ‘Glass House’ in Fulham and also with Lowndes and Drury. Moira’s many stained glass windows show her to be versatile in her subject matter including not only pictorial representations but also symbolic, script and heraldic illustrations. Moira Forsyth received the Queen’s award for lifelong services to the arts.

Moira Forsyth’s commissions include windows at:

  • St. Joseph’s, Burslem
  • Norwich Cathedral
  • Guildford Cathedral
  • Emmanuel School, Battersea
  • St. Margaret’s, Tatterford
  • Aylesford Priory
  • St Botolph’s, Chevening
  • All Saints, Snodland
  • St. John’s, Higham
  • Holy Family Church, Heath End, Farnham, Surrey.

Holy Family Church is a simple 1950s village size church which would have been of no special artistic merit had Moira Forsyth not lived locally and worshiped at the church. It now houses 20th Century stained glass of national importance. Over a period of sixteen years Moira Forsyth designed and made fourteen windows for the church, amongst which are her great Epiphany window and the Last Supper window. This collection of her stained glass at Farnham is the largest and most comprehensive collection of her work in glass.

Detail of Moira Forsyth Windows at Holy Family

Porch:   Style – Pictorial.   Subject: The Holy Family. 

Date: 1968.   Height:  69 ins.  Width:  39ins.

St Joseph’s Chapel:  Painted and fired Glass.   Style: Script.

Subject: A Prayer for a peaceful end.   Date: None.   Height: 63 ins.  Width: 20 ins.:

St Joseph’s Chapel:  Painted and fired Glass. Style: Script.

Subject:  Prayer to St. Joseph. Date: None.  Height:  63 ins.  Width:  20 ins.

Sacristy Entrance.  Style:  symbolic. Subject: Rev. 2 v28 The Morning Star – symbol of Christ- from the Easter Exultet.   Date:  1971.   Height:  63ins Width:  20 in.

Sacristy:  Style: Symbolic.  Subject:  The Eucharist.

Date: 1976.   Height:  43ins  Width: 19 ins.

Sacristy:   Style:  Symbolic/ Script .   Subject: The Holy Spirit.  

Date: 1976.   Height:   43ins   Width:  19 ins.

Sacristy:   Style:  Symbolic.  Subject:   Genesis-Creation.  

Date: 1976.  Height:   43 ins.  Width:  19 ins.

Church:  East Wall-Right. Style:  pictorial.  Subject:  The Resurrection. 

Date:  1971.   Height:  69 ins.   Width:  39 ins.

Church: East Wall-Central. Style:  pictorial.  Subject:  An Epiphany.  

Date:  1960.   Height: 144 ins.  Width:  89 ins.

Church: East WallLeft.  Style:  Pictorial.   Subject:  Baptism of Jesus.

Date:  1969.   Height:  69 ins.   Width:  39 ins.

Reconciliation chapelStyle: Symbolic.  Subject:  Ez.: 36: 25.26 ‘ I will cleanse you in living water’.    Date: 1971.   Height:  63 ins.  Width:  20 ins.

Lady ChapelStyle: pictorial.    Subject: The Annunciation.

Date:  1974.  Height  69 ins.  Width:   39 ins.

Lady Chapel: Style:  Script.    Subject: Ave Maria -Hail Mary- in Latin.

Date: 1974.  Height:  69 ins.   Width:  39 ins.

House ChapelStyle:  Pictorial.  Subject:  The Last Supper.

Date:  None.    Height: 40 ins.   Width:  85ins.

All windows with the exception of the Last Supper and Sacristy windows are designed with  a Norman style arch.

The Church is only open for services but viewing can be arranged through the Parish Office at 65, Ash Church Rd. Ash, Surrey  GU12 6LU.

Tel: 01252 321422

Father David A. Buckley MA.  FRSA.

Research for this article has included reference to the following sources:

‘The Forsyth’s at St. Joseph’s Church, Burslem’ by Carmel Dennison. Local Publication

Times Obituary 15th April 1991.     London

Moira Forsyth Archives, Victoria and Albert, (Blyth House) London.  (By appointment only)

                                                                          Internet

Moira Forsyth’s work at Burslem                                                              (Burslem)

Stained Glass museum

The Glass House Studio, Fulham*

Aylesford Priory

Aiden McRae Thomson on Flickr

Emmanuel School

Guildford Cathedral

CCR

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

A church near you

Kent churches

Cornucopia

Sussex parish churches

St Thomas, Hanwell

Stained Glass Records

British Society of Master Glass Painters  

*The Glass House (Fulham) where Moira worked for some time was as a purpose built stained-glass studio and workshop for independent artists established in 1906, and was closely connected with the Arts and Crafts movement. It closed in 1993.