St Peter’s Barton

St Peter’s church Barton has many surviving 14th-century wall paintings including the only known painting of St Dunstan in an English church. St Dunstan was a Benedictine monk, abbot of Glastonbury and Archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th Century. He was canonised in 1029 and his 11th-century biographer describes him as being skilled in ‘making a picture and forming letters’. He became known as a reformer,  founding schools and developing the monastic life in England as well as building and restoring churches. He was also known as a skilled craftsman and is the patron saint of goldsmiths and silversmiths. His Feast Day is May 19, which is why the date year on hallmarks runs from May 19 to May 18, not the calendar year. He is sometimes (as on the wall at St Peter’s) depicted using his smith’s tongs to pull the devil by the nose in reference to a folk tale which Dickens also mentions in A Christmas Carol.

It is an image of St Dunstan that was chosen to advertise the artworkmanship credentials of the firm on a tradecard that survives in the Leach archive.

A North window in the church dedicated to the memory of  local landowner Richard Rowley Holben and his wife Marianne, includes a ‘signature’ from the Leach firm. Richard and Marianne died in 1902 and 1907, respectively, and so the window was made and fitted after the death of Frederick Leach (1904) when the firm continued (until 1916) to be run by his sons. It is likely that this window was made by Barnett McLean Leach, Frederick’s eldest son.

The East window is a war memorial window which was completed in 1920. Our David Parr House collection includes material relating to this window, including invoices from Barnett McLean Leach’s business in St Edward’s Passage in Cambridge ‘under the sign of Saint Edward the King and Confessor’. Barnett converted to Catholicism before his marriage in 1894.  This war memorial may well have been made by Barnett and his son, Francis Leach as Francis was also a stained glass artist and a sculptor.


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