Colour illustration of a stained glass window.
Watercolour of a stained glass window in St Mary the Virgin's Church, Westwood, Wiltshire, showing a Crucifixion scene. 1940-1945. © Historic England Archive EMM01/01/046
Watercolour of a stained glass window in St Mary the Virgin's Church, Westwood, Wiltshire, showing a Crucifixion scene. 1940-1945. © Historic England Archive EMM01/01/046

Stained Glass Watercolours by Florence Elsie Matley Moore (1900 – 1985)

Many of the full size accurate copies of medieval stained glass windows that make up this small collection were created during the Second World War. Artist Elsie Matley Moore created them to support the work of the National Buildings Record, recording heritage sites at risk from enemy action.

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Prior to the War Elsie Matley Moore had already established an interest in medieval decorative art, creating copies of encaustic tiles and conserving wall paintings and monuments in Worcester Cathedral and several Worcestershire parish churches, where she was based.

Between 1935 and 1948 several of her watercolour paintings of medieval stained glass in Worcestershire were published in the Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society alongside the catalogue produced by Mary Addison Green.

During the early years of the Second World War she was Commandant of the Worcester Ambulance, but soon felt that her skills and knowledge would be better used by recording stained glass and other decorative features that might be at risk as a result of bombing. As a result she wrote to Walter Godfrey, the founder of the NBR, suggesting that he should employ her to do this.

The NBR at this time were attempting to create a ‘quick record’ of heritage at risk. They were more inclined to use their resource to fund photography, which provided a quicker and cheaper method of capturing buildings and architectural features, albeit in black and white.

The work that Elsie Matley Moore was proposing was far more detailed and would have cost substantially more. As a result the NBR never commissioned her to make specific drawings, although the value of her work was not disputed. Undeterred, she continued to take risks in her pursuit of accuracy, often climbing scaffolds and ladders to great heights above church floors.

Many of the stained glass paintings in the collection held by the Historic England Archive were exhibited at Worcester Cathedral in 1943, and at Coventry Herbert Art Gallery in 1951. They remain an important early colour record of medieval stained glass. Elsie Matley Moore died in January 1985.

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The Engine House,
Fire Fly Avenue,
Swindon,
SN2 2EH

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