Colour illustration of a stained glass window.

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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)

At the end of 2009 the Historic England Archive acquired a small collection of original artworks by the artist Elsie Matley Moore, which have recently been digitised and made available online.

Many of these watercolours – full size accurate copies of medieval stained glass windows – were created during the Second World War to assist the National Buildings Record with their attempts to record heritage sites at risk from enemy action.

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.

Stained Glass Watercolours Image Gallery

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

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 utilised 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 she be employed to this end.

The NBR, who at this time were attempting to create a ‘quick record’ of heritage at risk, 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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