St Lawrence, Longridge Parish Church

Church of St Lawrence with St Paul, Chapel Hill, Longridge, Lancashire


"A major advance on his earlier stained glass, the Longridge series may be considered the first stained glass of Clarke's maturity. Referring in a non-literal way to the surrounding landscape, the 20 abstract 'panels' present a disarmingly sophisticated extension, or revision, of the narrative and didactic traditions of stained glass. They insist on being 'read' in sequence, incorporating the kinetics of fluctuations in the lighting conditions and the amount of time the viewer takes to move from window to window." – art historian Martin Harrison in Brian Clarke: Architectural Artist.

In 1975, Brian designed 10 pairs of windows for St Lawrence's Church, Longridge, fabricating and installing the artworks himself, 'depicting, semi-abstracted, local scenes such as the River Ribble, Pendle Hill, Longridge Fell and Fairsnape Fell, reservoirs and quarries'. The twenty windows, which developed out of his interest in Japanese screens and landscape painting, face each other from across the nave of the church, running along the north and south mezzanine galleries. In the 2011 BBC Four documentary Colouring Light - An Artist Apart, Brian describes the project: "Longridge was a whole series of windows on the upper gallery of a church that had particularly good light because there was nothing interrupting the light on either the north or the south walls of the church. It was the first time anybody had asked me to do a suite of windows, rather than an individual thing. There wasn’t any stained glass in those days that used such big sheets of colour. I based the thing on the kind of green and blue of those wonderful hills and reservoirs that exist around that part of Lancashire. It was really just a very youthful, joyous, celebration of the medium, in a building. I think that was the first time I really knew that I wanted to alter the building, I wanted to make a contribution to the building as a whole."

"The vicar at St John's Church, Coppull, knew of the young artist because his studio was in an old furniture shop on Brook Street in Preston, opposite the haberdashery shop owned by the vicar's mother-in-law. He asked Clarke to create a replacement window for St John's and he happily obliged, being paid 100 for the job. Soon after the windows were installed at St John's a visiting vicar from St Lawrence's Church in Longridge admired the designs and asked to be put in contact with Clarke, eventually commissioning him to create the 20 modern pastoral scene windows that can still be seen at St Lawrence's Church today." The Garstang Courier

The designs for the scheme of windows – a series of drawings, watercolour studies and working designs in collage – have been exhibited at museums and institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, in the travelling exhibition The Art of Light.

"THE NORTH WALL—The curving line which meanders from West to East along the windows is drawn from the geographical course of the River Ribble as it approaches and goes around Longridge. Water plays an important part in the life of the town which has the Ribble on its doorstep and seven reservoirs. The seven blue/green lights to the East indicate those seven major reservoirs and the horizontal lines of opal blue represent the continued movement of the water. The top parts of the windows derive from the landscape of the area showing on the left the skyline of Longridge Fell, Fairsnape Fell and Pendle Hill. Breaking through the blanket of  green are pots of colour symbolising flowers in Spring.

THE SOUTH WALL—The three dominantly green lights  represent  the  country  surrounding  Longridge. These are again divided by the course of the Ribble, this  time in ultramarine, which wanders  through to meet up with the opalescent white in the seven water windows. The vertical white lines of the three green Windows suggest the quarrying of the town. At the tops of all the seven water windows the diagonal lines indicate the recent building in the town. Between these diagonals, glimpses of the landscape can again be seen."