Keys to the Past


Wailes, William

William Wailes was a local stained glass manufacturer. He was born in Newcastle in 1808AD and originally took up a grocery and tea-dealing business. Though he had studied stained glass in 1830AD at Munich, (Germany) it was not until 1841AD that he gave himself over to glass manufacture. Previously he advertised, with the food provisions, decorative enamels for sale. (The grocers was taken-over by his original assistant).

Wailes set up in various Newcastle premises - though was soon to become one of the largest employers in the field outside of London. Most of his output is to be found in local Northeast churches - but by no means is this exclusively so. Several designers were employed by Wailes such as Francis Wilson Oliphant R.A. (1818-1859AD), Henry Mark Barnett and George Jospeh Baguley (1824-1915AD). (Some of these men were later to set up their own respected studios, such as Baguley and Barnett separately). The stained glass made by Wailes's firm is particularly noted for its following of Medieval styles and colours - indeed the Medieval revivalist Augustine Welby Northmore Pugin (181-1852AD) who designed the Houses of Parliament, London 1840-1860AD, frequently used Wailes glass exclusively from 1842AD till his death.

Commemorative windows for individuals or groups were becomingly increasingly popular at this time and Wailes workshop produced many examples of note. These were common to young children - and Wailes and his wife, Elizabeth, must have known the anguish suffered as they lost three children in their infancy themselves. A further daughter was death - and a Wailes window, (at Saint Andrews, Newcastle), is amongst the first to shown the use of sign language.

The studios of Wiles designed and made their own glass for new churches. They also undertook the restoration of Medieval stained glass at York Minster, and worked around existing windows, as at Ely Cathedral. Wailes was among the exhibitors of 'The Great Exhibition' of 1851AD held at London's original Crystal Palace. The partnership of Wailes Company with his son-in-law Thomas Rankine Strang (1835-1899AD) took the firm as a viable concern after Wailes death in to the 1910s AD - though retained and was constrained by the style of the Medieval revivalist work, then out of fashion.

Wailes's entry to glass making was unexpected to other artists. William Bell Scott wrote the Wailes is the last man one would have expected to organise and succeed. Indeed Wailes did undergo financial difficulties - though only after buying the Saltwell Estate in Gateshead, in 1860AD. Here he landscaped the grounds and built the colourful Saltwell Towers as his home. Wailes sold the estate to the Gateshead Corporation for £35, 000 in 1876AD - when it became Saltwell Park. Wailes died in 1881AD whilst living at Saltwell, (a condition of the sale), and was buried at Saint Peter's Church, Bywell, Northumberland. This was a place where there were both business and family links; there is glass attributed to Wailes in the church, and it is where his father had been buried.

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