Watch: Stained glass hobby that is a labour of love

Have your say

THIRTY years and 12,000 photographs later, Malcolm Woodcock has lost none of his enthusiasm for the intricate beauty of stained glass windows.

The retired history teacher and his wife Tricia have travelled the world seeking out and photographing the most impressive stained glass in churches across the UK, continental Europe and the Middle East.

Malcolm Woodcock at Selby Abbey. PIC: Simon Hulme

Malcolm Woodcock at Selby Abbey. PIC: Simon Hulme

After travelling far and wide, Mr Woodcock always returns to his beloved Selby Abbey which has allowed him to take his hobby to a new level of detail.

For the last 12 months he and his wife have been studying the windows at Selby in minute detail, recording every panel and Biblical scene, researching every saint depicted and the artists who created the works.

The result is two catalogues, called The Stained Glass Windows of Selby Abbey, which are being used to guide visitors around the historic building.

Mr Woodcock is happy to admit that his hobby has developed into something of an obsession.

“I used to be more interested in architecture but one day, as I was looking through binoculars I turned and looked at a window and for the first time I was amazed by the detail and finesse of the expressions. Ever since that Damascus moment I have just become obsessed with it.”

His own collection of photographs of stained glass windows now runs into the thousands.

“It’s a lifelong obsession.

“I must have been in 400 to 450 churches.

“It’s not a boast, but I now have just shy of 12,500 photographs.”

After travelling across the UK in search of the best stained glass, Mr Woodcock says that Yorkshire churches have some of the most beautiful glass in the country and Selby Abbey is his current favourite, although as a member of the congregation he may be a little biased.

At Selby, much of the work was done by Victorian artists but there are scattered fragments of medieval stained glass, most of which was destroyed in a fire.

There are 41 windows and over 500 panels. Some are too lofty to be studied in detail.

One of the pieces, which commemorates local men who died in the First World War, was painted by George Parlby of TF Curtis, Ward and Hughes, of London, described as “very beautiful” by Mr Woodcock.

The Great War window is based on a hymn by James Montgomery, a newspaper editor in Sheffield who was jailed in 1795 for printing a poem celebrating the fall of the Bastille during the French revolution.

The window depicts a wounded soldier, a slain soldier, a soldier receiving communion on the battlefield and a soldier being guided to heaven by an angel.

Another window is a memorial to a Coldstream Guard called Sergeant Leening who died of his wounds in Sudan in 1885.

A personal favourite at Selby Abbey is a window made by the firm Heaton Butler and Baine.

He said: “It shows the descent from the cross - the disciples lowering Jesus and a beautiful painting of Mary Magdalene which was painted in the style of Rossetti, the Pre-Raphealite painter.”

Mr Woodcock, 67, who lives in Riccall, near Selby, has now handed over his two books to the Reverend Canon John Weetman, the vicar of Selby Abbey who had suggested the project.

Copies of the books, along with other information about the manufacture and history of stained glass, will be on display at Selby Abbey’s special Medieval Day on Wednesday August 27.