St Albans Morris Men
The Betley Windows
One could have no better reference material for the "Betley Court Copy" than Godfrey N. Brown's: "This old house: a domestic biography; living conservation at Betley Court" (1987) - a book which describes a complex restoration of a neglected historic building, done in a manner sensitive to both its history and its former owners over the centuries.
(Photo acknowledgement to "Cheshire Life")
Professor Brown it was who, with his wife Dr Freda Brown, decided to have a copy of the Window made for installation in the gallery they were constructing at Betley Court.
The book summarises the extensive research work done by the Browns into the history of the original Window. I am most grateful to them for their help in allowing me to reproduce some of that work, and in providing other materials for this section of the web page. I know they would be very interested to hear from a publisher who would like to produce an updated and expanded version of "This Old House".
In a fascinating story, Godfrey Brown tells how fate provided the "target" date for completion and installation of the copy. It was a result of a coincidental decision by The Post Office to include figures from the original Window on the design for one of a special set of Folklore stamps being issued in early 1981.
It was decided to hold a festival to mark the "return" of the Window to the village of Betley, and for the Post Office to issue a commemorative cover . Similar covers in the series are available here. (Search on "folklore" and display results by ascending date.)
(As at 13th July 2004, the original artwork of this stamp, by noted artist Fritz Wegner, is available for purchase - as are others.)
The window was implemented by Philip Knapper and craftsmen from Stoke-on-Trent Modern Glass, with assistance from the aforementioned Michael Archer of the V&A. A faithful reproduction of the individual quarries (diamond-shaped panes) was made, with the help of transparencies of the original Window and Tollet's descriptions of the figures. Philip Knapper also designed the special handstamp used for endorsing the commemorative covers at the festival event.
In view of the association between the Wedgwoods and the families of Betley Court and Betley Hall, Wedgwood Glass issued a limited-edition glass paperweight incorporating "Tom the Piper" from the Window.
The festival, on Saturday 2nd May 1981, seems to have been a great village event, with participation by Parish Council, Women's Institute, Mothers' Union and numerous individuals. Entertainment was provided by Stafford Morris Men, maypole dancing by the village school (which also selected a May Queen), Abbots' Bromley Horn Dancers, Keele Rapper, Burslem Morris, Leopard Spot Clog, the archers of Clayton Woodsmen, and Urmston and Davyhulme Silver Band. Mick Cawley and Adrian Crosby played medieval instruments inside the gallery.
The window itself was unveiled by the 85 year old Viscount Bridgeman, whose grandmother had been one of George Tollet IV's seven daughters.
With the closure of the Gallery in 1996, the Window was moved within Betley Court. The photograph above has been kindly provided by John Edwards, the current (2001) Squire and rider of the hobbyhorse of Stafford Morris Men. It was taken by Godfrey Brown in 1999, such as to include both the Betley Court Window and the Stafford Morris Men's hobbyhorse, Knotty, which is a tourney horse like that in the Window. John has also provided a photograph of his own of the window, and his photos of the individual characters also appear on the appropriate web page.
Guided Tour: The next version of the Window, in chronological order, is an embroidery version by Alison Bailey.
Original Betley window Kingston-upon-Thames copy Betley Court copy Alison Bailey copy Ruth Dodworth copy Susan McKenney copy
Characters in the Windows Conclusions? Two 19th Century Views of Morris Foreign connections
References and Acknowledgements
John Price 2006. Comments to St Albans Morris Men's webslave