St Albans Morris Men
The Betley Windows
In 1932, an article was published in "South East Naturalist and Antiquary" by W.E.St.Lawrence Finny, Deputy High Steward of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, on the subject "Medieval Games and Gaderyngs at Kingston-upon-Thames". (A "gaderyng" was a voluntary contribution by a spectator towards the expenses of an event; and when all expenses had been covered, the surplus was given to the Church.) Information below is derived from a 1935 version of the article in the Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, Vol. VI No. I.
Kingston has extensive records of early church-warden accounts, and Finny studied those from the 16th Century in some detail and drew inferences about mediaeval games and their inter-relationship with early morris dancing. He identified five games:
Of these, he says that The Kyngham Game brought in the most money. Although there is no written record of the game, he uses other evidence to assert that the Betley Window "evidently depicts the characters in a Kyngham game". Literature at the Kingston-upon-Thames museum maintains that assertion to this day. However, current historians dispute it, and seem to consider inferences by people of Finny's era to be rather fanciful and not well-founded academically. Specifically, both John Forrest (noted morris historian) and Sally-Beth MacLean (authority on Early English Drama) say categorically that the Window does not represent the so-called "Kyngham Game". In addition, Sally-Beth has pointed out in correspondence that the term "Kyngham Game" is itself erroneous, since "Kyngham" is simply a spelling of "King Game".
On the subject of the production of the Kingston copy of the Betley Window, however, Finny should presumably be believed: "In the Town Hall of Kingston-upon-Thames the writer has put an accurate reproduction of the figures in this old window by the famous London firm of stained glass workers, Messrs. Heaton, Butler & Bayne. It is largely the work of Mr. Richard Bayne, who went with the writer to Staffordshire to see the original coloured glass, and spent a day photographing and making careful coloured drawings of all the details."
The photograph to the left is reproduced with the kind permission of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service. Click on it for a larger picture. This window is much bigger than the original - being 98 by 44 inches - and has labels added for the figures. Edward Nicol records that the window was made in 1901. The "caption" at the bottom of the window states: "This window (founded on a 16th Century window) was unveiled by Alderman George Huckle, JP, Mayor, to commemorate the coronation on the 22nd June 1911 of King George V and Queen Mary, and the revival on that occasion of the old Kingston-upon-Thames may-pole and morris dances." A report in The Antiquary of 1912 records that the unveiling took place in November 1911.
Along with other windows designed by Finny, it was moved to the museum in 1936.
Finny was seven times mayor of Kingston-upon-Thames, and can be credited as being responsible for it being one of the few Royal Boroughs in England. In 1927, he successfully petitioned King George V to change the borough's name from 'Kingston-upon-Thames' to 'The Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames'.
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