Historic drawing of west window uncovered

11 June 2019
For many, many years an early drawing of Norwich Cathedral’s stunning west window lay hidden in a trunk in a cellar half a world away. Now the historic artwork has been returned to Norwich Cathedral thanks to the research work of writer David Berwick who is penning a book about the beautiful 19th century window.
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The drawing is by the window’s designer, George Caleb Hedgeland, and it was uncovered after Mr Berwick’s research led him to explore Mr Hedgeland’s life after moving to Australia in 1859, and to make contact with Mr Hedgeland’s great grandson who lives near Perth.

The early drawing of the West Window
Mr Berwick, who is a volunteer guide at Norwich Cathedral, said: “In late December 2018, whilst researching the history of our west window from ca. 1449-1995, I fortuitously made contact with a librarian in Sydney who had researched Hedgeland’s life in Australia.
She put me in touch with Bill Bennit who is George Hedgeland’s great-grandson.
I discovered that Mr Bennit had inherited a trunk of artwork and drawings from his great-grandfather, and some of these were of stained glass windows.
Eventually we discovered that one of the colour drawings was of the top portion of our west window.
This artwork had remained hidden in the trunk for 164 years, since 1854.”

Norwich Cathedral West Window Drawing 1
Following the discovery, Mr Bennit has decided to gift the drawing of the west window to Norwich Cathedral and to donate the rest of the artwork to The Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral.

Today (Tuesday 11 June) Mr Bennit and his partner Elaine Steele visited Norwich Cathedral to hand over the artwork and see the west window for the first time.

Mr Bennit said he was excited to see the real-life west window which had sparked the discovery of the meaning behind the paintings that until recently had been stored in a trunk in his cellar.

"It was amazing because, until David contacted me through a historian, I had no idea of the significance. I just thought they were the works of an amateur painter who went around copying windows. It would never have occurred to me that he would be the actual designer of the windows," he said.
"It’s amazing to see the window in real life now and to get up close to it." 

About his generous decision to gift the artwork to Norwich Cathedral and The Stained Glass Museum in Ely, he said: "The artwork being in a trunk in a cellar doesn’t benefit anyone, this way the artwork will be available for the future rather than being lost."Norwich Cathedral West Window

More about the West Window and George Caleb Hedgeland

The west window is the largest single window in Norwich Cathedral. Designed by George Caleb Hedgeland and installed in 1854, the present-day west window juxtaposes scenes from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It was created as a memorial to Bishop Edward Stanley who was Bishop of Norwich between 1837 and 1849.

George Caleb Hedgeland also designed many more windows across England before moving to Australia in 1859 and retraining as a surveyor. Mr Hedgeland married Annie Henning in Sydney in 1866 and the couple had a son called Edmund Woodhouse Hedgeland.

Mr Berwick's new book about the west window is due to be published in July. It will be called The West Window in Norwich Cathedral: A Colourful History 1450-1995.