Goddard & Gibbs: Exhibition at old glassworks in Kingsland Road shines light on Hackney’s stained glass heritage
PUBLISHED: 12:09 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:16 31 October 2017
A new exhibition at an art shop in Kingsland Road will celebrate the craft of glassmaking that began on the same spot more than a century ago – and continued until the turn of the millennium. The Gazette speaks to a pair of glass makers who once worked in the studio about why it was so special.
A new exhibition will throw light on a piece of Hackney’s creative history this month – and showcase the borough’s significance as a producer of stained glass wonders.
The old Goddard & Gibbs glassworks studio, at 41-49 Kingsland Road, closed at the turn of the millennium, while the company was dissolved in 2006.
Decades of dedication to coloured glass creation in Hackney – which helped restore bomb-damaged churches following the Second World War, furnish the walls of Westminster Abbey and weave British-made windows into mosques in the Middle East – disappeared.
Since then a succession of businesses, including a motorcycle salesroom, have stepped in and out of the building before art supplies company GreatArt opened in July last year.
On discovering the building’s heritage the company decided to host the work of seven “Goddard & Gibbs Exhibitionists” – a selection of artists who trained and worked in the old studio space.
Cedric Grossman, deputy managing director, told the Gazette it will be “special” to have the previous occupants back in the building.
“When we found out about Goddard & Gibbs’ link to our building we felt we had to arrange such an event,” he said, “to celebrate the history and the people who worked there and who continue to practice the intricate art of stained glass.”
Caroline Swash, 76, worked in the studio during Goddard & Gibbs’ heyday throughout the 1990s. Those who knew the building best during its stained glass glory days are pleased to see it as a hub of creativity once again, she told the Gazette.
“It’s a retail shop, but it’s a good one and is always buzzing whenever I’ve popped in,” she said.
“It’s giving the building art again.”
The site’s link to the creative industries began more than a century ago, after the Goddard & Gibbs studio took root in Kingsland Road to provide the company’s craftsmen with two floors of space for their glass cutting, glazing and fixing.
Caroline, who also served as secretary of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, told the Gazette the studio quickly became synonymous with quality.
“It attracted the most prestigious stained glass craftsmen in the country,” she said.
“Goddard & Gibbs was the best studio to work with – they were fantastic technically and produced some of the most exciting work being done.”
Staff produced works for countries from New Zealand to Nigeria, and even played a part in the construction of the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris.
In addition to quality, the studio was also renowned for the scale of its productions.
Its closure marked the end of an era in stained glass manufacturing, Caroline said: “There’s nowhere in the UK capable of doing work to the same scale.”
But elements of the Hackney studio’s illustrious stained glass past remain, in London and elsewhere.
“The great thing about stained glass is that you have what is made, and the beauty of the work around you,” Caroline said.
“That’s something you can’t take away.”
Chris Madlin, began as an apprentice in stained glass at Goddard & Gibbs in the late 1980s. He left in 1997, and by the time he returned in 2000 the company had moved to Bow.
“It’s strange going back there,” he said, “because it’s not the same building, but it still feels like the same place.”
Of the exhibition, he added: “We [the artists] haven’t seen each other for about 10 years. A lot of us haven’t stayed in touch – it’s going to be nice to see everybody and be doing something creative again together.
“I don’t think you really appreciate perhaps how interesting, and how enjoyable, a job it was until you’ve left.”
The Goddard & Gibbs exhibition will run from November 17 until January 4, 2018, at 41-49 Kingsland Road.