▪ The other Margaret Rope

One of the fascinating things about preparing for the Margaret Rope 2016 exhibition is carrying out the background research.  One comes across quite surprising things.
For example, just a dozen or so miles from Marga’s home-town of Shrewsbury, you will find the tiny village of Wistanstow, where there is a really charming old church – and, in it, of all things, there is glass by Marga’s cousin, Margaret Edith (Aldrich) Rope…

More research needs to be carried out to ascertain why MEA Rope (nickname – ‘Tor’) was commissioned to produce work in Shropshire (Tor’s family home was actually in Suffolk), but it can’t be mere coincidence, can it?
Curiously, not only did Marga and Tor share the same name (i.e. Margaret Rope) but both worked in stained glass. Naturally enough therefore, they became close colleagues and helped each other out, almost as partners, for thirty years.    See Arthur Rope’s website which is the definitive profile of Tor.

Wistanstow

There are two windows by Tor at Wistanstow Church: the St Anne window and one depicting St Wistan (a local saint).  Unfortunately the church guide-booklet mistakenly ascribes them both to Marga, but the cousins did have similar styles, so we can forgive…
The windows are in fact easily ascribed because Tor has done us the favour of leaving her signature on them, including her recognisable tortoise symbol.
This signature is clearly seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the St Anne window (though over in the St Wistan window, fixing material has obscured it).

Wistanstow - tortoise in St Anne window
Wistanstow – Detail of  St Anne window showing the ‘MEAR’ signature and tortoise

One suspects that the Friends Of Wistanstow, who had the St Anne window restored in 2000, realised then it was important to make the signature properly visible; and maybe, in time, they will be able to do that with the St Wistan window also.

Wistanstow - nativity in St Anne window
Wistanstow – nativity in St Anne window

If you’re wondering why this (bottom half of) the St Anne window features the Virgin Mary in a nativity scene, it’s because St Anne was Mary’s mother.

One day, researches will turn up some correspondence which may explain why Tor was called in and when, but for now … enjoy the windows!   Wistanstow Church is open most days.

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2 thoughts on “▪ The other Margaret Rope

  1. Yes indeed, there were two Margaret Ropes, not one! They were cousins and both were stained glass artists.
    There are a number of windows by MEA Rope (the cousin) in Hereford in All Saints Church. The church is in the centre of town and you can get a good view of the smaller windows by going up into the balcony of the cafe.
    The church sell a number of post cards of details of the windows. When I asked the warden for further details about the artist she could give me little if any information.

    I have also tried to find out more about the two cousins and have come up against a brick wall. As I understand it when the Margaret who became a nun entered a closed order her cousin continued to work on her own designs, but also made windows from the designs of her cousin. I listened to the Womans Hour programe about Margaret Agnes, but they made no mention of the cousin – who also needs to be more widely recognised.
    Jill Fenn

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