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.
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).
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.
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.