Sad story behind stained glass window found in Allendale church is revealed

A missing stained glass window has been found in a church after wartime research by a fan of the artist

An image of Jesus and a soldier in the stained glass windows at Trinity Methodist Church in Allendale
An image of Jesus and a soldier in the stained glass windows at Trinity Methodist Church in Allendale

A forgotten stained glass window by a troubled artist gassed in World War I has been found in a Northumberland church.

The image by Victor Noble Rainbird was discovered by fan and Rainbird collector Dave Young at Trinity Methodist Church in Allendale.

It is only the second surviving stained glass window by the talented painter who Dave described as an under-rated artist who died a drunk after suffering from shellshock and what would now be regarded as post-traumatic shock.

The twin pictures show Jesus on one side and a soldier on the other and commemorates the conflict Rainbird was himself injured in.

Dave made the discovery when carrying out some research on the North East War Memorials Project website and says the window has been missing for 94 years.

He said: “I live in North Shields, which is where Rainbird came from, so I was aware of his work.

“I think he is a very under-rated artist who could have been a great one but he was known around the town as a drunk.

“A lot of it was shellshock, as it was known then, and it affected him for the rest of his life.

“He had signed up as a private in the Northumberland Fusiliers and was gassed.

“He died of throat cancer which arguably could have been brought on by the gassing.”

It was believed up to now that the only surviving example of Rainbird stained glass work was in Papa Stour in of the Shetland Islands.

The artist is known to have completed many such commissions including pieces in churches in Elswick, Jesmond and Monkwearmouth, but they no longer survive.

Dave found out the windows were unveiled in July 1920 by Lt. Col. H.C. Millican of Newcastle and were originally commissioned at a cost of £180 and made by Reed Millican & Co., also of Newcastle, who the artist had collaborated with on other stained glass projects.

“The left hand image shows Jesus in a red robe looking to the left with left hand extended, with a list of those who served named below,” Dave said.

“The right image shows a soldier wounded in the head, leaning on a tree stump, looking towards Jesus in the window alongside with the four names of those who died from the village below.

“It is ironic that the windows should be rediscoverd in this, the year of the World War One Centenary, an event which was to have such an impact on Rainbird’s life and one from which like so many he never really recovered.

“Victor Noble Rainbird, who died in 1936 at the age of 47, was a very talented artist, who as well as working with glass also painted landscapes, street scenes, coastal and figures in oil and Dave watercolour, but was also a muralist and illustrator.

“The artist exhibited his work at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, and the Royal Academy.”

Dave has launched a campaign to get a memorial for Rainbird who is buried at Preston Cemetery, North Shields, in a grave marked by a simple plank of wood with his name written on it.

Further details of the scheme and more information about the artist can be found on a new website at www.victornoblerainbird.com.

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