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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Blue plaque unveiled in honour of artist who created stained glass windows in Shrewsbury Cathedral

 

A blue plaque has been placed on the former home of the Catholic artist who designed seven of the finest windows of Shrewsbury Cathedral.

The plaque in honour of Shrewsbury-born Margaret Agnes Rope was unveiled on the wall of the Priory House, now part of the Welsh Bridge Campus of the Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

It was awarded by Shrewsbury Civic Society and represents the only blue plaque in honour of an individual within the historic town itself.

Mark Stewart, the administrator of the Margaret Agnes Rope Project, told a gathering of guests ahead of the ceremony that Margaret was “probably the finest artist to be born in Shropshire”.

“But extraordinarily nobody actually knows very much about her at all,” he said. “One of the reasons why we are grateful to the college is because not only will the students and young people of our town know who she is but because we can see the plaque from the river other people may begin to wonder who she is as well”.

“Although she is neglected and little known her work is actually collected by American museums”, including the New York Metropolitan Museum, he added.

A ribbon was cut to mark the official unveiling by Byron Granger Jones, chairman of the Shrewsbury Civic Society, who said he was “very proud” to have been involved in the project.

James Staniforth, principal of the Shrewsbury Colleges Group, said: “The plaque will serve as a reminder to our students that talent and drive are powerful qualities.

“Margaret Rope lived in an era when lone women, such as she, had limited chances of success – but she created magnificent, enduring works of art.”

Grants for the project came from Councillor Nathaniel Green, the Rope Family Charitable Trust and the Margaret Rope Appreciation Group.

Margaret was born in 1882 and baptized in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Shrewsbury, but following the death of her father, Henry, a doctor, she joined her mother, Agnes, and most of her five siblings in becoming Catholics.

The Priory was the family home from 1901 until the 1950s and Margaret lived there until 1921 when she became a Carmelite nun.

Before that, she had studied drawing, enameling, lettering and stained glassmaking at the Birmingham school of Art, at the start of an artistic career that lasted some 30 years and it was at the Priory where she designed many of her fabulous Arts and Crafts windows.

She used the kitchen table of the house as the workbench on which to design the Great West Window of Shrewsbury Cathedral.

In all, Margaret produced about 60 windows, along with some metal work (the Cathedral’s monstrance and reliquary to house the relic of St Winefride), wooden items (such as altar frontals and memorials and the Cathedral’s First World War Memorial) and ceramic plaques. Other windows created by Margaret for the Diocese of Shrewsbury include those at Our Lady and the Apostles in Stockport; Holy Name in Oxton, Ss Peter and Paul in Newport, Our Lady’s in Latchford and at St Joseph’s in Sale there are some of her painted panels.

She also created stained glass windows depicting the English Martyrs which adorn the walls of the Martyrs’ Crypt at Tyburn Convent, London.

One of her most novel windows at Shrewsbury Cathedral includes images of a London bus and a uniformed bobby.

For years it was informally known as the “Congress Window” in the belief that it celebrated the Eucharistic Congress that was held in London in 1908.

But local researcher Roger Hall has noted, however, that Margaret dated the picture in Latin to May 1921, concluding that it depicted a procession in honour of the English martyrs along the “Tyburn way” from Newgate, the site of the notorious London prison, to Marble Arch, the site of the Tyburn gallows.

In light of the research, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said it would be appropriate in the 2017 diocesan Year for Mission to rename the window the “English Mission Window” to reflect more accurately the intentions of the artist.

 

(Photographs by Simon Caldwell)