John Wesley’s Puritan roots were reflected in the austerity of the architecture that he approved and his immediate successors remained suspicious of ornamentation in chapels. Stained glass was not reintroduced into Britain until the Anglo-Catholic Revival of the mid eighteenth century; but its high church connotations delayed its acceptance in Methodist circles until the mid 1880s. Methodist windows are dominated by orthodox scriptural themes and the heroes of Protestantism. Haloes, the commonest feature of high church saints, rarely feature. The non-Wesleyan Methodist denominations rarely succumbed to portraiture; more often their chapel windows were filled with geometrical, multi-coloured patterns.
The most celebrated Methodist manufacturer designer was Clement Heaton (1824-1882) of Heaton, Butler and Bayne, one of the largest firms of the Victorian period which survived until the 1950s. His experiments with pigments produced a wide range of gentle colours, until then unknown in stained glass.
Two quality Hertfordshire Methodist design firms active in the heyday of stained glass, 1850-1950, were Hawes and Harris of Harpenden (who produced two windows for Westminster Abbey) and Henry James Salisbury of St Albans. Salisbury’s younger brother, the more famous Frank O. Salisbury, designed at least 32 windows, the most significant being 3 windows in the apse of what is now Medak Cathedral (in the state of Andhra Pradesh) of the Church of South India. In 1933 he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass.
Another notable stained glass design firm was that of T.W. Camm of Smethwick. Thomas William Camm (1839-1912) was a Methodist local preacher who set up his own stained glass firm in 1888 and gained a high reputation for quality work. The firm was responsible in the 1930s for stained glass windows in the new Byfleet Methodist church.
An outstanding group of windows was commissioned by Harold Guylee Chester in 1937 for the original Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London in memory of his wife who died in 1927. These were the work of Methodists Alice Nora Yoxall (daughter of UM local preacher Henry Smallwood Yoxall) & Elsie Whitford in their Birmingham studio and took 4 years to complete. Some of these windows were installed in the new church of the mid-1980s.
The finest scheme in a Methodist church in Britain by different designers of national and international repute is at Wesley’s Chapel. Here there are windows by the Pre-Raphaelite Henry Holiday, Franz Meyer and Franz Xavier Zettler (separate companies and both members of the Royal Bavarian Art Institute), James Powell of Whitefriars, John Ward Knowles of York, Master Glazier Frank O. Salisbury, Alfred Octavius Hemming of Clayton & Bell, and Henry James Salisbury.
Stained glass continues to be commissioned by Methodist churches with cost being the only restraint. Styles vary, with many being vibrant and symbolic rather than traditional. Windows can be found throughout the Connexion and are apparently now being commissioned in the main by local artists.