Thursday, July 03, 2014


The Fabian Stained Glass Window

Fabian stained glass window, by Caroline Townshend, after a design by George Bernard Shaw, now in the Shaw Library at the London School of Economics (click to enlarge):

According to a press release issued by the London School of Economics on April 20, 2006:
Artist Caroline Townshend created the Fabian window, according to Shaw's design in 1910. For whatever reason, Shaw never collected the window from her workshop. The belief is that it remained there until 1947, when Mrs Townsend's niece Eva Bourne, also a stained glass artist, presented it to Beatrice Webb House, Holmbury St Mary, near Dorking. This was the year the house was formally opened by the Webb Memorial Trust as a conference and educational venue for the Labour party and the Fabian Society, officially opened by Clement Attlee.

The window was subsequently stolen from the house in 1978 and surfaced in Phoenix, Arizona, soon after but then disappeared again until it suddenly appeared for sale at Sotheby's in July 2005. The Webb Memorial Trust re-purchased it and have now loaned it to LSE to sit alongside the painting of LSE founders Sidney and Beatrice Webb by William Nicholson in the School's Shaw Library.


The window - is set within an oak frame, giving an overall size of 81 x 76cm. Cited as an example of 'Shavian wit', the figures are in Tudor dress to poke fun at Pease who evidently loved everything medieval. The Fabian Society coat of arms is shown as a wolf in sheep's clothing. The first man, crouching on the left, is HG Wells, cocking a snook at the others. He is followed by the actor-manager Charles Charrington, Aylmer Maude (translator of Tolstoy's War and Peace), G Stirling Taylor (reading a book, New Worlds for Old), and the dentist F Lawson Dodd. The women, from left to right, are Maud Pember Reeves (mother of Amber Reeves, who bore Wells a daughter in 1909), Miss Hankin, the suffragist Miss Mabel Atkinson, Mrs Boyd Dawson, and, at the end, the artist who made the window, Caroline Townshend herself.
The identification of the figures in the window seems to go back at least as far as Archibald Henderson, Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1932), p. 202.

The elusive "Miss Hankin" is, I think, a phantom. In another list of the figures in the window, by Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), p. ii, "Mary Hankinson" appears instead of "Miss Hankin." This is Mary Hankinson (1868-1952), a member of the Fabian Society from 1905 to 1948, on whom see Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (London: UCL Press, 1999), p. 269. Margaret Cole knew Mary Hankinson, which lends weight to the identification. See Margaret Cole, Growing Up into Revolution (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1949), p. 57.

"Mrs Boyd Dawson" is shadowy as well. According to Ian Jackson (per litteras):
"Mrs. Boyd Dawson" is listed on page 286 of the second edition (1925) of Edward R. Pease's The History of the Fabian Society as being a member of the Executive Committee of the Fabian Society from 1919 to 1924. This must be Lilian A. Dawson, author of Fabian Tract no. 205, Co-operative Education (1923) in 20 pages. I see from the 1911 UK census that a Lilian Augusta Dawson (b.1874) was then Assistant Manager of a Labourer Exchange, which would seem to fit. Margaret Cole calls Lilian Dawson “Secretary of the Fabian Women’s Group” so I think we may take it as certain that Mrs. BD is LAD.
I haven't been able to find Lilian Augusta Dawson's maiden name or date of death.

Here, then, is a revised list of the figures in the Fabian window. The standing figures, left to right, are Edward R. Pease (1857-1955), Sidney Webb (1859-1947), and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). The kneeling figures, worshipping a pile of books, left to right, are H.G. Wells (1866-1946), Charles Charrington (1854-1926), Aylmer Maude (1858-1938), G.R. Stirling Taylor (1873-1939), F. Lawson Dodd (1868-1962), Maud Pember Reeves (1865-1953), Mary Hankinson (1868-1952), Mabel Atkinson (1876-1958), Lilian Augusta Dawson (1874-?), and Caroline Townshend (1878-1944).

The books being worshipped can also be identified. Starting at the top are books by George Bernard Shaw: Plays Pleasant, Plays Unpleasant, Plays for Puritans, Man & Superman, Getting Married, and Common Sense of MT, i.e. Common Sense of Municipal Trading. Next are books by Sidney and Beatrice Webb: Minority Report on the Poor Law, Industrial Democracy, History of Trade Unionism, and English Local Government. Finally, on the bottom of the pile, is the general publication Fabian Tracts and Essays.

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