Stained glass and the art of Theodora Salusbury (1875-1956)

Speaker: Georgina Maltby

16 October 2018

Georgina Maltby visited the Thurcaston and Cropston Local History Society in October to tell us about her cousin the stained glass artist Theodora Salusbury and the art of stained glass making.

First of all Georgina Maltby explained what needs to be taken into consideration when creating a stained glass window, and the steps involved in the process: the space and shape of the window are important; how the light will come through it; and whether there are any shadows from outside that will affect it.  Then a cartoon is drawn, the glass is cut and coloured, then leaded up and finally installed.

Theodora Salusbury (who liked to be known as Miss Salusbury) was born in Leicestershire in 1875, and was one of five sisters, none of whom married.  Her father was a solicitor in Leicester and they lived close to the church of St James the Greater on London Road, before moving to Birstall.   The family was very fond of birds and she often depicted them in her windows, and sometimes used a peacock as a signature which she chose as it is a symbol of resurrection.  Unfortunately all her papers were destroyed after her death in 1956 so it has been a ‘wonderful treasure hunt’ for Georgina Maltby to find her windows.  One of the first  she created was The Annunciation (1920) which is in St James the Great Church, Birstall.

Leicester was an advantageous place to live and Miss Salusbury and two of her sisters studied at the Leicester School of Art.  There were a number of well-established families who would commission work and there are more than a dozen of her windows in Leicestershire, including three in Birstall and one in Woodhouse Eaves.  She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and later trained with Christopher Whall (a leading stained glass artist in the Arts and Crafts Movement), before setting up her own studio in St Agnes in Cornwall.  Her career really began after the First World War when she was 45.  Her work is characterized by her use of vivid colours and finely drawn figures, particularly babies and children. At some time (probably during World War II) she moved to Bath to live with her sisters, and it is here that Georgina Maltby remembers meeting Cousin Dora and being given a gift of a peacock feather by her.  Miss Salusbury died in 1956.

If you would like more information about Miss Theodora Salusbury and to see photographs of her windows, Georgina has just finished a finely illustrated book.  ‘Theodora Salusbury 1875-1956: Stained glass artist’.  By Georgina Maltby and Andrew Loutit.