Hilary Wayment

Historian of stained glass
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The Independent Online

In 1967 a unique opportunity arose to study at close quarters and photograph the famous 16th-century cycle of stained glass at King's College, Cambridge. Scaffolding had been erected in the chapel to enable a cleaning operation. Hilary Wayment took a sabbatical leave from his British Council post, was elected a Fellow of the college and systematically studied the glass, according to the precise standards of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi project. The subsequent large folio volume, The Windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1972) published by the British Academy, was the first of, and became a standard for, the Great Britain CVMA volumes, providing a discussion of the historical setting, but also archaeological, stylistic and iconographic assessments of that great Marian cycle. Wayment's previous life and experience perfectly qualified him for the task.

Hilary Godwin Wayment, historian of stained glass: born London 23 April 1912; FSA 1967; OBE 1967; Fellow, King's College, Cambridge 1968-69; Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge 1973-77; married 1952 Lilah Sykes (née Dixon; one son, one daughter); died Cambridge 20 March 2005.

In 1967 a unique opportunity arose to study at close quarters and photograph the famous 16th-century cycle of stained glass at King's College, Cambridge. Scaffolding had been erected in the chapel to enable a cleaning operation. Hilary Wayment took a sabbatical leave from his British Council post, was elected a Fellow of the college and systematically studied the glass, according to the precise standards of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi project. The subsequent large folio volume, The Windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1972) published by the British Academy, was the first of, and became a standard for, the Great Britain CVMA volumes, providing a discussion of the historical setting, but also archaeological, stylistic and iconographic assessments of that great Marian cycle. Wayment's previous life and experience perfectly qualified him for the task.

Hilary Godwin Wayment was born at Woolwich, east London, in 1912, the son of Alfred Wayment, the headmaster of the local church school, at a time when Woolwich was still very much a village whose life centred around the church of St Mary. His godfather was one of the two curates, Eric Milner-White, later (from 1918 to 1941) Dean of King's. He became a strong influence on Hilary's life, which led him not into the church but eventually into a near lifelong study of stained glass, particularly the windows of King's College, Cambridge.

His long-time association with King's began as a chorister at the choir school. He came back to the college, from Charterhouse, as a scholar in 1931, taking a first in Part I of the Classical Tripos before reading English for Part II; George (Dadie) Rylands's supervisions were certainly most influential on Wayment in developing a love for literature, and a commitment to communicating his enthusiasm to others. He graduated in 1935 and then spent seven fruitful years in Cairo as Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer in English at Fuad I University, from 1937 to 1944. There, in 1943, he published a collection of poems and stories, Egypt Now: a miscellany, and translated from the French Henry Habib Ayrout's Moeurs et coutumes des fellahs (as The Fellaheen, 1945). He also learned Arabic, translating into English the autobiography of the highly influential scholar Taha Hussein (The Stream of Days: a student at the Azhar, 1943).

In 1944, on returning to England, he took up a post with the British Council, and served in London and, happily, from 1948 to 1952 in Cambridge. There, his choir-school friend Kenneth Harrison, a Fellow of King's, was studying the chapel glass. Wayment became more and more involved in the project; this passion never waned, leading to a string of publications, from 1958 onwards. He was fortunate in his British Council postings: 1952-54 in Brussels, 1954-59 as Director of the British Institute in Paris and 1963-68 in Amsterdam. These periods of residence furthered his research on 16th-century glass, and his friendship with stained-glass scholars such as Jean Lafond and I.Q. van Regteren Altena.

After the completion of the work on the cycle of glass at King's, and on retirement from the British Council (he served in Turkey from 1970 to 1973) Wayment was elected a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, to study the windows of the St Mary's Church, Fairford, in Gloucestershire, glass with a close relationship to that at King's. His The Stained Glass of the Church of St Mary, Fairford, Gloucestershire appeared in 1984. Four years later appeared King's College Chapel Cambridge: the side-chapel glass, his systematic study of an extensive group of great interest, part of which goes back to the time of the original fitting-out of the building, although a large amount was added in the 20th century.

Wayment's mentor Milner-White had been responsible for giving new direction to the acquisition of glass for the side-chapels between the two world wars and Wayment took up the mission after 1973, when he became adviser to the college for stained glass. Lancets and whole windows were filled with dozens of rare and beautiful works, for instance a splendid roundel of the Judgement of Zaleucus by Dirk Vellert (incidentally from the collection of van Regteren Altena), who is meant to have designed the large windows of the chapel, and another very fine one, of the Last Supper, after a design by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen. Such extensive purchases were only possible through Wayment's friendships with scholars, collectors and glaziers.

Hilary Wayment's enthusiasm for his subject could unnerve the unwary in casual conversation, but his learning and passion also made him a wonderful communicator, above all to children and young people. His contribution to King's College was commemorated in 1998 by a gift of glass in his honour to complete the glazing of another side-chapel. Now it is there in his memory.

Jean Michel Massing



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