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Archiver > IrelandGenWeb > 2006-06 > 1149360714

From: "Jean R." <>
Subject: EARLEY Family of Ecclesiastic Artists - Ireland & England
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2006 11:51:54 -0700

SNIPPET: There is a stunningly beautiful window in the Merrion Road Church, Dublin. This exquisite work depicting the Virgin and Child is one of the masterpieces of the EARLEY Family of Ecclesiastical Artists.

Michael John EARLEY M.Ch., FRCS, a plastic surgeon in the Mater Hospital and the Children's Hospital, Dublin, is interested in making a definite Co. Leitrim connection of the family from older records and family bibles
that might be forthcoming, per article in the 2001 issue of "Leitrim Guardian" periodical.

The Earley Ecclesiastical Studios in various forms were in existence from1864 to 1975, providing a high standard of ecclesiastical art during the Gothic revival of the 1800s and the building of Catholic Churches which
flourished in the first half of the 20th century. Per family tradition, this distinguished family of artists seems to have originated from Drumshanbo, in Co. Leitrim, Ireland, emigrated to Birmingham and returned to Dublin.

James EARLEY was listed in the 1833 Birmingham directory of business as a bricklayer living at No. 9 Staniforth Street. He had married Elizabeth FARRINGTON in or about 1818. In the 1841 census of Birmingham, he is listed as being a builder by profession and it is possible that both he and his son, Thomas, were involved in the building of St. Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham as Thomas would have been working for HARDMAN and PUGIN at that stage. James EARLEY is buried in the crypt of St. Chad's Cathedral, an honor which was given to a very few. In the 1841 census he is also recorded as being Irish and his death certificate shows that he was born in 1788.

The most likely scenario is that James was born in Drumshanbo, emigrated in his late teens or early twenties and was married in England in his late twenties (FARRINGTON being an English name). Elizabeth and James had eight children, the two sons being Thomas and John who founded their studios in Dublin.

Dr. EARLEY, who has never managed to find any definite records beyond those in Birmingham. Drumshanbo, itself, has many EARLEY families as evidenced by the St. Patrick's Church Graveyard and the businesses in town.

Early history shows that John HARDMAN of Birmingham, a metal and button manufacturer, formed HARDMAN and Company in the 1830s. In 1838, he joined forces with the English Gothic Revival Architect, A. W. N. PUGIN to manufacture ecclesiastical metalwork and Church fittings. They collaborated on such
diverse subjects as St. Chad's Cathedral, Birmgingham and The Houses of Parliament, London. It was PUGIN who encouraged John HARDMAN to produce
stained glass in the 1840's meeting with huge success.

In the 1840s, Thomas EARLEY was a Gothic decorator, being trained by PUGIN, visiting his home in Ramsgate, and involved in both ecclesiastical and domestic gothic decoration. Records show that he worked in the St. Chad's Cathedral and in the Houses of Parliament projects, among many others throughout
Britain. His origins seem to have been those of a stone carver, becoming a general handyman and Gothic decorator, and by the mid to late 1840s being in charge of the corps of painters at HARDMAN's.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition took place in London. Thomas EARLEY was responsible for setting up HARDMAN's exhibit of Stained Glass and metalwork in the Medieval Court. He set up a similar exhibit at the International Dublin Exhibition of 1853 and many commissions were forthcoming. By November of
1853, a shop was being prepared at 48 Grafton Street for HARDMAN's Ecclesiastic Products. By 1856, the Grafton Street Ecclesiastic Supplies Shop was well established, acting as a showcase for the clergy and for others to view to make orders. HARDMAN set up a stone carving works at No. 1, Camden St, Dublin, and also sent over his nephews, Henry and Edward POWELL to assist in the business while their brother John HARDMAN-POWELL continued to design the cartoons for the stained glass windows in collaboration with PUGIN in Birmingham.

In 1864, Thomas EARLEY and Edward POWELL formed their own business at No.1, Camden Street calling it "EARLEY and POWELL" Their work was of a high standard, using traditional materials and Victorian designs. While John HARDMAN-POWELL provided most the window cartoons, Thomas' young brother John began his apprenticeship in stained glass and also moved from Birmingham to Dublin.

The EARLEY & POWELL Studios flourished mainly under the guiding hand of "The Governor," Thomas EARLEY. His younger brother died young at 42, but John's son, also called John, became a renowned stained glass artist with examples of his work still existing throughout Ireland including St. Nicholas of Myra, Thomas Street, Dublin. His Uncle Thomas died in 1893, bringing to an end an extraordinary era, but not diminishing the Victorian influence, even though there was a change in style to some degree.

John BISHOP-EARLEY, as he became known (having included his mother's maiden name), had three brothers: James Farrington EARLEY, Francis Hubert EARLEY and William EARLEY. James emigrated to America as an architect. Francis became a sculptor of note, carving the St. Michael & St. Gabriel statues flanking the high altar at St. Kevin's, Harrington St., Dublin, among other pieces. William EARLEY (1871-1956), who was only one year old when his father, John EARLEY died, entered the Metropolitan School of Art in the early 1890s when he was 18. William distinguished himself in the School of Art where he won prizes for designs of stained glass windows and in 1894 was one of two scholarship winners, the other being W. H. ORPEN, who was to be an extremely talented and noteworthy Irish portrait artist. However, William EARLEY was forced to resign his scholarship as he became apprenticed to the Studios of Edward MARTYN in Dublin. Soon after, his elder brother, John BISHOP-EARLEY had a st!
roke and could no longer manage the studios alone. To Edward MARTYN's consternation, William moved into the family business. Where John BISHOP's style incorporated some Celtic influences in border decoration, William was influenced by the painters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Murillo and others who favored more representational imagery of the Bible and Saints.

In St. Patrick's Church, Drumshanbo, there is a window to the left of the main altar dated 1919 depicting St. Patrick explaining The Trinity. It is in a style similar to a watercolor by John BISHOP-EARLEY but given the
date of the window, it may have been executed by William. The window over the altar in Killinagh Church, Blacklion, Co. Cavan, is a very typical example of William EARLEY's work, as is the large window in Ringsend Catholic Church in Dublin. While William concentrated on stained glass and on acting as principal in the studios which were now known as "EARLEY & Company," his nephews, Jack and Gerard, sons of John BISHOP-EARLEY, became involved. Jack's son, Leo, became apprenticed to his Uncle Bill and by the 1950s was the stained glass designer and cartoonist. Leo's work was influenced by that of Harry CLARKE with the use of ornate decoration inspired by flora and fauna, detailed aruond the window borders and in the figures themselves.

With the death of Uncle Bill in 1956, Gerard became Managing Director of Earley Studios while Leo's brothers, Jackie and Gabriel, became involved in glass painting and in the "setting out" of windows. The youngest brother, Willie, later set up his own separate studio in Dundrum. Examples of 1950's work can be found in Gortahork, Co. Donegal, in Ballivor, Co. Meath, in Grange, Co. Sligo, and in many churches around Dublin; one example being the Round Window of the Catholic Church on the Merrion Road which was designed by Leo in the mid 1950s. By the 1960s there was a fall in demand for highly ornate and costly designs, with architecture favoring a starker concept of concrete and light with simple slabs of stones for altars. The workforce of skilled glass painters and marble carvers and polishers diminished and in 1975, the doors of Earley & Co. closed.

If researchers have factual information verifying or disputing the Co. Leitrim connection please contact Dr. EARLEY, Dublin.

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