Ashdown Park Hotel, Sussex
The eight windows that Harry Clarke created for the Chapel of Our Lady at the Convent of Notre Dame in Sussex are based on the life of The Virgin Mary. Major Gerald Dease was influential in Harry receiving the commission. In January 1924 he visited London and, while there, he travelled down to Sussex to meet Sr. Bernard, the Superior of the Convent of Notre Dame, and the architect, Mr. Smart (Bowe: 1994). Harry sent designs of the windows to Sr. Bernard. It was the beginning of a long, difficult correspondence with Sr. Bernard who proved an extremely demanding client. When Harry sent the cartoon for the Visitation window, Sr. Bernard objected to the unicorn depicted in the end panel of the second light, and she also disliked the Virgin’s emaciated face (Bowe: 1994). Harry reluctantly amended the cartoon and in the window the unicorn is absent. In October 1925, despite a bout of ill health, Harry travelled to Sussex to oversee the installation of the windows. The tower window shows Mary surrounded by angels in a deep blue sky. It is signed Clarke Dublin. The other seven windows are signed J. Clarke & Sons, Dublin. The windows are reputed to have thirty-five different shades of blue (A Brief History of Ashdown Park). The Immaculate Conception window (1925) is a three-light window situated in the tower. There are also seven two-light windows at Ashdown Park that depict scenes form the life of Mary.
Photos by © Michael Cullen (for prints/sales www.irishimages.org) - Text © by Lucy Costigan