Saturday, 14 August 2010

Passing of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor, window maker

I have just learned with sadness of the death in July 2009 of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor. I visited Stephen and Denise in their studio set against the foothills of the Southern Alps west of Geraldine in 2007. I went to see Denise's blown glass work, but was delighted to learn of Stephen's work with stained glass, his pride in his energy efficient kiln design, and to visit his then recently opened window at Woodbury.
Stephen Bélanger-Taylor held a BA from the Royal College of Art, London. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Arts, and Fellow of the Master Glass Painters in England. Stephen Taylor was born in South-East London in June 1940 during the blitz and the Battle of Britain. The repair, restoration or replacement of windows in bombed-out churches and cathedrals throughout Europe was to become a significant part of Stephen's life as a stained glass designer. It is said that Stephen would refer ironically to Adolf Hitler as the 'patron saint of stained glass'.
At 15 Stephen won a year’s scholarship at the Wimbledon School of Art where he was introduced to stained glass, and where he learned the skill of its restoration. He then won a place at the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art, London. His studies took him to Paris and all over France where he learned the historic glass techniques of the early Flemish Glass Masters in order to replicate 12th to 14th century glass and pigments. On completion of his studies, he lectured at the Royal College of Art. In 1968, after receiving a stained glass commission at St James Cathedral in Toronto, he moved to Canada. He later lectured at Toronto University, Humber College and Georgian College in Ontario where he met his wife, Denise Bélanger.
Some of Stephen's most notable works in Canada are windows in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, St Luke's Thornhill, St Michael's and All Angels Etobicoke and Picton Town Hall.
During their time in Canada, Stephen and Denise set up a joint glassworks studio near Picton by Lake Ontario in Canada. After an initial visit to New Zealand in 1985, Denise and Stephen made a number of visits here and finally migrated in 1995, and established their home and studio outside Geraldine.
In his glass art in New Zealand, Stephen worked closely with artist Beverley Shore-Bennett of Wellington. They had a long and fruitful creative partnership, producing numerous windows in many parts of the country. Some examples of their collaboration I know of are in the Anglican Cathedral in Napier, in Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, the Old Girls Chapel at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, St Matthew in the City in Auckland and the Lady Chapel windows in the Cathedral of St Paul in Wellington. Stephen designed and made the Nurses' Memorial Window in the Nurses' Memorial Chapel in Christchurch. In 2007 Stephen created what he believed to be one of his finest works, at St Thomas’ Church, Woodbury, not far from where he and Denise lived (shown above and his signature at left).
Stephen's substantial body of work is an enduring legacy of inspirational art.


  1. Unfortunately you have an error in your tribute to Stephen Belanger Taylor. The window mentioned that he was so proud of was in St Thomas' church Woodbury near Geraldine - not Woodburn as mentioned in your article. This is also the church where his funeral was held which I attended and it was a very loving and fitting tribute to a great 'Glass Man'.
    Helen Watson

  2. Thanks for spotting the mistake - corrected now.

  3. I think this must be the Stephen Taylor who studied and worked with my father, Lawrence Lee, at the R.C.A. until 1968 when the Stained Glass Dept. was (incredibly) closed down. Its good to know he went on designing and making great modern stained glass windows in New Zealand as well as Canada.
    At present, my friend Paula Bailey and I are creating an archive of my father's work and times, and wish to include as much as possible about his students and assistants and contemporary 'glass men' who did so much to establish a truly modern style of stained glass. If you and anyone else who knew Stephen Taylor and have information (and photos) of his work, would like to contact us, we would be very glad to hear from you. We can be contacted at
    Stephen Lee

  4. Yes, Stephen did have a scholarship at the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art, and subsequently taught there before he migrated to Canada in 1968. He was Stephen Taylor then, since he hadn't then met or married Denise Belanger. I'm afraid I can't add anything about Lawrence Lee.

  5. I'm pleased to report that Stephen's window at St Thomas's, Woodbury was has not been affected by the recent Canterbury earthquakes. I visited again on 27 March 2011, and all the windows in the church were intact, with no sign of damage to the church at all.