Spindles Town Centre

Oldham, England


The series of three "interrelated roof lights in stained glass connecting and spanning the main public areas" of the Spindles Shopping Centre, Oldham, are among Europe's largest stained glass windows. "Originally conceived as a series of five roof lights and later modified, reducing to three, the design for the central square incorporates specific reference to the music of Sir William Walton (born, like Clarke, in Oldham). These elements include musical scores from Belshazzar's Feast, the initial programme page of the Te Deum written in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and a highly magnified facsimile of a letter written by the composer when he was a chorister at Christ Church, Oxford. The ‘small mall’ was motivated by the 'Orb & Sceptre Coronation March' and marks a breakaway from the amorphic elements of the other compositions towards a more painterly abstraction." Here the rhythm of the grid is disrupted by huge brushstrokes in orange, green and red glass.

"Since Oldham's other 'most famous son' is William Walton', Clarke has drawn inspiration from this 'so very English' composer, to whom he has given homage in his design. The stained glass in Central Square contains both literal and figurative references to Walton. Without a conscious intention to make a pictorial representation, Clarke evokes a recorded anecdote of Walton in which the composer, finding himself at a creative impasse, glanced at the vine-covered trellis in his garden at Ibiza, and gazing at the shafts of sunlight penetrating the latticework, felt himself released from that despair and bondage. In Clarke's design for the Central Square, the great latticework grid is pierced by a flash of orange-red light (like an Annunciation). The manuscript and music pages, unreadable by the passer-by, remind me of those Gothic stained galss makers, some of whose representations on high could only be deciphered by God. The glass roofed corridors linking these great spaces have been designed to have the pace of the rhythm of a stately march, punctured by heraldic emblems sufficient to induce a pause of recognition, but not to stop the inevitable flow into the climactic spaces, the points of crescendo. For this project Clarke has revived the use of a red glass made with gold which has not been in use since the nineteenth century. The texture and quality of brushstrokes will be emulated by the texture of the glass." Paul Beldock in the essay 'Into Architecture', from the book 'Brian Clarke: Into and Out of Architecture'.