Thomas Cowell, stained glass artist: papers

Scope and Content

Sketches, photographs, and preliminary designs (ca. 1880s - ca. 1930); programmes of entertainments held at the Whitefriars Glassworks (1892 - 1923); press cuttings (1894 - 1932); personal correspondence between Cowell, his colleagues and family (1896 - 1950); journals including articles relating to stained glass (1897 - 1933); sketchbooks (ca. 1900 - 1909); invoices and receipts (1905 - 1938); notes relating to stained glass (1912 - 1985); printed illustrations (ca. 1918); share prospectus for James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd (1919); photographs of Thomas Cowell (ca. 1920); church guides, magazines, pamphlets and sermons (ca. 1923 - 1930s); booklets published by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd (ca. 1930s); booklets on stained glass published by Heaton and Son (undated); cartoons, designs and cutlines (undated); Christmas cards (undated); greetings cards (undated); photographs and postcards of church interiors, family, friends and stained glass windows and their manufacture (undated).

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Cowell (1870-1949) was a principal glass painter for James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd. He began work at Powells after leaving school at 14, and left in 1932, aged 62. He then continued to work freelance and completed his last commission in 1946. He studied art and in 1888 was awarded a certificate of merit for proficiency in glass painting by Regent Street Polytechnic. During his long career, Cowell worked closely with the artist Louis Davis (executing and sometimes adapting his work) and struck up friendships with fellow stained glass artists including Charles J. Connick, Douglas Strachan and George Cooper Abbs.

Cowell's major commissions include executing stained glass windows for St. Matthews church, Surbiton in the 1920s (including the Clayton Memorial windows), the American Church of Paris, Quai d' Orsay c.1934, a window of St. Margaret of Scotland for a display at the Wembley Empire Exhibition 1924 and 1925, and windows for a church in Stockholm c. 1920.


Some sorting had been carried out prior to acquisition by the V&A. Previous numbers and transcriptions of signatures can be found on the items.

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: Access to some of the material may be restricted. These restrictions are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Thomas Cowell's personal correspondence and notes are closed until 2024.

Acquisition Information

Given by John Wilson, 1992

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Related Material

The Ceramics and Glass Collection holds some Whitefriars coloured glass tiles 'Opus sectle' (20 with stenciled patterns), partly the work of Thomas Cowell from the 1920s and 1930s ( C.50-1992 to C.86-1992).

See also James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd, stained glass manufacturer: records (AAD/1977/1).

Geographical Names