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Writer's research uncovers historic drawing of cathedral's west window

PUBLISHED: 16:02 11 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:02 11 June 2019

Australian Bill Bennit at Norwich Cathedral with half of an original design artwork for the West Window by his great grandfather, George Hedgeland. With him is the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Australian Bill Bennit at Norwich Cathedral with half of an original design artwork for the West Window by his great grandfather, George Hedgeland. With him is the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

A 160-year-old original drawing of Norwich Cathedral's west window has travelled halfway across the world to get back home.

The stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral, created by George Hedgeland who emigrated to Australia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral, created by George Hedgeland who emigrated to Australia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The drawing was hidden in a trunk in Western Australia before the research work of writer David Berwick led him to find the designer's great-grandson.

The drawing by George Caleb Hedgeland was inherited by Bill Bennit, his great-grandson, and had been untouched in his attic for more than 50 years.

Mr Bennit said: "When I first saw the drawings, I thought he was an amateur artist that went around painting different stain glass windows.

"When David got in touch with me I couldn't believe what they were, I had no idea."

Australian Bill Bennit takes a close look at the stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral which was designed by his great grandfather, George Hedgeland. He holds half of an original artwork of the design. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAustralian Bill Bennit takes a close look at the stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral which was designed by his great grandfather, George Hedgeland. He holds half of an original artwork of the design. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The full story about the drawings was uncovered after Mr Berwick's research led him to explore Mr Hedgeland's life after moving to Australia in 1859.

Mr Berwick, who is a volunteer guide at Norwich Cathedral, said: "In late December 2018, whilst researching the history of our west window from ca. 1449-1995, I fortuitously made contact with a librarian in Sydney who had researched Hedgeland's life in Australia.

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She put me in touch with Bill Bennit of Perth, who is George Hedgeland's great-grandson.

Part of the stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPart of the stained glass West Window at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"I discovered that Mr Bennit had inherited a trunk of artwork and drawings from his great-grandfather, and some of these were of stained glass windows.

"Eventually we discovered that one of the colour drawings was of the top portion of our west window. This artwork had remained hidden in the trunk for 164 years, since 1854."

Following the discovery, Mr Bennit has decided to gift the drawing of the west window to Norwich Cathedral.

On Tuesday, Mr Bennit and his partner Elaine visited Norwich Cathedral to donate and hand over the artwork and see the west window for the first time.

George Hedgeland's name in the corner of the West Window stained glass at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeorge Hedgeland's name in the corner of the West Window stained glass at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Bennit said: "It is wonderful to see the window in person, I felt a real connection to it straight away. Just being able to touch it gave me a lot of emotion."

The rest of the artwork found was donated to The Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral.

Mr Berwick's book, The west window in Norwich Cathedral (1450-1995) - A colourful history will be released on July 24.



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