John Petts (artist)

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John Petts (10 January 1914 – 26 August 1991)[1] was born in London, but is considered a Welsh artist, known for his engravings and stained glass.[2]

Stained glass window designed by Petts at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, erected in memoriam following the 1963 bombing of the church, using funds donated by the people of Wales

With his partner, Brenda Chamberlain, Petts set up the Caseg Press in Snowdonia in 1937, and collaborated with poet Alun Lewis before the latter died in the Second World War. In later life Petts lived and worked in Abergavenny.

In 1963, Petts designed and created a stained glass window featuring a Black Jesus for the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, following a racially motivated bombing that killed four African-American girls aged 11–14. Petts, a conscientious objector during World War II, was said to be horrified "as a father and as a craftsman" upon hearing the news.[2] Working with the Western Mail to raise funds, Petts arranged donations from many thousands of Welsh locals to pay for the window. The window was installed and dedicated in 1965.[3] In 1970, the designs for the window were donated to the National Library of Wales.[4] In 2013, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing, Petts's original designs were displayed at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth until December 14, 2013.[5] In September 2018, BBC World Service reported that the church is concerned that Alabama’s stormy weather may destroy the window and is appealing to the public to raise funds to preserve it.[6]

Other stained glass windows that he created include at Brighton and Hove New (now known as Reform) Synagogue in Brighton, UK .[7] In addition, he was the artist of stained glass for several churches and chapels in Wales[8] including a Tree of Life window for St Peter's Church, Carmarthen.

Tree of life stained glass window at St Peter's Church, Carmarthen

John Petts was elected to the Society of Wood Engravers in 1953 and became an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers in 1957. He was a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain between 1958 and 1961. In 1966 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship.[9]


John Petts and the Caseg Press by Alison Smith


  1. ^ Petts Family Ancestry
  2. ^ a b "Birmingham Church Bombing: The Memorial's Unreported Sidebar". Huffington Post. AOL. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  3. ^ Younge, Gary (6 March 2011). "American civil rights: the Welsh connection". Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  4. ^ "National Library of Wales Blog | The Wales window, Birmingham, Alabama". 12 September 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Artist's designs for Alabama church bombing window on display - BBC News". 19 September 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  6. ^ "The black Christ of Alabama, Heart and Soul Gathering, Heart and Soul - BBC World Service". BBC. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  7. ^ "Brighton And Hove New Synagogue And Holocaust Window". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  8. ^ "John Petts (1914-1991)". Stained glass in Wales. University of Wales. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  9. ^ "John Petts 1914-1991". Martin Tinney Gallery. Retrieved 23 December 2016.