See the Roman-Inspired Stained Glass at Bank Station

If you were planning to appreciate some beautiful stained glass in London, Bank Underground Station probably wouldn’t be top of the list.

So imagine my surprise when travelling through the (relatively) new Walbrook exit of Bank in finding a series of stained glass from John Hutton.

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

The Hutton Panels

The story starts in 1954, when this area of the City – decimated by bombs in WWII – was being redeveloped as Bucklersbury House.

Below is a LCC bomb damage map showing (yellow X) the approximate site of the Bank Station exit today. 

Image from www.layersoflondon.org

The purple represents “damaged beyond repair” however in the midst of the debris was a silver lining in the shape of an ancient Roman temple. 

Inspired by this discovery, the site owners (Legal & General Assurance Society) commissioned John Hutton to create 24 engraved and etched glass panels for the North and South entrances of their new building.

It’s hard to overstate the excitement of this find on 18 September 1954, the proposed final day of the excavation.

In the ravaged city, dotted with bomb sites and covered in black soot, thousands of people queued for hours to get a glimpse of the Temple of Mithras, gradually being uncovered during excavations. There’s a wonderful video from contemporary eye witnesses on the Bloomberg website here

Roman Temple

You can also read my blog all about the reimagined Temple (that’s free to visit!) here.

A Closer Look at the Panels

The glass panels are split into two parts, one group showing everyday life in the Roman city of Londinium while the other celebrates that variety of Gods, spirits and deities worshipped there.

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

Some nice details include the impression of the arched Roman Bridge in the background as well as figures carrying large amphora (pots).

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

Not much survives of the original Roman bridge, however a fragment of a wharf – dated to around 75 AD – can be found outside the church of St Magnus the Martyr.

Part of the Roman Wharf AD 75 | Look Up London

In the other section there’s a veritable networking event for Gods, the cluster of four below showing three Roman deities, Venus, Bacchus and Minerva but also the Egyptian God Serapis wearing a modius (cylindrical headdress).

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

There’s also the main iconography from the cult of Mithras, The Tauroctony where Mithras slaughters the bull.

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

All this was intended to reflect the diverse, international mix of Roman London.

John Hutton (1906-1978) was born in New Zealand but moved to London in his 30s. He became renowned for his work in glass including a screen at Coventry Cathedral

John Hutton | Coventry Cathedral
Image shared under CC0 1.0Alan Hitchcokcock

Visit the Hutton Panels

The Panels can be found at the Walbrook entrance to Bank Station and are accessible via escalators and lift.

Given their location underground and height of the display, the detail is unfortunately a bit lost but there are helpful panels which describe the scenes.

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

The whole effect is rather more like old fashioned light boxes, but it does at least give the London commuter a piece of history to ponder whilst traversing the otherwise dismal Bank Station!

Bank Station Roman Glass Panels | Look Up London

Related Blog

You might also enjoy this round up of some of London’s most unusual stained glass. Read more here

Stained Glass Two Temple Place

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