fonds KNOWLES - J. W. Knowles & Sons Archive

Identity area

Reference code



J. W. Knowles & Sons Archive


  • 1613-1962 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.83 cubic metres

15 boxes, 10 rolls, and oversized loose material

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

J. W. Knowles and Sons were a firm of glass painters, restorers, and church decorators based in Stonegate, York.

The business was founded by John Ward Knowles (1838-1931) around 1861. A well-known glass painter and restorer, Knowles' work spanned the period 1863 to 1930. His major work was St Lawrence Church in York, but he is also remembered for his restoration of the St William and the St Cuthbert windows in York Minster.

His son John Alder Knowles (1881-1961) continued the family business and spent time studying new glass manufacturing methods in the USA prior to the First World War. He also had an interest in the history of stained glass, carrying out many original studies into famous works of stained glass and the lives of individual glass painters, such as William Peckitt.

In 1936 J. A. Knowles published ‘The York School of Glass Painting,’ containing his own sketches and photographs as illustrations. His work was also published in the Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, which he also edited.

J. W. Knowles & Sons closed in 1953. The house and workshops on Stonegate remained in the possession of the Knowles family until 1999 when they were sold.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 1977. Further additions were made to the archive in 1991, 1999 and 2008.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Business papers, comprising deeds relating to properties in York, 1613-1901, orders book, 1927-1954, letter books, 1924-1954, wage book, 1934-1953, address book, n.d., correspondence with the British Society of Master Glass Painters and the War Damage Commission, 1948-1952, J. W. Knowles designs catalogue, n.d., J. W. Knowles pattern drawings for stained glass, n.d., sketches and designs for glass windows, including North Newington Hall, Meanwood Church, Leeds, and St John’s Church, Whitby, c.1924-c.1945, correspondence concerning projects, 1952-1962, and photographs of work carried out by J. W. Knowles & Sons, 1897-1906.

Personal papers of John Alder Knowles, including correspondence, 1918-1962, press cuttings concerning his life and work, 1910-c.1948, papers relating to his publications, 1921, 1936, honours received by him, 1938, 1957, obituaries, 1961-1962; historical research papers of John Alder Knowles, including notes and drafts for articles relating to stained glass in York and elsewhere, n.d., notes and correspondence on the history of stained glass, including chronological list of English glass paintings of known date, 1658-1851, detailed case studies of windows in York Minster, n.d., notes on areas of York, n.d; published articles by Knowles, 1920-1959; published material by other authors, c.1926-c.1975; designs by other artists, including Archibald Michael Fletcher, Harry Hanby, and Hugh B. Powell, n.d; photographs of stained glass at Liverpool Cathedral, Musee de Cluny, Oxford New College Chapel, Cartmel Fell Church, Lancashire, and churches in York, n.d; material relating to William Peckitt, including some original papers of Peckitt and his family, 1764-1816, photographs of work by Peckitt, n.d., historical notes and article, ‘William Peckitt Glass Painter,’ 1953-1954, by Knowles.

Notes and correspondence relating to the Price family of glass painters, 1938-1952.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. This includes all material received up to and including 1999.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see the parish records of York, St Martin cum Gregory. Further material related to J. W. Knowles and Son is deposited at York Explore Libraries and Archives [Ref: KNO]

Paintings of stained glass windows at York, Holy Trinity Goodramgate, by A. Michael Fletcher are also deposited at the Borthwick Institute as part of the archive 'Stained glass designs and patterns of C. E. Steel and A. M. Fletcher.'

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 13.07.15.




Accession area