Odds and quads

Most stained-glass windows feature scenes from the Bible or the lives of saints.

October 27, 2011

But these celebrate the achievements of a single civil engineering company between 1844 and 19 - in widening railways, building reservoirs and draining the Valley of Mexico ("total excavation: 15,000,000 cubic yards"). Other scenes show more mundane activities, such as workmen carrying out "sundry water and gas contracts".

From the Milford Haven Docks to the Blackwall Tunnel and Hudson River Tunnel, by way of commissions everywhere from Egypt to Brazil, S. Pearson & Son played a major role in creating the infrastructure of its age.

Also unusual is the extensive use the windows make of written texts. These record the difficulties encountered on particular projects, the involvement of leading civil engineers and the honours acquired by the family.

The Pearson Stained Glass Windows are now owned by Leeds Metropolitan University's School of the Built Environment. They were acquired by the late Patrick Nuttgens, the first director of what was then Leeds Polytechnic.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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