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On May 24, 2023, J. Wippell & Co., Ltd. announced it will be closing its doors at year end, after 234 years in business. Established in 1789 in Exeter, England, this British firm manufactures clerical and academic clothing and church furnishings of the finest craftsmanship. The company has maintained workshops in Exeter and London and a sales office in New Jersey. Over these years, throughout the world, churches, cathedrals, and universities have been outfitted by Wippell. 

Altar depicting hidden treasures on the mountain by J Whippell

In the early years the company also had a large stained-glass studio, metal-crafts workrooms, and fine woodwork section, including carvings and statuary.

This article tells of one church’s history with Wippell and with their US representative Bryan Marshall. It is a story no doubt multiplied all over the US as the needs of clergy and altar guilds were met by J Wippell & Co. Ltd. and by Bryan Marshall over the years.

At the Church of St. John on the Mountain Bernardsville, New Jersey, we have taken note of their closure as we have had a long history as a Wippell customer. It is interesting to be aware of the many creations supplied by Wippell that enhance our worship and parish life. This long relationship is notable throughout our building — in our furnishings, stained glass windows, and at the altar — all to the glory of God. The magnificent seasonal altar frontals and vestments have been made by J Wippell. Many orders from the mid-1960s were for the new church and have continued including the new white frontal and chasuble purchased in 2021. 

Bryan Marshall with medieval stained glass
that was incorporated into a new window

Most of our stained-glass windows in the chapel and church were designed and produced by J Wippell. In 1993, Rev Al Niese worked with Bryan Marshall as the designs were prepared for the Beatitudes windows in our nave. 

Bryan, the US representative with Wippell for 48 years, has had a close relationship with St. John over this time advising on many projects. His expertise was especially appreciated during our October 2019 St. John’s event, Hidden Treasures on the Mountain. In addition to overall roving commentary, Bryan discussed the creation of two recently added chapel stained-glass windows: the Centennial window in 2007 and the medieval stained glass incorporated in a new window 2012. 

Other significant purchases from Wippell include the altar rail, the rood screen, and the rood screen cross in 1994. The church communion service set is featured as the Bernardsville pattern in their catalog. It is featured in the Wippell bicentennial catalog.

During World War I and World War II Wippell switched to making and supplying military clothing and equipment, parachutes, signal devices and equipment and in 2020 adapted to produce scrubs and face masks for National Health Service workers.

 J Wippell & Co. Ltd had been a regular advertiser in Epistle for years. Many NAGA members will have additional experiences to share of their relationships with J Wippell & Co. Ltd.

Author: Jane Mercer, Province II, National Altar Guild

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