Stained Glass Windows in the Barber Centre

If you've ever spent much time studying in UBC’s Main Library (now the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre), you may have spent a good few minutes of your life staring up at these stained glass windows as you daydreamed, or mulled over new ideas. Why are they there?

There are two sets of stained glass windows in the heritage core of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre that date back to the core’s origins as the University Library, originally completed in 1925.

Above the staircases leading from the west entrance up to the Chapman Learning Commons is the Canadian Jubilee Memorial Window. Although a stained glass window for what was then the main entrance to the Library was proposed while the building was still under construction, the project was not completed for several more years. In 1927, a monetary gift from an anonymous donor allowed work to proceed.

University architects Sharp & Thompson prepared the original plans for the window, but suggested that it might have to be made in eastern Canada or England “as no one else [locally] handles this class of work in a satisfactory way.” The design was later modified by the Bromsgrove Guild Ltd. of Montreal, specialists in stained glasswork, in consultation with University Librarian John Ridington. Once the design was approved by the donor and the Board of Governors, the contract was given to the Bromsgrove Guild, and the work completed by its parent company in England. The final cost of the project was $1,600.

The Canadian Jubilee Memorial Window commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Dominion of Canada in 1927. It was unveiled by BC Premier Simon Fraser Tolmie on November 28, 1928, immediately after Fall Congregation. The window consists of nine panels of stained glass, with the Canadian coat-of-arms in the centre flanked by the crests of the eight provinces apart from BC – from left to right, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland was not included in the design because it was still a separate British Dominion and did not join Canada until 1949.

High on the walls of the Chapman Learning Commons is another set of stained glass windows, showing the crests of 25 Canadian and British universities and colleges. The crest designs were supplied by those institutions upon the special written request of John Ridington. Installed in 1925, the windows supply a touch of colour that relieves the austerity of the masonry and woodwork elsewhere in the Commons. On the west wall, in order from north to south, are the crests of:

  • Victoria University (affiliated with University of Toronto)
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Manitoba
  • University of New Brunswick
  • Saint-Joseph College (now part of the University of Moncton)
  • McGill University (parent institution of UBC’s predecessor, McGill University College of BC)
  • UBC (with the coat-of-arms of British Columbia directly above it)
  • University of Toronto
  • Mount Allison University
  • Laval University
  • St. Francis Xavier University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • McMaster University

The east wall has the crests of:

  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Montreal
  • King's College
  • Dalhousie University
  • University of Western Ontario
  • Cambridge
  • UBC
  • Oxford
  • Bishop's College (now Bishop's University, Quebec)
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • University of London
  • Trinity College (part of University of Toronto)
  • Acadia University

Originally published in the September 2010 issue of alumni UBC's Grad Gazette.