Kenneth Bunton was Roy Miller’s principal designer from 1961 until the early 1970s and together they produced over 140 windows in about 60 churches throughout New Zealand. Ken lived in England and never travelled to New Zealand.
In 1945 Ken enrolled at the Central School of Art and Craft, London, for four years part-time studies, including life-drawing and stained glass work. This school followed a philosophy of simple, non-elaborate forms of design and the application of medieval and folk styles of decoration. Ken then worked at Nicholson’s Stained Glass Studios and also at James Powell and Sons (Whitefriars). In 1947 he gained a ‘First Diploma of Merit and Travelling Scholarship’ then in 1950 he became an Associate of the British Society of Master Glass Painters.
Ken also worked with the needy and homeless in a poor part of London which had suffered during the Blitz and for a time gave up stained glass in 1949 to become an Anglican Franciscan Friar. He left the Friary in 1952, spending the next few years as a freelance stained glass window designer for J Wippell & Co Ltd. in Devon, where he developed a strong style, easily recognisable by long noses, fingers and toes.
He then set up a studio in his house in Sevenoaks, Kent, where he designed and executed stained glass windows from 1962 until 1968. At this time Roy Miller in New Zealand selected Kenneth Bunton as his glass designer and they formed a successful partnership during the 1960s. Although the bulk of Ken’s design work was for New Zealand, he also produced several designs for church windows in the United Kingdom, South Africa and America. Perhaps Ken Bunton’s most important windows in Britain are in the Christ Church, Southwark, London, where he and Frederick Cole designed ten windows depicting local industries and the rapid change in work and society.
From the 1970s economic recession meant a downturn in the industry worldwide and stained glass commissions in New Zealand began to taper off, and Roy had little work he could pass on to Ken. Ken’s last design for Roy was in 1977, and he never produced any more stained glass window designs He died in 2014 and was buried in a natural burial ground. A friend commented, ‘Although there is no tombstone he left plenty of windows and I think looking at them is more enjoyable than an inscribed slab of granite or marble.’