Click here to see photographs of the principal windows
Stained glass is an ancient form of decoration in churches. They are, in fact, more often than not, painted and the paint made permanent by firing. In modern windows, coloured glass is often used. They are best regarded not as windows but as illuminated wall decorations and their purpose is to instruct the faithful as well as to commemorate a church’s benefactors.
The church’s mediaeval windows were removed during the 16th. century Reformation and subsequently during the Civil War. Only a few fragments remain which were put into two windows now in the vestry. These show images of the saints and the symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which also appears in some of the new windows. They were probably put together following the re-ordering of the church in 1847. One small piece of glass remains in situ in the north clerestory.
By the early 19th. century, several of the windows had been blocked up. They were opened up as part of the refurbishment of the 1840s. Support for the refurbishment came from the Rowley family and, in particular, George Dawson Rowley and Charles Percival Rowley, two sons of the Lord of the Manor, George William Rowley (1796-1878). G.W. Rowley succeeded to the title on the death, unmarried, of his elder brother David in 1855 and the first window to be designed was dedicated to David in 1859. George Dawson Rowley, who had spent much of his life abroad pursuing his interests as a naturalist, inherited the title in 1878 only a few hours before his own death. It was the younger son C.P. Rowley, who lived in Wintringham Hall, who was the moving force behind the work. He was responsible for at least seven of the windows. He is the ‘only surviving’ child (as he describes himself) of George William Rowley and his wife Catherine who are commemorated in the memorial on the south wall of the chancel. She died in 1886. (Guessingly he was also responsible for the final window of the series in the Jesus Chapel which is dedicated to the memory of his elder brother’s wife, Caroline Francis.) This window is by Kempe, who was responsible for the windows in the chapel of Selwyn College, Cambridge. Interestingly, this window, of the trial before Pilate, is not in the current catalogue of Kempe’s work. It is one of his last windows before his death when the firm passed into the hands of his successor, whose mongram was no longer a wheatsheaf but a sheaf surmounted by the Tower, the name of the new owner.
The East window, which is also by Powell, was the second window to be made and was paid for by subscriptions from members of the congregation when the east wall was rebuilt in 1865. It was restored in 2001.
The windows form a complementing series having been made over a short period, mostly by the same firm between 1859 and 1901. Hardman Powell of Birmingham exhibited his windows at several of the great international exhibitions of the period; and some of his work is of a very high order. Clayton & Bell whose style is easy to distinguish, were responsible for the clerestory windows, the West Tower Window and the two west aisle windows.
The west tower
In the upper section there are, from left to right, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Gregory the Great, the so-called Doctors (teachers) of the Church). In the lower section are the great English saints, St. Alban the first English martyr, St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Ethelbert King of the East Angles and the Venerable Bede.
The south clerestory
There are images of the Old Testament figures including King David, inviting the worshippers to ‘Go out in the strength of the Lord’ .
The north clerestory window shows a fragment of mediaeval glass.
Because the windows are all 100 years old and more they suffer from the decay of the leadwork. The lead tends to oxidise and, because of the weight of the glass, the whole window has a tendency to slide downwards and thus to buckle. The south side windows are most severely deteriorating, probably because they are exposed to the sun much more. The East and South windows of the Lady Chapel, the eastern window of the South Aisle and three more windows in the South Aisle to the west of the porch are also in need of repair.