17 June 2019

Three war memorial windows in
Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth

The World War I memorial window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, by Henry Holiday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this morning [17 June 2019], I was discussing the Pre-Raphaelite windows in Saint Chapel in the College Church of Saint Editha, the parish church of Tamworth.

Saint Editha’s Church also has three interesting war memorials side-by-side in the North Aisle, and the windows have interesting connection with the Pre-Raphaelite windows in Saint George’s Chapel.

The first of these windows, at the west end of the north aisle, is the World War I Memorial Window, dating from 1920, and by Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927).

The dedication reads: ‘To the Glory of God and in reverent memory of the men of this Parish who nobly gave their lives for freedom and humanity in the Great War 1914-1918.’

The artist Henry Holiday entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of 15 and was soon drawn to the ideas and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

He succeeded Sir Edward Burne-Jones as the chief designer for the stained glass firm James Powell & Sons in 1863 and his style had a long-lasting effect on their production into the 1920s. Some of his windows were made by Lavers & Barraud and by Heaton, Butler & Bayne.

After Holiday ended his association with Powells, he established his own workshop in 1890, and from about 1900 he made his own glass at the workshop. His later work was made at the Glass House, Fulham.

Holiday also worked as a painter, illustrator and sculptor, and his broad range of interests led to involvement in the campaign for Irish Home Rule, women’s suffrage and dress reform.

In the centre of this window, the crowned Christ is enthroned and holds a cross in his left hand, his right hand raised in blessing. Above him are the words: ‘Come unto me & ye shall find rest to your souls.’ On either side are the words ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’

The rainbow above the throne not only helps to define the composition but is also a sign of the Covenant of God and of hope. Above Christ the King and the rainbow, two cherubs are symbols of Divine Love.

The four angels in two pairs on each side of him bear a scroll with the words: ‘Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.’

The words at the bottom read: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort all that mourn, to give unto them the garment of praise for the spirit of the spirit of heaviness.’

Below the figure of Christ, groups of bereaved people are bringing their sorrows to him.

In the first group, the man on the left, wearing a helmet with his sword at his side, represents one of the many cases where a soldier had returned from the war unhurt but mourning a brother who had lost his life. Next to him is seated an elderly working man, with a leather apron, whose son, we may suppose, has fallen in battle. Above them is a young girl, perhaps a sister of one of the victims.

In the second group in the centre light beneath Christ, a young mother is with her two children, having lost her husband and their father.

In the third group, is a seated young woman, her hand on her heart, having lost her fiancé who has been slain. She holds her wedding wreath in her hand and is going to lay it on his grave. Above her, an elderly couple mourning a lost son. Above these three, a crying and desolate orphan has lost his only parent.

In the tracery lights, King, Country and Church are represented in the tracery lights with the crowned initials GR and the date 1921, the royal monogram of King George V (centre); a fleur-de-lys from the former coat-of-arms of Tamworth (left); and the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Lichfield (right).

The memorial window commemorating the Revd Maurice Peel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, by Henry Holiday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The second war memorial window in Saint Editha’s Church is dedicated ‘To the Glory of God and in affectionate memory of the Hon Maurice Berkeley Peel, BA, MC, vicar of this parish 1915-1917, who when Chaplain to the Forces in France, was killed whilst tending the wounded, May 1917. This window is placed by his family and the parishioners of Tamworth.’

The Revd Maurice Peel (1873-1917) was the son of Viscount Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons. He was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, and was ordained in 1899.

At the outbreak of World War I, he became a chaplain in France with the 7th Division, and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in 1915. He was wounded in action but refused medical attention until all the other men had been looked after. He was sent home to England and took a year to recover, and in the course of that year was appointed Vicar of Tamworth.

He volunteered again in 1917, and was sent to his old battalion. He was killed by a sniper shortly on 14 May 1917 at Bullecourt, while going to rescue a wounded man. The senior chaplain, the Revd Eric Milner-White, later Dean of York, set out to discover how he had died and where he was buried.

Again, this window is the work of Henry Holiday.

The three principle human figures in the three lights are caught up in the wind and represent Life (left), Death (right) and Resurrection (centre), with angelic figures above them who represent Faith (left), Hope (right) and Love (centre). Each panel has further meanings too.

The figure in the first panel represents ‘Man toiling up the stony road and overcoming obstacles on the way.’ The face of this figure is the face of the Revd Maurice Peel. Here man is toiling up the stony road, overcoming the obstacles in his way. Pleasure on one side and cares and riches on the other side are pulling him by the skirts of his garment.

But above him are the words ‘We walk by Faith not by Sight,’ and Faith guides him with one hand, while the other hand is removing the obstacles. Below him are the words ‘Thou wilt show me the path of life.’

In the third panel, ‘Death,’ Man is going through the deep waters. The words below tell us, ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee.’ But through the depths, Hope is guiding him, with a reminder in the words above, ‘The righteous hath Hope in his Death.’

In the centre panel, Man is rising above the clouds that have obscured his vision in the material world, fulfilling the words below him, ‘This mortal must put on immortality.’ Above him, the words promise, ‘Make perfect in Love.’

In the tracery lights are the bade of the regiment to which Peel was attached, his family coat of arms, and the coat of arms of New College, Oxford.

The World War II memorial window by Gerald Smith in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The third window, at the east end of the north aisle of Saint Editha’s, is a World War II Memorial Window from 1949. The inscription reads: ‘In honoured memory of the men of Tamworth and District who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War 1939-1945.’

This window is by Gerald Edward Roberts Smith (1883-1959), and cost £1,200. Smith was first an apprentice to Edward Frampton (senior) and joined AK Nicholson in 1916. After Nicholson’s death, Smith took over and replaced much glass in bombed city churches after World War ll.

The focal point of this window is the figure of the Risen Christ in Glory in the centre light, symbolising the Victory over Evil. Christ is shown in the Tree of Life, with its branches spreading into the outer lights, for its leaves are for the healing of the nations. He is encircled with the words, ‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

This window is inspired by the themes in the canticle Te Deum.The figures represented in the window, from the top, are:

1, The Prophets, represented by Isaiah (left) and Saint John the Baptist (right), holding a book with a lamb and a banner proclaiming ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ (‘Behold the Lamb of God).

2, The Glorious Company of the Apostles, represented by Saint Peter holding the keys, Saint John the Evangelist holding his Gospel and the ‘poisoned chalice’ that is associated with his story, and Saint Paul holding a book of his epistles and his symbol of a down-turned sword; the Virgin Mary is next to Saint Peter.

3, The Noble Army of Martyrs, represented by Saint Stephen (left), the first Christian martyr, in the robes of a deacon, and Saint Alban (right), the first English martyr. With these are Saint Editha (left), the saint to whom the church is dedicated, and Saint Chad (right), the founding bishop and patron saint of the Diocese of Lichfield.

4,‘The Holy Church throughout the World doth acknowledge thee,’ and is represented in the base of the window. In the outer lights, it is depicted by representative types of all those who ultimately overcame the evil against which they were fighting.

From left to right we see a miner, a fireman, a Wren, a sailor holding the naval flag, a member of the ATS, and a solider with the Union Jack. In the foreground are an aged woman and child, and immediately above is Saint Nicholas, the patron of sailors and of children. In the right-hand light are policemen, a munition worker, a member of the WRAF, an RAF pilot, a nurse, an army chaplain, and in the foreground a land girl.

Above them is Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of airmen. At the base, in the centre light, is the figure of Saint George holding a scales balancing the souls of the dead with the Crucified Christ and Satan. Below Saint George is the figure of the defeated dragon.

Behind these groups is a symbol of the gateway to the Heavenly City, and beyond this is the Rising Sun of Hope.

In the centre light are the coats of arms of the Province of Canterbury in the Church of England and the Diocese of Lichfield.

The Lamb of God stands on the gateway between two angels. Hanging on a tree above the figure of Christ is Crusaders’ sword, and on the hilt of this hangs the Crown of Thorns, while the Pelican at the extreme top of the Tree of Life is the symbol of sacrifice and redemption.

The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surmounts the whole scene in the top tracery.

This window was unveiled and dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield on Sunday 31 July 1949, when 1,000 people were in the church for the service, and 5,000 more people followed the dedication in the churchyard.

‘So great a cloud of
witnesses’ in five
windows in Tamworth

The East Window in Saint George’s Chapel in memory of John Peel MP is by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

At the weekend, I finished my monthly column for the July edition of the Church Review, the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan magazine, recalling last months visits to Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, the parish church in Tamworth.

In a column such as this it is possible to offer a general history and description of a church. But it is not possible to go into great detail about the treasures in the church, especially the Pre-Raphaelite windows in Saint George’s Chapel at the east end of the north aisle of the church.

These windows provide a unique collection of works by leading members of the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century.

The East Window in Saint George’s Chapel is an artistic treasure in memory of John Peel (1804-1872), Liberal MP for Tamworth in 1863-1868 and again in 1871-1872.

In the tracery are six panels known as the ‘Angles of Creation’ by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) of Birmingham. Burne-Jones was heavily influenced in his work by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and worked closely with William Morris (1834-1896).

There are Burne-Jones windows in many Midlands churches, including Saint Philip’s Cathedral and Saint Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, and there is a Burne-Jones window also in Saint Carthages’s Cathedral, Lismore, Co Waterford.

This window in Saint George’s Chapel, Tamworth, was made in the 1874 in the workshops of William Morris, textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist. He was associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and had been an architectural student of George Edmund Street.

The design of the window connects the story of the six days of Creation with the story of the redemption of humanity.

Day 1: A six-winged seraph with a flame upon his brow, signifying energy, stands upon the greenness of the void and holds the globe of the universe enclosing the spheres of light and darkness: And God separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1: 4).

Day 2: A six-winged seraph with sad eyes: So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome (Genesis 1: 7).

Day 3: Here a seraph is standing on the dry land, studded with forlorn flowers, showing the birth of delicate foliage with her mystic globe: ‘Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation …’ (Genesis 1: 11).

Day 4: This is brighter in tone, with more gold, symbolic of the sun, the moon and the infinite glories of the heavens: And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky … to give light upon the earth’ (Genesis 1: 14-15).

Day 5: Still brighter in effect, the seraph on the wet sea margin, strewn with fragile shells. The sphere contains a swift whirl of white-winged seabirds sweeping up from the stormy sea: And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures’ (Genesis 1: 20).

Day 6: This panel shows the angel of the sixth day holding the sphere, the angels of the former days beside him, and the angel of the seventh day at his feet. This angel of the day of rest has a garland of flowers and is playing a stringed instrument among the roses.

The sphere shows the first meeting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden beside the tree of the forbidden fruit, and we can see the great coils of the serpent behind the tree. This has been described as the best of the six panels, and the figures of Adam and Eve are full of grace and simplicity.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image … male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1: 26-27).

The smaller lights surrounding these are filled with depictions of angels who are playing musical instruments, making melody in honour of the Creation, the Incarnation and the Redemption.

The Incarnation is shown in a painting of the Annunciation at the top of the arch which, through the Creation of Humanity, links with the impressive panel in the centre of the window, depicting the story of Saint Christopher, representing the Redemption of humanity.

On either side are two rows of three images of Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints: (top left) Noah, Enoch and Saint John the Baptist; (bottom left) Abraham, Moses and Saint Peter; (top right) Saint John the Evangelist, Samuel and David; (bottom right) Saint Paul, Elijah and Saint Barnabas.

The inscription in a scroll beneath the feet of Saint Christopher reads: ‘To the glory of God and in memory of John Peel sometime representative of this borough in parliament. Born Feb 4 1804. Died April 2 1872.’

The window in memory of Canon EH Rogers is by Florence Camm (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The four four-light windows on the north wall of Saint George’s Chapel are the work of Burne-Jones, Morris and the Camm family.

Thomas William Camm (1839-1912) was born West Bromwich and founded the TW Camm stained studio in Smethwick. After he died, the studio and its work were continued by his sons Walter Camm (died 1967) and Robert Camm (died 1954) and his daughter Florence.

The first four-light window at the west end of the chapel contains stained glass by Florence Camm (1874-1960). The inscription reads: ‘This window was erected to the Glory of God and in loving memory of the Revd EH Rogers, Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral and Vicar of this Parish Church of Tamworth from 1922 to 1938.’

Florence Camm spent all her life in Smethwick, running the Camm stained glass company with her brothers at a time when women artists and designers were struggling to be taken seriously.

She was a stained glass designer, painter and decorative metalworker, and was taught stained glass design by the arts and crafts designer Henry Payne (1868-1940). She exhibited 43 times at the Royal Academy in London and also showed at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the Royal Scottish Academy. The Camm studio in the High Street, Smethwick, was demolished in the 1980s.

This window illustrates four New Testament scenes (from left):

1, The first light illustrates Saint Peter being delivered from prison: ‘Behold the angel of the Lord came upon them, and a light shined in the prison’ (Acts 12: 7).

2, The second light depicts Saint John the Evangelist writing to the seven churches in Asia: ‘John to the seven churches, Grace be unto you, and peace, which is to come’ (Revelation 1: 4).

3, The third light tells the story of the church in Antioch sending relief to the Church in Jerusalem at a time of famine: ‘The disciples sent relief unto the brethren in Judaea, by the hands of Barnabas’ (Acts 11: 30).

4, The fourth light shows Saint Paul preaching in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, in the Province of Galatia: ‘Paul stood up and beckoning said, Men of Israel, ye that fear God, give audience’ (Acts 13: 16).

The Cooke window is by John Henry Dearle and Morris & Co (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The second four-light window from the west is a well-designed, four-light window, designed long after the death of both William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, but filled with richly-coloured glass by Morris & Co.

The two central figures, Ruth (left) and Naomi (right), were designed by John Henry Dearle (1860-1932), who was trained by William Morris. The text beneath the two women reads, ‘Intreat me not to leave thee’ (Ruth 1: 16). The outer figures are Samuel (left) and David (right), probably designed from the stock of cartoons by Burne-Jones held by Morris & Co.

The inscription reads: ‘In faithful remembrance of Emma Pipe Cooke, this window was erected by Annie Cooke, her daughter, AD 1925.’

The Dean window is by Florence Camm (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The third four-light window in this chapel also contains stained-glass by Florence Camm.

The inscription reads: ‘To the Glory of Almighty God and in loving memory of Esther Dean, who died the 11th day of October 1939, this memorial was placed here by her husband, Herbert Dean.’

The four lights depict the four key events in the life of Christ, with pithy Biblical or credal commentaries:

1, The Incarnation: ‘For unto you is born this day, a saviour which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2: 11).

2, The Crucifixion: ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by’ (Lamentations 1: 12).

3, The Resurrection ‘The third day he rose again from the dead.’ This is not a direct scriptural quotation, but a clause taken directly from the Apostles’ Creed.

4, The Ascension: ‘He blessed them. He was parted from them and carried up into heaven’ (Luke 24: 51).

The Brooke Lambert window is by Morris & Co, with striking figures by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The fourth, four-light window at the east end of the north wall in Saint George’s Chapel, is in memory of the Revd Brooke Lambert (1834-1901), Vicar of Tamworth (1872-1878).

Brooke Lambert was born on 17 September 1834. He spent six years in Tamworth, and was succeeded by the Revd William MacGregor as Vicar of Tamworth (1878 to 1887). MacGregor would play a leading part in the regeneration of Tamworth in the late 19th century, but was forced to resign as vicar because of his controversial support of the co-operative movement.

Meanwhile, as Vicar of Greenwich, Brooke Lambert was known for his work as an Anglo-Catholic ‘slum priest’ in the East End of London. He died on 5 January 1901.

The striking figures in this window were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and the glazing is the work of Morris & Co. The figures represent (from left) Saint Martin, Saint Lambert, Saint Nicholas and Saint George.

Saint Martin was chosen as the champion and protector of the poor and known for his charity.

Saint Lambert was chosen because of Brooke Lambert’s family name, and because the former vicar was born on the saint’s day, 17 September. Saint Lambert was Bishop of Maastricht and was martyred for his defence of marriage.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children (‘Santa Claus’) and represents Brooke Lambert’s love of children and his pioneering work in education.

Saint George was chosen because of the dedication of Saint George’s Chapel, and because Brooke Lambert was involved in the restoration of Saint George’s Chapel and building Saint George’s Church in Glascote.

The words of Hebrews 12: 1-3 in the Latin Vulgate New Testament are written diagonally across the lights of this window, and behind the figures and the other lettering:

ideoque et nos tantam habentes inpositam nubem testium deponentes omne pondus et circumstans nos peccatum per patientiam curramus propositum nobis certamen aspicientes in auctorem fidei et consummatorem Iesum qui pro proposito sibi gaudio sustinuit crucem confusione contempta atque in dextera sedis Dei sedit recogitate enim eum qui talem sustinuit a peccatoribus adversum semet ipsos contradictionem ut ne fatigemini animis vestris deficientes

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.’

In Saint George’s Chapel, Tamworth, with the present residents of Comberford Hall and the Moat House