A Rose (Window) by Any Other Name

It came out of the blue last November, from a lady in Dublin, Dr Nicola Gordon Bowe, doing research for a book about the life of an Irish stained glass artist called Miss Wilhelmina Geddes. She was looking for information about her work in the design and construction of the window in the Lady Chapel.

I recalled seeing some information about the subject in a minute book I had seen years ago when doing some research into the early years of the present Church.

A quick search In the Warden’s Vestry cupboard found the Minutes book, and so I settled down to track the events from the first suggestion of having a Rose Window in the roundel in the East wall, through to its dedication.

The first mention was in a PCC meeting on the 5th July 1948, when a Mr Hayter and a Mr Wise proposed that ‘. . . a Rose window be fitted in the East light.’

Nothing more was noted until the 28th November 1949, when the Rev’d John Conner reported that a Rose Window would cost in the region of £80. A fund had been opened, and the Churchwardens were to be Trustees together with Mr Howes.

The next mention came on the 24th July 1950, when Mr Conner reported that the drawing of the Rose Window had been left with the Chairman of the Council controlling Furnishings etc., for judgement to be passed. The window was reported as being well in hand.

Matters moved on to the 30th July 1951, when the Rev’d John Ginnever, who had then arrived as the new incumbent, reported on a meeting with Miss Geddes, to resolve issues about papers which had gone astray.

In October of that year, things had taken a turn for the worse. The PCC were told that the Window would not be finished by the 21st October, as originally arranged. There was no satisfactory outcome from a telephone call by Mr Muller to Miss Geddes during the meeting, Miss Geddes only hoped to finish the window shortly after that date.

Contacts continued in January and February 1952, culminating in a letter being sent to the artist on the 25th May staffing that the excuses for not finishing the work were unacceptable.

This drew a response from Miss Geddes’ solicitors at the end of May, and further exchanges of letters followed. Then, on the 8th September 1952, the PCC were told that the window had been finished.

At the PCC on the 6th October, Mr Ginnever said the window would be dedicated at Evensong on Sunday 9th November by the Bishop of Fulham, and the final mention in PCC minutes came on the 3rd November, reporting that the window was now fixed.

It had been a long and bumpy ride, but the end result has been worth all the delays and upsets. Certainly, for me, it adds to the ‘holiness’ of the Lady Chapel, something that is sensed by many people who spend time there.

Its not very clear, looking up at the window, that there are two quotations from scripture around the Virgin’s head.

On the left you have :-

‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light . . .’
Matthew 4.16

and on the right:-

‘. . . a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.’
Luke 2.32

Appropriate words for a Church recovering from the dark days of wartime Britain, with its bombs, rationing and blackouts.

by Don Davis, published in ‘The Venture’, Church Newsletter of All Hallows Church, 2003