Stained Glass at Holy Trinity Parish Church
And God said, let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying,
I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
Whether its imagery depicts mediaeval religious figures and narratives, or contemporary abstract concepts and emotions, ecclesiastical stained glass has for centuries acted as a powerful metaphor for the first act of God’s creation, and for God’s son, Jesus Christ, as ‘Light of the World’.
It is a unique and beguiling artform in which the artist paints with an ever-changing and eternally-living light: guided, constrained, and – in the best cases – inspired, by the shape, colour and diffractive properties of the glass itself; by the building in which the work is to be installed; and even by the window’s structural skeleton.
There are six stained glass windows at Holy Trinity, Ashford-in-the-Water: three were installed following the major renovation of the church in 1870; and the other three were made in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Cottingham Window, 1880.
This four-light composite window with tracery in the west wall of the north aisle was created and installed in 1880 by Morris & Co.
- The top two lights – designed by William Morris himself – recount the Annunciation, in which the Archangel Gabriel (on the left) informs the Virgin Mary (right) that she is about to conceive and become the mother of Jesus Christ.
- The lower left panel recalls a 13th-century legend in which the faith of St John the Evangelist is tested by a pagan priest who taunts him, ‘if you want me to believe in your god, I will give you some poison to drink and, if it does not harm you, it means that your god is the true God.’ This portrayal captures St John as he makes the sign of the cross over the poisoned chalice, whence the deadly toxins escape in the form of a two-headed dragon.
- The lower right light is Burne-Jones’ depiction of Pope Gregory I (St Gregory the Great), the dove at the saint’s shoulder symbolising the divine inspiration for his prolific writings.
- The tracery quatrefoil at the top of the window is an interpretation of ‘The Dove Descending’ by the architect Philip Webb, another member of William Morris’ firm.
This window was installed in memory of John Gregory Cottingham (1813-1878), a steward of Hardwick Hall and – latterly – successor to Joseph Paxton as the land agent at Chatsworth, and a Mayor of Chesterfield.
The Haworth Window, ca. 1880.
The six-light window in the south wall, adjacent to the pulpit, is the work of Clayton & Bell – one of the most prolific stained-glass window manufacturers of the Victorian era. The lights recite the six Works of Mercy included in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in St Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 25:34-46):
I was an hungred and ye gave me meat
I was naked and ye clothed me
I was thirsty and ye gave me drink
I was a stranger and ye took me in
I was sick and ye visited me
I was in prison and ye came to me
The window was installed in memory of Edmund Haworth, JP (1797-1879), who – following a tenancy at the Rookery in Ashford-in-the-Water from 1852 to 1867 – lived in Churchdale Hall. He was a second cousin to the two-times Prime Minister, Hon Sir Robert Peel MP.
The Morewood Window, ca 1875.
The most prominent of the 19th-century windows is the east window over the altar. Depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, it is the work of Messrs Heaton, Butler & Bayne, another of the large Victorian stained glass manufacturers.
Seen in the left light are Jesus’ mother (the Virgin Mary) and St John the Evangelist. On the right are St Peter, holding the keys to heaven; and – holding a budding staff in one hand and a golden spice jar in the other – Joseph of Arimathea. (Legend has it that Joseph travelled to England after the death of Jesus and pushed his pilgrim’s staff in the ground at Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury, where it blossomed overnight into a flowering thorn tree.)
This window is dedicated to the glory of God and in memory of Alfred Morewood (1815-1872). The Morewood family lived at Thornbridge Hall in Ashford-in-the-Water until 1859, after which Alfred took up a tenancy at the Rookery. He and his wife are buried together with his parents in a railed gritstone tomb near the south gate, adjacent to the old preaching cross.
The Tinsley Window, 1953
This window was designed by Gerald Edward Roberts Smith (1883-1959), when he was head of the Archibald Keightley Nicholson studio in London. In the centre panel stands St Nicholas of Myra who, by virtue of his legendary habit of secret gift-giving, gave rise to today’s Santa Claus. The surroundings in which the children, their pet dog, and even St Nicholas himself find themselves, evoke the British seaside holiday, which had reached its heyday at the time of the window’s installation.
Above St Nicholas is the Shield of the Holy Trinity: a graphical synopsis of the Anglican doctrine from which Ashford Church derives its name. The arms of the See of Canterbury, and those of the Diocese of Derby, appear at the top of the left- and right-hand panels respectively.
The window was funded via a legacy from Alice Tinsley, née Deane (1860-1942), but its installation was delayed until after the end of the Second World War. Alice and her family, who were residents of the Rookery, experienced a tragic loss when her son, Alan Deane Tinsley, died in 1915 from wounds sustained in the First World War. A plaque in his memory is set into on the south wall of the Church, opposite his mother’s stained-glass window.
The Mary Window, 1960.
The artist of the modest single-light window in the north aisle was Francis Skeat (1909-2000) of St Albans. Consistent with the wishes of its donor, George Harold Wall (1880-1959), the subject is St Mary, with the Infant Christ.
George gifted the window in memory of his mother Mary Hall Wall, née Read (1843-1923). The Hall family, of modest means, lived in Wye Cottage on Church Street. Mary’s father and grandfather had both been glove makers, and her husband – George’s father – was a commercial traveller for a brewing company. George himself had variously worked as a butcher; a farmer; an insurance agent; and the Clerk of the Parish Council, where he is remembered for his beautiful copperplate handwriting.
The Olivier Window, 2001
The most recent of the windows in Holy Trinity commemorates William Herbert Olivier (1904-1992) – cousin of the actor and director, Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) – and Katherine ‘Kitty’ Mary Olivier, née Jones (1904-1998), who lived in Ashford Hall.
It is the work of the French artist Flore Sivell (née Vignet) who studied glass and architecture at Central St Martins art school in London, and worked in the studio of Goddard & Gibbs. She received the commission for this window following her restoration work, and design of new windows, at the home of William and Kitty’s daughter and son-in-law in Normandy.
Flore’s design incorporates an olive leaf motif – both a recollection of her childhood in Provence, and also a reference to the Olivier family motto, ‘Sicut oliva virens, laetor in aede Dei’ (‘but I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever’), Psalm 52:8. The window creates the impression of olive leaves in motion, swirling in the metaphorical golden light of God. At the same time, the shapes of the leaves suggest a school of small fish, swimming within the net fashioned by the lead lines: an allusion to the Parable of the Feeding of the 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish; the only miracle that is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; and John 6:1-14).
The author of these notes, Ian Pykett, is indebted to Peter Cormack, MBE FSA HonFMGP, Vice-President of the British Society of Master Glass-Painters, for his attribution of the makers of the Morewood and Haworth windows; and to Mme Flore Sivell for communicating her inspiration for the design of the Olivier Window. The photography is the work of Martin Crampin.