THE Consistory Court of the diocese of Blackburn has made an exception to the general principle that living donors should not be commemorated in stained glass or other church artworks. A faculty was granted for an inscription to be added, giving the name and other details of the donor of a new stained-glass window in St John the Evangelist, Read-in-Whalley, in the archdeaconry of Blackburn — a Grade II listed church that was built between 1884 and 1885.
The Priest-in-Charge and the churchwardens (“the petitioners”) applied for a faculty to replace the left and right lights of the current plain glass window on the south side of the front of the nave, near the chancel, with a stained-glass window. It was to be a gift from Lord Waddington, a son of the village.
The replacement window was to have a new design by Pendle Stained Glass, depicting St John the Evangelist in the left-hand light, and St George in the right-hand light. Handmade glass was to be used throughout, with acid etching and silver staining for the heraldic details. Borders of clear “reamy” glass (handmade glass containing ripples and bubbles) would maintain good light levels.
At the top left of the light was to be Lord Waddington’s coat of arms. At the base of that light was to be a view of the church in grisaille surrounded by red roses, the emblem of Lancashire. At the top of the right light was to be the coat of arms of Bermuda, where Lord Waddington had been Governor. At the base of that light was to be a view of Lord Waddington’s childhood home, the Old Vicarage, Read.
There were to be plaques for inscriptions at the base of each light. The one at the base of the left light was to contain verses one and two of Psalm 46: “God is our hope and strength; a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth be moved; and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea.” That was said to have been the inspiration for the motto in Lord Waddington’s coat of arms: “Deus Noster Refugium Et Virtus” (“God is our refuge and strength”).
The inscription at the base of the right light stated: “The gift of David Charles Lord Waddington GCVO, MP for Nelson & Colne and for Clitheroe & Ribble Valley, Home Secretary 1989-1990, Governor and Commander in Chief, Bermuda 1992-1997.”
The petitioners said that the addition of the proposed stained glass in place of the existing plain glass would be a positive visual enhancement of the church’s appearance which would be enjoyed by the congregation and wider community, and that it had been specifically designed to ensure that there was no significant loss of light to the interior of the church.
The petition was unopposed, and the PCC unanimously approved the proposal for the new window. Historic England made no comment. The Church Buildings Council (CBC) highlighted the general principle that living donors were not to be commemorated in stained glass and other artworks; so the inclusion of the coat of arms associated with Lord Waddington would be out of keeping with that tradition, and the CBC encouraged its omission.
The Deputy Chancellor, His Honour Judge David Hodge QC, said that he was satisfied that the proposed work would not adversely affect the church’s character or its setting as a building of special architectural or historic interest. Both the design and the inscriptions were appropriate, and the new window would complement the existing stained-glass windows within the nave.
The Deputy Chancellor considered that the design of the proposed window would enhance the appearance of the interior of the nave, and have no detrimental effect upon the external appearance of the church. It was therefore unnecessary for special notice of the petition to be given to the Victorian Society.
The general principle that living donors should not be commemorated was an important one: a church was a house of God, and did not exist for the glorification of living individuals, the Deputy Chancellor said, and no one should think that they could purchase a memorial to themselves. Nevertheless, while it was important to uphold the principle, it was possible to make exceptions.
The present was an appropriate exceptional case, the Deputy Chancellor said. The donor had retired from the House of Lords, and was now aged 87. He had served as Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Lancashire, and had close connections to the parish. He was a true son of the parish, which wished to accept his gift and honour him, and it might serve as an inspiration to young people to know that someone from their parish had served with distinction in public life.
While recognising that such cases must be the exception, he said, the Consistory Court should not erect unnecessary barriers to the fulfilment of the wishes of a parish where the implementation of those wishes would positively enhance the appearance and character of the parish church, and would not result in any harm to its significance as a building of special architectural and historic interest.
The ordinary presumption “in favour of things as they stand” had been rebutted in this case.
The faculty was granted, subject to certain conditions, among them that the works be carried out within 12 months, and that the passage from Psalm 46 take the form that appeared in the Authorised Version, which, beginning “God is our refuge and strength . . .”, more fully accorded with Lord Waddington’s motto.