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St Valentine gift from bombed London church

14 February 2019

ST PETER’S, EATON SQUARE

The heart-shaped piece of glass from the bombed Christ Church, Broadway, Westminster

The heart-shaped piece of glass from the bombed Christ Church, Broadway, Westminster

A HEART-SHAPED piece of glass from the stained-glass window of a London church destroyed during the Blitz has come home this week.

The glass is from a window that, until the early hours of 17 April 1941, illuminated Christ Church, Broadway, in Westminster. It was one of the worst nights of the Blitz: the Luftwaffe dropped 890 tons of high-explosive bombs and 50,000 incendiaries.

A shower of incendiaries fell on and around Christ Church. Air-raid wardens put most of these out, but fire took hold of the church roof and just above the altar. The church organ was also set alight, and the fire spread out of control.

Worshippers were incorporated into the parish of St Peter’s, Eaton Square. After the war, Christ Church was never rebuilt.

The area remained a bombsite for more than a decade. In 1953, John Hains, a messenger for Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, took a short cut across the site from Victoria Street to Petty France. He realised that he was walking on broken glass, and, looking down, he saw that the glass was from what had been a figure of Christ.

Among the broken fragments, he noticed a heart-shaped piece of red glass, which he picked up and took home.

Mr Hains married an Italian woman, Maria, and the couple, now in their eighties, live in Crawley, West Sussex. They decided recently to return the heart to the church, and contacted the office of the Bishop of London. The enquiry was passed to the Vicar of St Peter’s, Eaton Square, the Revd Ralph Williamson, whose parish still incorporates the streets that surrounded Christ Church.

Mr Williamson went to Crawley to meet the couple earlier this month, and Mr Hains handed back the piece of glass, so that it can return to the parish from which it came.

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