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Wilfred Owen commemorative window to be installed in Oxford church

14 July 2023

Natasha Redina

THE Consistory Court of Oxford diocese has granted All Saints’, Dunsden, a faculty to install a new window to commemorate the First Word War poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), who had had connections with the church and the village.

All Saints’ is an attractive but unlisted village church, and the unopposed online faculty application was made by the Rector and the churchwarden. Owen lived in the village from 1911 to 1913, having come to Dunsden to act as lay assistant to the Vicar of All Saints’ at that time, the Revd Hubert Wigan. Both Owen’s parents and his sister are buried in the churchyard.

The proposed location for the new window is an existing single lancet window in the nave, facing south and next but one to the chancel. It is near to a memorial plaque that was dedicated to Owen in 1978 by the then Bishop of Oxford in the presence of the then Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes. The existing window is to be dismantled and removed, and the glass retained for future use.

The design of the new window was created as a result of a competition held by the Glaziers’ Foundation Charity, which is associated with the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass. In 1972, the charity funded and administered the Stevens Competition, to provide an opportunity for aspiring architectural glass artists, designers, and craftsmen to compete in a format which simulates the typical process to obtain a commercial commission.

The 50th Anniversary Stevens 2022 Competition was to design the window for All Saints’. The competition brief was to create a striking contemporary artwork that would leave a lasting impression on all who visited the church, and to commemorate Owen’s life in Dunsden and the impact his life there had on his subsequent work as a poet. The commission winner was Natasha Redina.

The competition was supported by the Dunsden Owen Association, which was formed to commemorate Owen’s links with the local area, and is funding the design, fabrication, and installation of the window.

The design was linked to an incident in 1912, when a mother and her four-year-old child were killed in a horse-and-cart accident. Owen assisted at their funerals, and asked himself, “What God would allow such a thing?” In response to that incident, he wrote the poem “Deep Under Turfy Grass”, which inspired the design of the window.

The Consistory Court was invited to expedite the faculty application because the parish was very keen to have the window installed and dedicated at an event to be held on 4 November 2023. The glass would take some time to make up and install, and the artist needed to start work. The parish was unwilling to make a commitment to spending the considerable sum required until all the legalities had been completed.

The proposal had the full support of the PCC. The DAC had advised that the proposal would not affect the character of the church as a building of special architectural and historic interest, and had recommended the approval of the proposal.

The Chancellor, the Worshipful Judge David Hodge KC, granting the faculty, said that it was appropriate to commemorate in this way Owen’s association with the church and the parish during the formative period of his life. The design of the window was, the Chancellor said, visually appealing, of high quality, and would provoke great interest on the part of worshippers as well as visitors to the church.

The installation of the window would not harm the appearance, the setting, or the significance of the church building, and it would further the mission of the church and cement its place in the village.

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