From the Thorley Archives

St James' Stained Glass Windows

St James the Great, Thorley, is rich in stained glass windows, all dating from Victorian times when the church was thoroughly restored. Their dull appearance when viewed from the outside is enlivened by colourful biblical scenes when seen from inside. Pamela Finch recalled the congregation's joy when the coloured glass was restored after the Second World War. The windows had been replaced by plain glass for the duration of the war - a wise precaution as several bombs were to fall in the parish.

Hugh Smith from Sawbridgeworth undertook research into the origins of our glass makers last year. He was able to establish that at least four of the windows were made at the Birmingham works of John Hardman between 1867 and 1869. John Hardman's reputation rose to prominence when he was asked to collaborate with the architect Augustus Pugin to design the new Houses of Parliament in 1844. From the Hardman archives Hugh Smith was able to glean that our east window, above the altar, cost 80 to make and install and that the 'Brunton' window, to the left of the war memorial, cost 55. The much admired Mary Magdalene window, to the right of the war memorial, required a down payment of 9=15=0.

In 1992 The Friends of St James the Great paid over 6,000 towards the restoration of the west window. This window looks particularly impressive when viewed in the late afternoon. The theme of this window is Resurrection. Its designer and maker remains a mystery although the enamel work suggests a French connection. The three brass dedication plates commemorate members of the Vander-Meulen family. The Rector, Frederick Vander-Meulen, 1853 - 1882, was obviously quite persuasive in gaining sponsorship for his stained glass installations as all our windows have commemorative plaques.

The recent west window restoration was carried out by a specialist, Andrew Taylor. The prevailing west winds had caused considerable weakening of the lead beading and this in turn accounted for many cracked pieces of glass. Repair work involved the complete removal of the three lights and the tracery above. In his workshops Andrew removed 130 years of accumulated dirt, replaced the broken pieces and re-leaded the complete window. The PCC were so impressed with the end result that in 1995 Andrew Taylor was commissioned to restore the two sanctuary windows. Herbie Martin and Edward Millar can testify to the through draughts that swept across the sanctuary before this date!



All our windows may be viewed in all their glorious colour in the Windows section of this Website.

Andrew Taylor Replacing the Sanctuary Window


Bill Hardy
March 2003

From the Archives