Church wins fight to restore loved window

AN historic stained glass window is back in place at St Mary’s Church, Rye, following a two year fight to save it.

The window was designed and paid for by Rye author and Mayor, Frederic Benson, today famous for his Mapp and Lucia books. The window was in honour of Benson’s mother Mary and his father who had been the Archbishop of Canterbury and takes the Nativity as its theme.

An unusual feature is a small portrait of Benson himself kneeling in Mayoral robes in the bottom right hand corner. One of the Bethlehem shepherds is Charles Tomlin, Benson’s man servant, accompanied by Taffy, the Lamb House black collie.

The Friends of St Mary’s have been engaged in a £100,000 project to replace badly eroded tracery, which had become a danger to the public. In the process it was discovered that the leading had crystallised and there was a real danger of losing the entire window.

The restoration campaign was brought to a happy conclusion on Friday when it was re-dedicated by the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bishop was assisted by Canon David Frost, Rector of Rye.

The service closely followed the original July 1937 dedication by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang.

The lesson, from Luke 2: 8-17 was read by Rye Mayor Cllr John Breeds, whose father used sit in the choir stalls next to Benson.

The Friends took the opportunity of the appeal to clean the Bendicite window in the south transept, that had been erected ten years earlier in memory of Benson’s brother, AC, Master of Magdalene College Cambridge and, amongst must else author of the words of Land of Hope and Glory.

“The people of Rye and legions of visitors to the church have been marvellously generous in making sure these windows remain a joy for all for yet another generation”, said Terry Burke, Chair of the Friends.

Canon Frost said: “The window and the surrounding stonework has recently been completely refurbished, thanks to the generosity of many people and organisations, both in Rye and further afield.

“I am delighted that so many people from the town and further afield came to give thanks to God for the newly restored window and to meet the Bishop of Dover. The window looks stunning and is a real talking point.

“Also in the congregation was a lady who was present for the first dedication in 1937 when she was 11 years old. Now in her 80s she still worships in St Mary’s most Sundays.”