St Mary’s

St. Mary’s Church

One evening in March I happened to be in the church and was struck by the pure atmosphere of light and colour that was being radiated through the windows by the evening sun. The stained glass windows give an ethereal beauty to the church.

The large window, behind the altar, depicts the Crucifixion. Kneeling at the foot of the cross is Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary, always depicted in blue, stands with Saint John, the beloved disciple of Christ. The bottom left window, or light as they are sometime referred to, depicts Saint Augustine of Hippo carrying a flaming Heart and Arrow, this symbol depicts his zeal and devotion to Christ. Next to him stands Saint Ambrose with a bee skep (hive) symbolising his eloquence. The bottom right window depicts Saint Jerome wearing a red hat, and a lion at his feet, this shows that he worked for the Pope. Standing next to him is Saint Augustine of Canterbury, holding a Papal Crown, he was sent by Pope Gregory in 597 AD to evangelise the people of Kent. The remaining lights show the Twelve Apostles who carry their own symbols. These objects might be the instrument of martyrdom, representations of events in their lives, or symbols of their teachings. This system of iconography of the saints has remained more or less consistent throughout the history of Christian art, and can be seen depicted in the stained glass at Colton. An example of this is Saint Peter with keys in his hands; these are symbolic with Christ giving him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. All the saints in the window have their name written in Latin around their head, as well as carrying a symbol. This window was given by Ellen Oldham in memory of James Oldham Oldham of Bellamour Hall, who died in 1857. Ellen was the eldest daughter of James, and the window was dedicated in 1858.

The North window in the sanctuary is sometimes called the Credence windows, and in years gone by this was where the Communion Vessels were once laid out. This window predates 1851 and has been reconstituted when rebuilding part of the church took place in 1852. The window is in memory of Elizabeth Jean Oldham, wife of James Oldham Oldham. The stained glass depicts Our Lord meeting two men on the road to Emmaus after the Resurrection.

The Vestry window depicts the Ascension. It is typical of Victorian stained glass, the art work being dark at the bottom and building up to a crescendo of light. I find this window extremely moving and beautiful, with its depth of colour and brilliance. Quote – This window is placed to the memory of the Reverend Abdial Seaton, 25 years Rector, died 17th September 1874, by the greater number of his Parishioners in grateful acknowledgement of many years of kindness and self denying labour, and of his restoration of this church AD 1852.

The Chancel window is dedicated to Harriet Lucy Seaton, who died as a result of childbirth on the 8th October 1857. Harriet was the first wife of Abdial Seaton. It contains lots of symbolism, looking from left to right you see the Adoration of the Magi, then the Baptism of Our Lord, note the fishes and the salamander, and finally the First Miracle at Cana. This window is very subtle in its use of colours; children tend to like looking at it, and finding the fishes.

The North Aisle East Window was dedicated in AD 1858. It was given in memory of James Oldham Oldham , Esquire of Bellamour Hall, by the inhabitants of Colton. It was given in thankful remembrance of the many blessings he gave to Colton. The window depicts three important events in the life of the Virgin Mary. The left light depicts the Salutation of Elizabeth by Mary; Centre light is the Presentation in the Temple (note Simeon and Anna in the background). The right light depicts Mary kneeling before the Angel Gabriel. Symbols you can see in this window include the Fleur- de- Lis – the French symbol for Mary, and the Ivy leaf symbol for Eternal Life.

The North Aisle window depicts with text. The left light depicts The Sower. The middle light depicts Peter being commanded to go and spread the word, and being given the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The right light depicts Jesus declaring himself the Good Shepherd. This window is dedicated to the memory of Charles Savage Lander, Rector from 1806 until his death in 1849, and also to the memory of his wife Catherine. The window was given by two of their daughters Elizabeth and Catherine.

The other North aisle windows are relatively plain compared with the others, but they still contain symbols of vine leaves and flowers, all very symbolic of nature. In the left window you can see an Ox which is the symbol of Saint Luke, whose gospel gives the sacrificial aspects of Christ’s Life. The right window shows a Winged Eagle symbolic of Saint John the Evangelist and his Gospel.

The South Aisle again has three windows similar to the North aisle, the left window contains the symbol of the Trinity, the middle contains the symbol of Saint Matthew, a Divine Winged Man, and his Gospel teaches us the human nature of Christ. The right window contains a Winged Lion which is symbolic of the Royal Dignity of Christ.

The West window by the main door is dedicated to the memory of Frank William Cooper, Parish Clerk 1949 – 1961, died 25th May 1961 aged 60 years. It was dedicated 25th November 1962. We do know that this window was designed by Mr. Buss of Goddard and Gibbs of London; you can see their mark in the shape of a ship incorporated into the lower right hand corner of the window. Look carefully at the window and note St Mary’s Church, the Sower is planting the Bearcroft (means barley field), the field the other side of the brook looking toward the church. Note also the pond which today is no longer in the field, I know a few residents who remember skating there in the winter. Note the bee skep and flying bees, these are symbols of the community working together.

Finally the Bell Tower contains three narrow windows of relatively plain glass, but the middle or West window, look very carefully, it contains some diamond shaped fragments of glass which are medieval. Colton was once a centre of glassmaking in the 14th Century.

I hope this article may inspire some of you to perhaps visit the church when it is open for coffee on a Saturday Morning, especially if the sun is shining through the lovely windows.

Marie Havelock