Wood, Windows and Silver
By this time the majority of the stained glass windows were already fixed in both of the churches and so it would be opportune to discuss them at this point as a kind of interlude.
Having had the opportunity of discussing the wooden reredos in the new church, it would only be proper to mention the rather beautiful reredos and panelling that could be found in the old church before focusing upon the glassware.
Old St George's were rather fortunate in having, right from the rebuilding of the church in 1881, a very fine wooden reredos of an exceptional Georgian style. This was in the shape of a canopy, set in five panels. The outer two panels were inscribed - on the left were the words of the Lord's Prayer and on the right were the words of the Creed. The central panels were in an elevated form having triangular pinnacles surmounted by a "castellation" of oak. These central triangles had a very ornate hand carved infill forming an imposing "hood" over the altar. Below the central canopy was an embossed equi-dimensional cross, much in the form of a "Maltese Cross" but bearing a square in the middle. The base of the reredos immediately above the platform, where candlesticks and flowers would be placed, were inscribed the words "Do this in remembrance of Me". It is very sad indeed, that following the closure of the church, this fine reredos was sold to a secular body and that such a "treasure" should be lost. It is not possible to trace the reredos for it was sold to the Ealing Film Studios along with one or two pews. The reredos was used in the "set" of the film "Cromwell".
The old church was most fortunate to have some extremely beautiful and very valuable silver. This silver can easily be separated into three categories:-
(1) A simple, plain paten with no inscription.
(2) A set of two chalices and a flagon, a credence paten and a large silver plate all of which were inscribed: "St George's Chapel, Cocker Hill, Staley Bridge - 1843". This of course was during the great debacle with Isaac Newton France and purchased at the time of the re-opening of the church at the induction of the Revd William Hall.
(3) A silver Salver inscribed: "This Salver made in the year AD 1776, the year of the foundation of Old St George's Church, Stalybridge is given to the church in AD 1944 by Thomas and Fred Kenworthy to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the marriage in this church on July 27th, 1894 of their parents the late James and Elizabeth Kenworthy (nee Sutton) both of Stalybridge". All of this silver remains in excellent condition and is regularly used in the services of the church.
New St George's has an equally beautiful set of communion vessels. This set comprises two chalices, a flagon, two matching patens and a credence paten all inscribed: "Devoted to the service of God by the Revd Thomas Radley and Elizabeth his wife. Easter Day, 1873".
The Revd Thomas Radley was the Senior Curate of the neighbouring, and originally Mother parish of St Michael, Ashton Under Lyne. He was made deacon in the year 1853 after training at the college of St Bee's. He came to Ashton in 1870 and was made priest in 1871 by the Bishop of Manchester. Before arriving in Ashton, he was Tutor of Bishops College, British Guiana in 1854. Apparently he enjoyed being in this area so much that he looked for a church in which he could mark his ministry. Ashton was a wealthy church and so the Revd Radley decided upon a "a church in need". New St George fitted the bill and so he gave the silver as a thanksgiving to God for the ministry and opportunity afforded him thus far. The old pewter communion vessels were discarded and his gift welcomed.
The only other piece of silver at St Georges is a Ciborium and was added in 1982 as a memorial to Florence (Topsy) Newton and given by her daughter Enid Longden. The inscription reads: "In memory of Florence Newton died 3rd August,1982 Christmas 1982" "Topsy" Newton was a life long member of the church and continued to be a communicant up until her death, receiving the sacrament in her home on the monthly rota. She had the distinction of being the only female Church warden of the parish and served during the years of World War Two.
For convenience, and to prevent confusion as to the siting of the various windows of the two churches, each church will be discussed separately.
Old St George
Old St George's was very fortunate in that it benefited from the period when true stained glass was frequently used in church windows. This means that the majority of the glass in the old church was of a very high quality and certainly those who erected the various monuments spared no expense.
The East window was in three sections as indeed were all of the windows in the building. This window was a particularly busy window depicting the scene of Our Lord's crucifixion and around his feet were the figures of Mary, Martha, the beloved disciple, a Roman Centurion and many others forming a large crowd . The two smaller windows on either side continued the theme and showed Christ before Pilate and on his way to the Cross. The only surviving record of the remainder of the windows in the building is constructed from the records of the company of Charles Lightfoot (Stained Glass makers and restorers in the city) and from a faculty application dated 1941 by the Revd Cadman. These records are very helpful but they do not contain exact information or indeed give specific detail of the windows but do allow us to form a basic picture of what the church was like.
There were six other windows downstairs all filled with stained glass of varying quality. On one side there was a "Crowded window" bearing three separate topics with a central light. The topics were the story of the "Good Samaritan", "The Conversion of St Paul" and "Christ with Mary and the others". By whom this and many of the other windows were given, and to whom they were dedicated is not known.
On the same side as the Crowded window was a representation of the three figures of "Faith, Hope and Charity".
On the other side of the building there was a particularly fine piece of glass which depicted the scene of "Christ blessing the children" and close by a not unexpected window showing the armoured figure of "St George", the patron saint of the church. One of the last windows to be added to the building was in the year of 1941 and was given in "loving memory of William Frederick and Maria Ousey and family" and told the story of the "Good Shepherd".
The remaining windows of the church are more accurately recorded and it is known that in the north gallery there was a rather expensive window erected by subscriptions from the church and school following the end of the First World War. This window depicted the Armed Forces and showed a "Soldier and a Sailor" and bore the inscription, "To the Glory of God and in memory of the men, whose names appear below, connected with church and school who have fallen in the Great European War 1914 - 1919".
In the north east chancel, was a window given once again by the church and "To the Glory of God and in loving memory of the Revd H Hampson MA, Vicar of the parish 1904 - 1924". This window was a representation of the three saints, St Luke, St George and St John.
Records do indicate that there was a window given by members of the church and inscribed "To the Glory of God and in memory of J B Jelly-Dudley, vicar of this parish for 37 years. Erected by men of the congregation and teachers and scholars of the school". The window is dated 26th May, 1905 but no indication is given as to which window this referred. It is commonly believed to have been that of Christ blessing the children which was situated nearest to the Vicar's vestry.
When the church was closed in 1967, Lightfoot and Co were commissioned to remove all of the stained glass from the church and to package it so that it might be transported to the Church Repository. At that time, the church of St Augustine's, Newton Heath, a redundant building, was used for this purpose. It is particularly sad that a fire broke out within this building soon after the windows and other articles were placed there. Consequently the windows from Old St George and indeed from many other buildings within the diocese were destroyed.
The only surviving piece of stained glass from the church of Old St George that has been re-sited, is a window erected by Amy Ingham on the 13th February, 1958 in memory of her husband, Frank. This was a window which depicted the Old Testament story of "Ruth and Naomi". It is fortunate that Mrs Ingham had the foresight to give separate instructions as to the disposal of this window and so it was eventually re-sited in the Parish Church of Mottram.
It is sad that the other windows were not preserved nor indeed that a photographic record was kept so that future generations could enjoy the beauty of this splendid building.
New St George
Only the east window and south side of the church have any stained or painted glass windows. Though the new church of St George was long thought of as a building which contained fine glass, the truth of the matter is that only two of the six windows are in fact of any real quality at all. Perhaps this reflects the make up of its congregation and the fact that from Leeson's time the church had been populated by ordinary folk and not by the "money people of the town".
In 1981, when the redecoration of the church was to be undertaken and the windows were to be cleaned, it was discovered that the east window, the window of the four gospel writers, the memorial window and that of the Good Shepherd were not in fact the quality glass we had understood them to be, but merely painted glass that had not been "fired". This meant that any vigorous rubbing or cleaning would simply wipe the glass clean, taking away not only any dust but also the picture beneath it.
The east window has of course been altered from its original construction as has already been explained earlier in this book. The lower section, namely the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, has been moved to the south east corner of what is now the Lady Chapel. The upper half of the east window remains intact as from the date of consecration and is divided into four sections. Above these sections are three circles forming the shape of a triangle. In the top circle there are two triangles laid upon each other in the shape of a star, in the centre of which is a dove. This clearly represents the Trinity and the symbol of Peace. In the lower left hand circular window is the figure of a Lamb carrying a Standard overs its shoulder, this being the symbol of St John the Baptist and of course representative of the date of Consecration. The right hand lower circle has a most peculiar bird-like figure in it and opinion varies as to what it represents. The most popular opinion believes it to be an albatross or a phoenix!
The main body of the east window shows the major feast days of Our Lord. From left to right they display the Birth, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. Though this window is not genuine stained glass, it is a most beautiful window indeed.
Next to the four gospel writers is the War Memorial window. Here once again four figures represent the concept of battles fought in the name of good and shows David, Gideon, Joshua and St George and is inscribed "To the Glory of God and in memory of those following men who gave their lives for King and country in the Great War 1914 - 1919". Below this window is a plaque bearing the names of those from the church who died in the war.
Next to the Memorial window is a window given by the daughter of the late Thomas Murphy Oldfield and is inscribed "To the Glory of God and in memory of Emily Oldfield BA d April 30th, 1915 and Thomas Oldfield M.A. d December 15th, 1927 vicar 1898 - 1927. Given by their daughter". This window is of a high quality glass and cost £140 in 1927. This, in those days, was a substantial amount of money and the quality of the glass reflects great generosity. The window depicts the story of Christ in the Temple and shows the boy Jesus sitting at the feet of the Doctors of the Law and learning from them. This scene is watched from a distance by Mary and Joseph. This is a particularly fine window, not only for the quality of workmanship and of the glass, but for the understanding contained within it. Many windows in other churches which show this scene, reverse the physical positions of the boy and the Doctors of the Law, showing the Doctors learning from the boy whilst the child stands over them. This would be highly unlikely and though scripture tells us that they "were surprised by his understanding" tradition would dictate that the scene would be as is shown in the church.
The window next to the Oldfield memorial is, in the personal view of the author, the most beautiful in the whole building. This window was given "To the memory of the late Mrs Read, widow of the late John Thomas Read M.A., vicar 1884 - 1898". In 1911 when the window was installed, the cost was a staggering £80. This beautiful Italian glass is a combination of various colours but mainly of green, yellow and blue and depicts the scene of St Paul before the court of King Agrippa. Paul is shackled and held by soldiers, the King and his Queen, Bernice, are seated hearing Paul plead his case to be tried as a Roman citizen. This is indeed a beautiful window and can really only be appreciated when viewed in person.
After the renovations of the church in the mid seventies, a most unfortunate, and yet clearly necessary, step was taken to cover the window in what became the kitchen area, with armoured wired glass. Behind this opaque glass is a good quality window depicting Christ in a scene with St Peter, the window is called "Feed my lambs". During the re-ordering of the building this stained glass was not only covered but a ventilation hole was cut into the window effectively removing the head of a disciple accompanying Peter. The window was dedicated to the memory of John Thomas Read and paid for by the church. It is sad that money was not made available to transfer this window to the north side of the building, but this was understandable as the costs of the renovation were so high.
The black and white photographs of the windows of New St George's and the single window of that from Old St George's do not in any sense do justice to their quality. This can only be appreciated by those who take the time to visit.