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Friday, 11 August 2017

St Martin's Bowness-on-Windermere

I enjoyed visiting St Martin's Bowness-on-Windermere recently. The following comes from their current website:

"Some of the unique features inside St Martin’s Bowness-on-Windermere are the decorative murals, the sixteenth century instructive sayings and the quotations from the Bible on the walls and the roof beams. The only remaining part of the original pattern of decoration is to be found above a window in the south aisle.

The appearance of the present church owes much to the 1870 restoration and enlargement under the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. The chancel was extended to the east, as the differing roof beams demonstrate, the tower was heightened and all the seating renewed. Most of the mural decorations (by a Mr Henry Hughes of Frith St, London) including two large paintings in the chancel, date from this time. They serve to relieve the bareness of the smooth re-plastered walls and pillars. The mural on the north wall of the Chancel depicts the Adoration of the Magi, that on the south wall, the Entombment of Christ.

The marble reredos behind the main altar incorporates mosaics, executed by Bell and Almond of London, depicting the symbols of the Gospel writers and the Passion. The reredos, and the whole chancel extension, were designed as part of the Victorian restoration by Paley and Austin.

The outstanding treasure of St Martin’s is the East Window which was so successfully restored in 1870 by Mr Hughes, under the supervision of the Society of Antiquaries, when the new chancel was built. The magnificent East Window contains some very fine stained glass, most of which dates from the 15th century. However, it is not all of this period. Some of the glass at the top is earlier, and the restoration of 1870 made good the damage believed to have been done by Cromwell’s soldiers. This included replacing the faces of the saints.

The history of the window is obscure but it is thought that the glass probably came from Cartmel Priory. The central theme is the crucifixion, flanked by a group of figures including St George (and the dragon), St Barbara, (also an early martyr to the truth) and St Katherine (patroness of learning and theology). In the medieval period, the prayers of these three so-called auxiliary saints were thought to be most effective in aid of the faithful. The supplicants shown kneeling below include Canons of Cartmel as well as various benefactors wearing their coats of arms. The earliest glass is at the top of the third light from the left; a representation of the Virgin and Child believed to date from 1260. In the Middle Ages the Virgin Mary was traditionally depicted in green (later replaced by blue). There is very little glass older than this anywhere in Britain. Surrounding the 15th century coat of arms of a Prince of Wales are many shields relating to north Lancashire families as well as the Prior of Cartmel (strongly suggesting the window’s origin). In the fifth light from the left, one of the seven shields bears what were believed to be arms of that branch of the Washington family (who had lands around the Warton area of Lancashire in the 1400s) and from whom the first president of the United States was descended.

Below the tower, you will see the Curwen Screen, installed in 2000. Magnificent etched glass panels designed by Sally Scott surmount the glass and wood base. The Angels & Music design depicting angels glorifying God through music reflects the theme of the surrounding wall.

At the base of the tower is the statue of St Martin. This carved wooden figure of the Saint shows him on horseback with a beggar, on foot, beside him. The Saint is dividing his cloak with his sword to give half to the beggar illustrating the best-known story of St Martin who became bishop of Tours in France and died in 400 A.D. The statue is probably of foreign origin and dates from the 17th century. It was returned to the church in 1915, having been removed for safekeeping during the 1870 restoration."


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