Colin Drury didn’t get a trip to Oz on expenses
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Sheffield is famous the world over for some of its exports – but here’s one that perhaps really does prove the city has a touch of glass.
This stained glass window was installed at All Saints Anglican Church in Canberra, Australia, exactly half a century ago. But for Sheffielders with a long memory and a church-going past it may seem somewhat familiar.
That’s because, before it was transported Down Under in 1963, it shimmered and glimmered at the now demolished Saint Clement’s church, in Newhall, near Attercliffe.
Now, to mark the anniversary of its 12,000 mile journey, the spectacular South Yorkshire window – featuring Jesus, Saint Peter and Saint Clement himself – will undergo a well-deserved £55,000 restoration in Queensland.
“Our parishioners still call it the Sheffield Window,” says Father Michael Faragher down a crackling phone line from Australia’s capital. “And, remarkably, we still get people coming from the other side of the world to see it.
“Just a few months ago we had a lady who was married at Saint Clement’s back in the early Sixties come here to have a look at it.
“She lives in Canada now and she was holidaying in Australia so she decided to come. It is a glorious thing to behold and I think it does have that effect on people.”
Glorious, indeed. And, fittingly perhaps, with God on its side, too. The five-pane piece survived the Sheffield Blitz, despite the church suffering serious damage.
So how did this window – installed at Saint Clement’s in 1918 as a tribute to Sheffield’s war dead – end up Down Under?
“It’s a good question,” says Father Michael. “And a bit of a story...”
The Memorial Window, as it was officially named, was unveiled at St Clement’s on May 29, 1918, and was dedicated by the Bishop of Sheffield, Leonard Burrows.
Recording the moment for a parish publication, congregation member Mr R Cowan noted: “It was a thrilling moment when the curtain descended and exposed the exquisite outlines and colours of The Crucified Christ and attendant Saints depicted in the window.
“Many in the congregation were visibly moved as with bowed heads and tear-dimmed eyes their thoughts went out to those who had fought their last fight on a foreign battlefield.”
It was considered of such majesty, that after the church was demolished in 1963, it was taken to Australia by Lady De L’Isle, who married the man who was Governor-General of Australia between 1961 and 1965.
Her local church was All Saints Anglican Church, where it was thus installed.
It is unclear exactly how this arrangement came about.
One story has it that Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman visited the church in Canberra with Lady de L’Isle and years later, in his role as the guardian of English church architecture, offered All Saints the choice of six windows which had been removed from disused churches and put into storage.
One thing is sure: the window got a better deal than the Saint Clement’s pews.
They ended up just down the road at the lovely – but not quite as exotic – St Mark’s Church, Broomhill.
“We’re honoured to have it,” says Father Michael.
He insists, if you’re passing that way, you should go and have a look at this little-known but colourful piece of Sheffield history.