Through the Glass Darkly
The Windows at St Faith 's
Chris Price

Updated November 2014

An anonymous 1930 history of St Faith’s declares: ‘The Church is plentifully supplied with windows, and in consequence the light is excellent. In the process of time doubtless these will be filled with stained glass, which would add much to the attractiveness of the building. At the moment there are only five such windows’. By 2005 the total had risen to ten in all: nine in the aisles and one, the latest addition, by the south porch. They are memorials to priests, their families, and various parishioners and an archbishop

The three windows of earliest date, and including one of St Faith herself, are in the east reach of the north aisle. We start at the oldest piece, that nearest the pulpit: the ‘Saint Faith’s window’, installed not very long after the church’s opening. This bears the inscription: To the glory of God in dear memory of Ferdinand Anderton Latham who died May 7th 1902. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. This is, appropriately perhaps, the finest of our stained glass windows and was manufactured by Herbert Bryans of London and may be identified by the ‘Running Dog’ device. Bryans was formerly with the famous stained glass workshop of C.E.Kempe and examples of his work may also be seen at St Agnes, Ullet Road, Liverpool. Thanks to a recent visit by Mrs Elizabeth Harborne, of Camberley, we now know that her grandfather, John Wimbolt, designed this window for Bryans: his initials may be found if you look carefully at the window.

This, the most elaborate of the church’s windows, is different in style to those in the south aisle. St Faith is a pious maid, with the scroll 'St Faith virgin and martyr' round her head, backed by ornamental grey leaf work. She carries the grid (more like a long low uncomfortable coffee table) which is the legendary means of her unpleasant fiery death, and which can also be seen on the cased banner in the sanctuary, while in her left hand is a large martyr’s palm which looks as much like a quill pen as anything. She wears a blue robe and hood, with an ornately-decorated white and gold cloak; she has fair hair and a coronet of flowers. Faith stands on the usual green cushion, which in turn sits on a turreted stone battlement whose outward pinnacles extend on either side of her figure and frame a rich tapestry tasselled backcloth, in red and brown brocaded cloth. There is further colourful scrollwork filling the upper arches of the window.

The second window in the north aisle reads: 'To the Glory of God and in memory of Charles Rowley Whitnall sometime churchwarden and for many years a constant worshipper in this Church who passed beyond the Veil November 25th 1930. This window is given by his fellow worshippers in thankful remembrance of his character and example. R.I.P.'

The scroll identifies St Francis of Assisi. The russet-gowned figure is bearded and tonsured; in his left hand there is a plain cross, while his right hand indicates (or perhaps has just fed?) five realistic birds round his sandalled feet. Both hands, incidentally, bear discreet stigmata. The rope of his Franciscan habit carries the three knots of his vows. He has a halo, and three flying birds are set against blue-green foliage. The whole window has a stylised surrounding of gothic tracery and columns, (possibly in imitation of the adjacent earlier panel?), with further and rather less meaningful decoration filling the upper space of the arch.

The third window has the same wording and date; its scroll labels the figure as St Catherine Virgin and Martyr (she also appears on the wooden screen in church). The figure is of a somewhat severely disapproving woman (her grey skin is a little faded): crowned, golden-haired and haloed. She wears a strong red clasped cloak with a gold border, over a golden inner garment. She clasps in her left hand a small blue book with a gold cross (the Bible? something she wrote?), while her right hand rests on the ‘Catherine Wheel’ (looking more like one of Boadicea’s fiercely spiked chariot wheels!) on which she was put to death: it is in grim brown and grey. The hangings behind her are blue, backed with green, tasselled gold; the supporting surround is identical with the other Whitnall window, save that the lower arches are a mirror image of the first window. These three windows do not bear any maker’s mark.

After a gap of over sixty years, we marked in 1999 the then forthcoming centenary of the foundation of the church by commissioning a fourth window for the north aisle. This window, funded by the generosity of a member of the congregation, is dedicated 'In Remembrance of Past Worshippers'. It was designed by Linda Walton of Design Lights (Stained Glass) of Warrington, from suggestions by Eric Salisbury and others, and features a representation of the church, and its worshippers, with representations of eucharistic vessels and the dove of the Holy Spirit, and incorporating the words, dear to the hearts of so many of St Faith’s people, from the hmyn 'In our day of thanksgiving': ‘These stones that have echoed their praises are holy/And dear is the place where their feet have once trod.’

The other windows in this aisle are clear, as are all but one of the other windows, large and small, at St Faith’s, although the larger ones at high level are partly relieved by small panels of pale pink in places. These large windows, particularly those at the east and west ends are quite elaborate, and their upper areas are intricately sub-divided with various shapes and patterns of inset glass.

All those in the south side, recorded as being the work of James Powell and Sons, of London, who were entrusted with the work of the windows of Liverpool Cathedral, bear in the bottom right corner the small robed figure that is the trademark of Whitefriars glass. Starting from the Lady Chapel, the first is of the Venerable Bede, bearing the legend To the glory of God and in memory of James Jones, for 37 years Head Master of St Philip’s School Litherland and for 10 years chorister in this church, who passed beyond the Veil 4 January 1924. This window was given by his friends. RIP.  It was recently noticed that instead of the word 'and' (or an ampersand) the window-maker had substituted an 'o' - a rare example of a stained glass 'typo'! There is a photo of the wording in our September 2014 magazine at

The picture is of a purple-hooded monk, standing on green foliage, surmounted by a yellow crown and with a yellow halo and scrolled surround. He wears a knotted rope with a crucifix suspended from it, together with a portable inkpot and a large quill pen, and is holding an open book (St John’s Gospel? Bede’s ‘History’?) with the legend 'In the Beginning'.

The second window features St Benedict Biscop, This is inscribed to 'James Walthew Waugh who for 9 years was organist of this church and who was called to higher service on 2 July 1924; it was given by some of those whose devotions he had aided'. The figure is robed variously in purple, red, blue, gold and yellow and stands on a similar ground. He is a mitred bishop (biscop is the old spelling), long haired, with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a bound book and a long crosier.

The next window is of Saint Oswald and is dedicated to 'Herbert William Cockett, Missionary Priest, who passed to higher service at Matope, Nyasaland, 19 November 1936. He was Assistant Curate of St Faith’s 1931-33. The window was given by his friends'. The figure is crowned and armed, bearing a blue shield with a cross, and a sword. He is bare-legged with cross-gartered yellow footwear. His cloak is red with a shoulder brooch and his hair is long. He too stands on green ground with yellow scrolling around, but of a different design, including clusters of grapes.

The fourth window is of Saint Anne. It commemorates 'Joanna Brierley for many years a worshipper in this Church who passed to the Life Beyond 4 April 1937. This window was given by her son the third vicar of St Faith’s in thanksgiving for her life and example'. St Anne is black-hooded, white-cloaked and purple-robed: she is a stern-faced elderly woman, haloed and with outstretched hands. Around her is a blue sky, with fleur-de-lys emblems; she stands on a green field, but with distinctive red and yellow flowers, and again the whole window is framed in yellow scroll-work.

The final figure, next to the south porch, is  'The Son of God'. This is given in memory of John Michael Brierley, 'a server in this church, who passed to the Nearer Presence of God 3 February 1937 aged 10 years. The window is given by his parents in abiding remembrance of his sweet life on earth'. The figure is that of a conventional boy Jesus (not unlike the statue elsewhere in the church, and to some tastes equally sentimentally executed). He has curly gold hair and white robe with gold collar and borders, and he wears cross-gartered sandals. There is a large lamb by his side, turning its head to the boy. The figure stands again on a green field, with clearly portrayed red daisies and white arum lilies, as well as the touching detail of what seem to be blue forget-me-nots. There is blue sky like that which surrounds his grandmother, and two doves are flying nearby, one into the border, which is as in the adjacent window. Above his head a yellow and white IHS monogram is in the centre of a stylized cross. It would be interesting to know if either of the Brierley figures in any way resembles the people they represent.

One window remains to be described, and it is possibly the most striking example in St Faith's of the art of stained glass. Following the death of Lord Runcie of Cuddesdon, late Archbishop of Canterbury, whose Christian journey towards the highest office in the Anglican Communion started at St Faith's, it was decided to intsal a window commemorating him and the many others who, down the century of our church's history, have found their vocation to the priesthood at St Faith' St Faith's in his youth before going on the ordination and to become the 102nd Arcbishop of Canterbury. The window is located at the south entrance porch, the only one now used, and it catches the sun in the late afternoon and evening.

It was, like the Past Worshippers window, designed and made by Linda Walton of Design Lights Stained Glass from ideas suggested by members of Saint Faith’s. It incorporates buildings, crests and insignia of places and events associated with Lord Runcie (including St Faith's itself, Merchant Taylors' School, St Luke's, Crosby, St Albans Abbey and Westminster Abbey.  Among other emblems and crests, the pig at the bottom right of the window commemorates Lord Runcie`s interest in pig breeding! The text links his memory with all who in the past century found their vocation or served as priests here, and contains both an inscription to that effect and a further quotation from the hymn 'In our day of thanksgiving' (AMNS 284). The words are: 'Sing praise, then for all who here sought and here found him,/Whose journey is ended, whose perils are past:/They believed in the light; and its glory is round them,/Where the clouds of earth's sorrow are lifted at last.'. The window was entirely funded by the contributions of past and present members of Saint Faith’s who valued the memory and service of Robert Runcie. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Liverpool, Dr James Jones, during a Festal Evensong and Benediction on 15th May 2002.

And what of the future? In 2005 it is good to be able to record that the hope of the 1930 historian that our church should be ‘filled with stained glass’, has been partly fulfilled. It remains our hope that at least the remaining side aisle windows will be gradually filled with colour, as we seek in the 21st century to carry on the century-old tradition of worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness at Saint Faith's.

To read about - and see pictures of - the Lord Runcie window, follow the link below.

The Lord Runcie Window

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