Illuminated by divine light
Our church has twenty Kempe windows filled with stained glass produced by the Kempe Studios in London; one of the largest collections of any parish church in England. They are fine examples of the Victorian Gothic Revival from a time when the Anglican Church was rediscovering its medieval roots.
Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) was called to become an Anglican priest but found that he could not answer; a severe speech impediment prevented him. Instead he found a new way of serving God and the Church. He learned the art of stained glass.
Kempe studied medieval glass of the 14th to the 16th centuries. His work is full of the medieval religious symbolism which was back in favour for the first time since the Reformation of the 16th century.
His windows did not try to copy medieval stained glass but took its spirit and re-interpreted it for the Victorian market. One writer sums it up; ‘The Kempe studios were among the first to solve the difficult problem of making stained glass that would look appropriately medieval, without displaying bad drawing.’ This can be seen in the beautifully drawn facial features in Kempe windows.
That writer was Prof James Sturm, commenting on Kempe glass in New York. It became popular across the English-speaking world and beyond. There are 248 Kempe windows in the USA alone, 72 in Australia, 67 in Canada, 42 in Africa, and all the rest spread from Turkey to Mexico.
So why are there so many here in our church? The reason is due to an old friendship. Canon John Godber, a member of a wealthy local family who poured a lot of money into the church and paid for the windows, was at Pembroke College, Oxford with Kempe.
Take a leaflet and follow the ‘Kempe Pilgrimage’ around our church, to discover more about Kempe and the spiritual meaning within each of our windows.
Click here to download a PDF version of our C.E. Kempe Windows pilgrimage tour leaflet, but you’ll need to visit to make the most of it.