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St. Mary`s Stained Glass

The glass in the church is a combination of the Victorian, the medieval and the plain.

The east window is a three-lighted window in the Gothic style. The window was filled with stained glass in 1875 in memory of Mrs Douglas Lane. There are also chancel memorial windows to Capt Douglas Lane (1901) and Walter Martin (1888).

The west window contains the most historic glass in the church, with the remaining fragments posing some interesting questions for researchers.

The glass for this window was removed in 1987 and 1988 and cleaned, being first dismantled from its lead which was in very poor condition. A grant towards the cost of restoration was given by the Honourable Company of Glaziers, and the window was reinstated in October 1994 after restoration by John Hayward of Kent.

The ancient glass features roundels, a head of Christ, a lion’s head and border pieces. There is also a shield with the Royal Arms of Edward III, so we can date the glass to between 1327 and 1377.

There are further shields for Castleford, or De Castello, and two shields for Billingford.

Research has been unable to find a link between the De Castellos and Whissonsett, although the records show that in 1403 William Billingford released to Henry Keys and John Wyssingsete all his rights to land in the village and the neighbouring settlements of Godwick and Horningtoft. Billingford was at least the third generation of his family to own these rights, so the family arms recorded in the church’s glass could have been contemporary with the Edward III glass.

And what of that Edward III glass? There are no obvious links between the village and the king, although, tantalizingly, royal records show he visited Norwich — which lies 26 miles away — three times during his reign, in 1340, 1344 and 1383.

And more interesting still, following the visit of 1340 he is known to have travelled to Castle Acre, only eight miles away to the south-west, to see his mother. So could the Whissonsett glass commemorate a royal stop all those centuries ago……?


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