The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


On a night in September 2010 thieves tried to enter the Church of All Saints at Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire. They endeavoured to break a small lancet window on the south side of the church. This selection was unfortunate for them since they unexpectedly discovered that it was of half-inch thick plate glass. They pounded it with a rock from the churchyard and damaged it beyond repair. Nothing inside the church was taken but the interior was left in disarray.

The small lancet window was one of a pair, beautifully engraved in the 1970s by a distinguished engraver, Sir Laurence Whistler. They were precious to the church and to the village, being dedicated to the life of Edward Thomas, a local poet. The left-hand window showed Thomas as a vagabond image and there was a landscape behind. The damaged right-hand window contains one of his poems, ‘The New House’; the house, once occupied by him is depicted and behind the lines of the poem are doors - some open and others closed. From the final open door can be seen a battlefield in Flanders. Thomas, a soldier in the First World War, was tragically killed at Arras in Spring 1917.

It was resolved that the desecration should be remedied. To this end a replacement window was commissioned. The engraver was Tony Gilliam, a well-known glass engraver who had worked with Sir Laurence (the latter having died). Mr Gilliam had been unable to get the green tinted original glass but a substitute proved very successful. The work was done on both back and front surfaces. This gave a three dimensional effect which was most appealing to the viewer.

A service of dedication for the replacement artistic copy was held at the Church on Saturday 7th December 2013. It was attended by the Rt Revd. Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, who gave an address on the poet Edward Thomas and then delivered the prayer of dedication. A celebratory party was held afterwards. Dr Williams (better known as the former Archbishop of Canterbury) was a great admirer of the poet and his talk was most insightful for the significance and importance of Edward Thomas in the literature of our country.

Much good may come out from apparent tragic events.

Rod Dawson

Easter Edition 2014

Through a Glass Darkly