A year ago, I made a nostalgic visit to West Kirby, a small seaside town on the Wirral Peninsular. I went to Calday Grange Grammar School there, and cassocked, ruffed, and surpliced, sang in the choir at the Parish Church of Saint Bridget. In the church vestry is this fine window by the Victorian master of stained glass, Charles Kempe, celebrating the Welsh-born poet and divine George Herbert (1593 – 1633).
Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?
He is a brittle crazie glaʃse:
Yet in thy Temple thou doʃt him afford
This glorious and tranʃendant place
To be a window, through thy grace
I wanted to write about West Kirby, but wasn’t sure how. What gradually took shape was a rather oblique homage to the scenes of my childhood in the form of a novel, Þe Wyldrenesse of Wyrale. Saint Bridget’s Church has its part to play in the novel. At one point the (fictional!) Mr. Peacock is showing off the window to some tourists:
“…and in the church, just down the road from the pub, yes we must pop into the church for a minute, old Mr Peacock, ninety if he’s a day, has interrupted his polishing of the pews to show off the stained glass window in the vestry to a couple of keen visitors, we’re very proud of this you see it says Lord how can man preach thy eternal word? He is a brittle crazy glass. Ha, yes, I must admit to feeling a little brittle myself these days, and as for crazy, well you’ll have to ask my wife if she thinks I’m. Yes, that’s George Herbert, that’s right. Welsh, he was. Early seventeenth century. No, Victorian. Very fine workmanship, Charles Kempe you know, oh yes, famous he is, examples of his work in churches all over the country…”
There are two other Herbert windows in the vestry, this one…
“Nothing Lasts but the church.” Discuss! Well, maybe another time. Meanwhile- ah, here’s the advert, you knew it was coming- why not click the link below and have a look at Þe Wyldrenesse of Wyrale on its Amazon page: and buy a copy? It’s available in paperback and ebook formats!