This month's feature:

Anyone who has rung the bells at Uppingham will be familiar with this tower window.

Anyone who has rung the bells at Uppingham will be familiar with this tower window.

The Tower Window In the wall of the late 14th century tower set above the closed west door is a two light window containing representations in stained glass of St. Catherine (left) and St. Cecilia (right).   According to legend, Catherine of Alexandria saint and martyr, lived in the fourth century.  She brought Imperial displeasure upon herself by publicly protesting to Emperor Maxentius against the worship of idols.  After having confounded the arguments of fifty philosophers (who were put to death for their failure), she refused to deny her faith and marry the Emperor.  Beaten and imprisoned, she was fed by a dove and during her incarceration Christ appeared to her in a vision.  While being tortured on a spiked wheel, it fell to pieces killing many spectators yet miraculously leaving her unharmed.  Her constancy brought about the conversion of two hundred soldiers – who were promptly beheaded.  Catherine too was beheaded.  Her body was carried by angels to the top of Mount Sinai and now rests in the monastery at its foot named after her.  Her emblem in art is the wheel.   On the left in the upper light St. Catherine is seen robed, with crown and halo; a spiked wheel in the background.  Below, the predella is of her mystical marriage to Christ – St. Catherine kneels in prayer while Christ stands before her.   Of her companion saint, history relates at some unknown date a lady of patrician birth named Cecilia founded a church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome and was buried in the cemetery of St. Callistus.  By the year 545 AD she is called both saint and martyr.  Legend has it that on her wedding day she informed her husband she had consecrated her virginity to God, winning him over to respect her vow and to be baptised.  Eventually, he and others of her followers were put to death as obstinate Christians.  Cecilia also died for her faith after an ineffective beheading, the sentence that she be stifled by steam and heat in her own bathroom having failed to suffocate her.   

Since the sixteenth century she has been regarded as the patroness of musicians.  An organ is often shown as her emblem.   To the right the upper light shows St. Cecilia holding a small organ.  In the lower part she kneels while a male figure in 17th century costume, stands holding a sword above her head.  The background is an urban scene with a rising or setting (?) sun.   The window also is the work of T. F. Curtis from Ward and Hughes.  The predominant colours are deep red, greens, yellow, gold and white.   The dedication reads –  “ To the Glory of God dedicated by W.   M.  Compton   Churchwarden1904.”  The glass was the gift of William Maydwell Compton who served as the Rector’s Churchwarden for forty years from 1857 to 1896.  A wine merchant, Compton was associated with The Vaults in the Market Place then a liquor warehouse and offices.  He and his wife Mary lived at Compton House, No 68 High Street East which he rebuilt.  A generous benefactor of the Church, the window is not his only memorial.  In 1871, at their joint expense, he and the Rector William Wales paid for the restoration of the Church’s communion plate at a cost of £33.14s.0d.  Again, when in 1892 the church’s organ was rebuilt and enlarged by Nicholson of Worcester then moved it to its present position in the south aisle, it was Compton who met the full cost of nearly £400.   For no obvious reason, when viewed from inside the Church the position of the window is off-set to the north.  Yet seen from the outside, it is located central to the tower’s west wall.  The glass is best seen from the ringing chamber above the choir vestry in the tower arch.  Unfortunately, this structure obscures almost completely the view from the floor of the nave.  As access to the ringing chamber is normally kept locked, the alternative is a more distant view from the Chancel steps.  

Compton died on 6th July 1896 aged 74 or 75.  The window dates to 1904 so likely to have been a bequest in his Will.  Neither a Faculty nor a maker’s description has been discovered.  If dedication there was, a report of the ceremony has not been traced.   St. Cecilia’s association with church organs and her patronage of musicians is a reminder of Compton’s generosity meeting the cost of the Nicholson organ and explains her selection as one of the subjects for the window.  A reason for the inclusion of St. Catherine is less clear.  Perhaps the closeness in the dates of the saints’ feast days – respectively 25th and 22nd November – may have a connection with Compton’s birthday.   Although now only just over a hundred years old, it is feared that much information about the window is already lost.