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Millennial Glass, Henley in Arden

Henley's St John the Baptist church, squeezed into a somewhat restricted plot in the town's high street, appears to date entirely from the late 15th century and it's most notable feature externally is the north west tower, against which was built the attractive west porch which serves as the main entrance. Renewed winged-beast carvings flank the entrance arch, whilst within are original head stops of a king and queen each side of the door, with it's nearly triangular arch.

 

The body of the church consists of a long oblong comprising nave and chancel without structural division and a slightly shorter north aisle, divided from the main vessel by an attractive four bay arcade. The interior is somewhat dark and wears a heavier Victorian presence than one might expect, largely due to the decorative glazing that fills most of the windows.There are however a number of medieval head stops and angel carvings high up, the most striking of which is the huge bat-like creature who supports the west end of the arcade where it meets the tower-wall; he seems to be in the act of letting out some kind of horrifying scream.

 

The furnishings appear to date entirely from late Victorian times with one significant exception, the rather fine early 16th century wooden pulpit with linenfold-type details set within cusped panels. The font is old too, though very simple.

 

I have to confess I can't really get excited about the glass here, the Wailes east window with Christ flanked by the Evangelists is not attractive, being rather dull and harshly coloured. The west window suffers similarly with hard colours and canopies, but has a less static tableaux of the Adoration of the Shepherds & Magi.

 

The south wall has an unbroken sequence of five identical three-light windows, all until recently filled with Victorian decorative glazing, consisting of ornamental quarries punctuated by bright rosettes and borders, somewhat fussy yet some of the medallion elements are attractive. The centre window however was replaced by the Millennium window in 2000, a bright and boldy coloured affair with a golden sky made from jagged shards of streaky amber glass.

 

I generally welcome bold, contemporary statements in glass, but I'm afraid I'm not overly keen on this window, I find the simplified drawing of the figures uncomfortably cartoonish, and the obsession with representing contemporary dress and professions (particularly the nurse, fireman etc in the tracery lights) could make the window seem quite dated before it's time in my opinion. Although Christ the carpenter is clearly the central theme, it feels to me like it has a rather more secular agenda.

 

The church is happily normally open and welcoming to visitors from 10am till dusk.

 

For more detail on this church see it's entry on the new Warwickshire Churches website:-

warwickshirechurches.weebly.com/henley-in-arden---st-john...

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Taken on September 4, 2006