New Stained Glass Window, Christ Church, Totland Bay
The new window is in memory of the Rev. Freddy Ralph who was vicar of Christ Church from 1960-1974.
There are two main themes within the design:
Firstly, the temporal, local parish scenes with which Freddy and his wife Dorothy would be familiar as they walked their dog on Tennyson Down, and as Freddy fulfilled his role as Hon. Chaplain to the Needles Lighthouse.
From the sea at Alum Bay, with its multi-coloured cliffs, the scenes rise up the window incorporating the woods, fields and heather-covered Headon Warren. From there the blues of the Solent surround the focal point of the Needles Lighthouse. Approaching the lighthouse is the local lifeboat. Freddy would have sailed in it during his annual pastoral visit.
Secondly, the spiritual, with the focus on light.
At the base of the window are the words “Fiat Lux”. In Genesis 1.3 God spoke the words “Let there be light” and that light is depicted here travelling up the design through the layers of the Alum Bay sands.
The colours become brighter as they rise through the window and, at the point at which they meet the parallel lines/beams from the Fresnel lens in the lighthouse, they begin to lose their sand-like tones and take on brighter yellow colours to produce a dazzling display in the tracery.
The Victorian pastime of collecting and layering the Alum Bay sands is a core design feature of the window. The layers form horizontal lead lines from the sea up to the lighthouse beam.
The central column allows the sand layers to become more prominent, with those bearing the text being full width.
The column also guides the light up through the lighthouse and into the trefoil where the shapes relate to the Tennyson Monument with the cross section linking the alpha and omega symbols. The column also recalls the 168ft radio mast that was hauled up the cliffs to stand in the grounds of the Royal Needles Hotel.
Here, at the top of the trefoil, the design concludes with Jesus' words “Lux Mundi” (“I am the light of the world”). Also included in the trefoil are symbols that relate to God's words from Revelation 1.8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, and clear lenses that represent the seven stars from Revelation 1.16. The coloured glass will be selected to relate to the nearby east window with its natural background greens, strong sky-coloured blues and “heavenly” ambers.
Other subjects incorporated in the window include the experiments of Guglielmo Marconi.
His work at the Royal Needles Hotel from Nov 1897 resulted in the first shore to ship broadcasts.
The curved lines in the tracery that flow into the head of the main light are taken from the electrical field lines of radio waves.
Finally the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson who lived at Freshwater Bay.
These are contained within the horizontal layers of sand and read from bottom to top where they become part of the lighthouse's beam of light.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow
Peter Berry AMGP April 2017
Location: Christ Church, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight