Fodder For Nightmares - based on information kindly supplied by Linda Heath.
If you had gone to our church in the mid1800s you would have been confronted by this gruesome figure looking at you from a panel of one of the stained glass windows. It is an illustration from about 1780 of Revelation 6 v8 - "And I looked and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death".
Rev James Dallaway, Vicar from 1804 until 1834, had given the whole window. He also liked collecting old glass, particularly coloured glass, and there is mention of his going to Rouen for that purpose. When he had enough pieces he put them together to form the chancel window. Although in his view it was no great work of art, he liked the rich effect of sunlight projecting colours through it onto the whitewashed walls of the church. Indeed, Leatherhead Church became well known for its colourful glass as a result.
So what happened to it, you may ask? It remained where he had put it in the chancel until 1863 when the Henderson family of Randalls Park replaced it with a memorial window. The Dallaway glass was moved to the South transept only to be replaced again 20 years later by the memorial window to Bishop Utterton, which is still there. The Dallaway glass, along with the macabre gentleman on his pale horse, seemed then to disappear.
A Pictorial Guide to Leatherhead, issued in the 1930s, puzzled the Vicar of the time, Rev G H B Coleridge. In it, reference was made to the Dallaway glass but no one whom the Vicar consulted on the subject could throw any light on what had happened to it. That is until the church was being "rewired for electric light". Then in a long forgotten loft over the choir vestry were found some packing cases containing the missing glass, which must have been put there in 1881.
An expert from the Victoria & Albert Museum, having examined the glass, said the medieval fragments were worth preserving by the church; the remainder of it was of no value except for the two panels showing Death on a Pale Horse and Saul visiting the Witch of Endor, which were of interest to the V&A as documents for the study of contemporary taste.
As Rev Coleridge thought Death on a Pale Horse was "fodder for nightmares" he was pleased the PCC agreed to give those two panels to the V&A. However he was attracted to the idea of having the medieval fragments made up into a window. Shortage of money and the outbreak of war prevented it.
On Rev Coleridge's death, soon after the war, it was decided a fitting memorial to him and his wife would be the incorporation of the medieval fragments into a window - the one that was shown last month.
Another mystery concerning the 1863 Henderson family East window was also solved by chance. It seemed to have disappeared when the present one commemorating Rev. Utterton was put in its place in 1909. A lady, who was researching the history of St Mary's Church, Bishopstoke (near Southampton) wrote to our Vicar about a newspaper cutting from 1909 she had come across. It described the consecration of the newly built tower, saying that the beautiful stained glass windows were a gift from Leatherhead - clearly the missing Henderson windows. The Rector of Bishopstoke in 1909, Rev S N Sedgwick, had spent eight years serving as Curate with Canon Utterton here in Leatherhead. That, presumably, is how the windows found their way to Bishopstoke where they can still be seen today.
The fragments of old glass reassembled for the window in the Chapel of Remembrance can be seen below: