The History of St.Margaret's Church

The stained glass

It had been believed that the glass in the east window was painted and donated in 1848 by Edmund Bartell, an amateur artist who lived at what is now Swannington Manor. The initials EB are painted in the window.

However, during recent restoration, experts looked at the window and believe that parts of the glass are French. Through the Romantic Movement in England there was a growing fascination with gothic art in the second half of the 18th century, resulting in a new demand for stained glass. At the same time, the atheist revolutionary government in France had forced the closure of many monasteries and convents, while Napoleon did the same in the territories which he conquered. Much stained glass was looted and came onto the market.

In Norwich a master weaver and general merchant called J C Hampp imported a great deal of glass. A Norwich glazier called Samuel Carter Yarington installed this glass in a lot of Norfolk churches.

The East window at Swannington contains continental fragments, plain glass and some additional painted items. This would date it at 1820-46, after which fully designed windows replaced those made up from fragments. lt is possible that Edmund Bartell was involved in the design.

There is no obvious theme. Jesus and John the Baptist appear to be painted in different styles, which would be consistent with fragments obtained from elsewhere. The symbolism of the floral plaques is not known - although the lily often represents the Virgin Mary.

The windows in the south of the chancel tell a sad story. Mary Anne Rogers was the grand-daughter of Edmund Bartell, whose history has been traced by our last Rector, Selwyn Tillett. Mary Anne married John Francis Rogers, an assistant commissioner general in the army, 15 years her senior. Their first child, Gertrude Mary, was the only one to survive into adulthood. There were the three sons commemorated in the window (Lionel, born and died aged 4½ in Edinburgh; Guy, born and died aged 3 months in Quebec; John, whose birth was the cause of his mother's death, born in Quebec in February 1869). There were two others, not commemorated here. These were twins, a boy and a girl, who were born and died on the same day in February 1865.

The effect on John Rogers and on their one surviving child Gertrude, five years old when her mother died, can hardly be imagined. Distraught, he decided to leave Canada and brought Mary Anne's body home to Swannington for burial. She lies in the churchyard. Their son John had been privately baptised the day he was born, which says much about his own physical condition, and yet John senior had no option but to submit him to the rigours of the long sea voyage to bring him home. The almost inevitable happened. After burying his wife here in late May 1869 John Rogers buried their four-month-old son in June.

Mary Anne had inherited The Lawns (now Swannington Manor) from her step-grandmother in 1863; now on her death in 1869 John Rogers inherited the property himself. In 1871, shortly after the death of his last son Lionel, he married a Maria Young, Canadian by birth. As they became part of life here in Swannington so did their eleven healthy children and some of their descendants. He died in 1901, Maria in 1933, and both are buried in the churchyard.

The carpeting in the sanctuary has recently been removed to reveal a Victorian marble floor. The two floor stones under the east window are in memory of the wife and mother of Nathaniel Ponder, who was a curate at Swannington. In the chancel are black stone slabs commemorating members of the Bladwell, Upton and Carr families. Wall monuments to former rectors include John Vickers, Frederick Hildyard and John Wortley and their relatives. The Bartell and Rogers families are also commemorated in wall monuments as well as in the stained-glass windows.

Reproduced by kind permission of Richard Cooke from his booklet "St.Margaret's Church, Swannington"