The lost glass of Upper Hardres

Joining in

The east windows of Upper Hardres church have some of the finest medieval stained glass in Kent. Both windows, originally from St Mary's, Stelling, with their characteristic 'S' shaped figures, show how rich and colourful the glass of that period was. They also gives a hint of how brightly decorated even the humblest of our ancient churches must have been before the ReformationThe east window after the fire and subsequent changes.

In 1974, the church suffered a disastrous fire which consumed much of the roof, destroyed nearly all of the east window glass together with much of the wooden furnishings such as the box pews and hatchments to various members of the Hardres family. The picture on the right shows the west window shortly after the fire.

However, before the fire in 1972 the main parts of the west window were photographed by Professor N J Morgan and with his kind permission they are shown on this page. Together with drawings made by C R Councer in the 1930s, they are a remaining record of what the pre-fire window looked like.

The Windows

The main elements were 13th Century and consisted of picture roundels surrounded by abstract designs together with an unidentified coat of arms. The main photographs are set out below but not to scale.

               The top of the window

Fig 1: Framework at top of window.

The main glass consists of roundels with scenes from the life of a bishop, believed to be St Nicholas due to similarities with an existing window in Chartres Cathedral. The saint was said to have secretly gave money at night to three girls so they could marry. The figures in the roundels were sleeping and can be seen in the surviving fragments re-set in the north side of the chancel.

Fig 2: Life of Bishop (St Nicholas?)

Fig 3: Bishop (St Nicholas?)

The other roundel is an enthroned Virgin Mary with donor figures either side, possibly members of ther Hardres family and considered to be one of the earliest 'donor' scenes in the country.

Fig 4: Virgin Donor roundel

Fig 5: Painting of virgin donor roundel by C R Crouncer carried out in 1930s

There was also an unidentified coat of arms in the window. The arms resemble a smillar coat belonging to Bartholomew de Wateringbury, which appears in the Dering roll, the oldest surviving roll of arms set around the time of Edward I. The arms are mainly of Kent and Sussex knights and also feature an early version of the Hardres family arms. They are also similar to the arms of the Kent branch of the Savage family who lived at Bobbing near Sittingborne from the 12th to 15th Century, one of whom, Sir Arnold became Speaker of the House of Commons.


Fig 6: Unidentified arms and arms of de Wateringbury from the Dering Roll.Hastingleigh window

The roundels were possibly set within a framework of patterned glass known as grisaille, consisting of decorative interlocking patterns. The actual position of the glass and surrounding panels is not completely evident from the surviving photographs and additionally they were probably re-set from an earlier window. An example of grisaille glass in situ can be seen in nearby Hastingleigh church (fig 7).

                   Fig 7: Chancel window at Hastingleigh church

After the fire

The remaining stained glass fragments were recovered after the fire and set into roundels which sit below the west windows and in a lancet window on the North side of the chancel.



Professor N J Morgan - Photographs

C R Councer - Drawings

Deering Roll

Joseph Foster - Feudal Coats of Arms from Heraldric Rolls 1298 - 1418

Leaflet - 'St Peter and St Paul Church Upper Hardres Stained Glass'