It was recently discovered at St Matthew’s church, in Newtown, where it has remained undisturbed since the Blitz.
Now the forgotten glass, with its stunning depiction of St Sidwella, is to form the centrepiece of two special Heritage Open Days at St Sidwell’s Community Centre, on September 9-10.
Exeter’s patron saint gives her name to the new leisure centre St Sidwell’s Point, which will be built by Exeter City Council on the site of the current bus station.
In the early hours of May 4, 1942, a large part of Sidwell Street, High Street and Fore Street was decimated during an aerial bombardment.
The church of St Sidwell was destroyed. But several panes of stained glass were rescued from the rubble and stored at St Matthew’s church, where they were forgotten about for a generation.
Dave Wright, manager of the St Sidwell’s Community Centre, said he was amazed to discover that the pieces of glass were in much better condition than anyone imagined.
He said: “When we first heard about the ‘lost’ stained glass that had been lying undisturbed and forgotten in the bell tower at St Matthews I imagined that it would be a few fragments of glass, just odd pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
“We were extremely excited when we found that several of the window panels were almost complete. We were even more excited when we saw that one of them was a beautiful image of St Sidwella – an image that hadn’t been seen for over 70 years.”
Dave said: “As well as being a very unexpected find I think that it is an extremely important and timely one, as it provides a perfect opportunity to highlight the rich history and cultural identity of Sidwell Street and the Eastern quarter of the city at a time when – with the council’s plans for a new leisure centre – change and regeneration are in the air.”
He added: “Here at St Sidwell’s, we welcome the changes that are coming but we want to make sure that the unique and independent character of the area isn’t lost; this beautiful image of our home-grown but virtually forgotten saint will help us to do just that.”
Reverend Tors Ramsey, Associate Vicar at St Matthew’s Church – in whose parish St Sidwell’s sits – was excited about the historic glass finally going on display.
She said: “We are delighted that some of the stained glass from the original church on Sidwell Street is going to be displayed. “This provides both historic interest and a sense of continuity for those who continue to worship at St Sidwell’s Chapel and as part of the parish at St Matthew’s Church, Newtown. We look forward to welcoming visitors who are interested in following this part of the restoration project.”
St Sidwell’s Point will include three swimming pools and a 150 station gym as well as extensive health and spa facilities.
Due to ultra-filtration, the pools will have exceptional water quality with minimal chemical content. It will be build next to a brand new Exeter bus station. New shops, restaurants, a cinema and public open space are also planned for the site.
Heritage Open Days will take place at St Sidwell’s Community Centre on September 9-10. Activities will include free guided tours, a display of artefacts from the St Sidwell’s area, stalls, kids’ crafts and face painting.
In addition to the main piece to go on display, there are at least 10 pieces of rescued glass which are currently being restored.
Exeter-based performance storyteller Clare Viner will be retelling the story of St Sidwell as part of St Sidwell’s Community Centre’s Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10th September. This will take the form of a Story Walk, from 13.30 to 14.30, starting at the St Sidwell’s Community Centre
For more details visit www.sstsidwells.org.uk/sidsnew
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