Like many ancient churches, St Mary’s was reordered during the Victorian period. However, we are especially fortunate that The Reverend William Chantler Izard, Rector at Slindon from 1865 to 1896, commissioned Sir Thomas Graham Jackson RA (who was to become one of the most celebrated architects of his age) to undertake the work. As part of that, he designed a stunning reredos with Italianate features to cover the entire lower part of the East wall, behind the high altar, which was made by the glass company James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars in London. The reredos is made of opaque glass tiles in various sizes with inset glass mosaic panels with effigies of four Evangelists. The panels at each end include inscriptions of the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Given the continual use of the church for worship over the 150+ years since its installation, including the burning of candles, the reredos inevitably had suffered “wear and tear” and parts had become potentially unstable. Also, much of the inscriptions’ writing had faded into virtual invisibility. Given the historic importance of this artefact – let alone its beauty – the church was keen to repair, stabilise and restore the reredos. However, the initial survey in 2019 by Cliveden Conservation identified the potentially substantial cost involved and was followed not long after by the arrival of the pandemic and temporary closure of the church.
Despite this enforced lull, we continued to investigate potential sources of finance. The Church of England offered a grant towards a more detailed survey of the condition and work required. But the project only became a reality when a local (anonymous) benefactor stepped forward. As a result, in two phases during 2022, Kris and Barbara Zykubek from Cliveden carried out the restoration.
The work included:
- Grouting of all voids between the tiles and the slate panels and also deeper areas between slate panels and the eastern wall of the church.
- Resetting of loose tesserae.
- Repairing all damaged tiles and filling holes – repaired areas were retouched to blend the colour with the original tiles.
- Cleaning of the reredos – including removal of wax splashes and soot.
- Retouching the inscriptions – this operation was preceded by appropriate trials of various types of paints.
The results are beautiful – but not unnatural. While the lettering is now readable once again, it does not look as though it has been painted afresh – the mark of highly skilled conservators!
Our great thanks go to our benefactors who made our dream a reality and to Kris and Barbara. Please do visit St Mary’s and take a look at this unique example of Jackson’s work.