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On Friday 17th May at the Masonic Hall in Barnstaple The Worshipful Company of Glaziers represented by:

  • Alderman Sir David Wootton (Past Master of the Worshipful Company and Assistant Grand Master of the UGLE of Freemasons),
  • Roger Shrimplin (Past Master of the Worshipful Company),
  • Michael Dalton (Renter Warden of the Worshipful Company & Secretary of The Glaziers’ Foundation & The Stained Glass Repository)

In the presence of:

  • Ian Roome Mayor of Barnstaple,
  • RWBro Ian Kingsbury Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire,
  • WBro Colin Gale Assistant Provincial Grand Master,
  • Alison Mills Manager of Barnstaple Museum,
  • Rev’d David Fletcher Vicar of St Michaels & St Mary Magdalene,
  • Robert Paterson Stained Glass Specialist
  • and the Brethren of Loyal Lodge with their wives delivered the Britton Stained Glass Windows to WBro Roger H Moore as Master of Loyal Lodge.

Prior to the Meeting the Representatives of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers who had travelled from London enjoyed a tour of the Barnstaple Museum and were able to see where the Britton Windows will be displayed when the Museum’s Refurbishment has been completed.

During the Meeting a resume of the History of the Windows and St Mary Magdalene Church was given by WBro Estcourt D Miller and the Worshipful Company of Glaziers Representatives talked of its organisation, history and works.

Sir David Wootton in presenting the Windows said how pleased they were to be able to return the Windows to North Devon and to know that in due course they will be displayed so prominently for all to see.

W. Bro Moore accepted possession of the Windows and thanked all who had been involved including the Worshipful Company of Glaziers, Barnstaple Museum, Robert Paterson for his superb refurbishment of the Windows and W. Bro Doug Boothroyd for his work in mounting them in light boxes.

After the formalities the Windows were viewed by all present before everyone enjoyed a light buffet.

Britton Windows and Honoured Guests
Britton Windows in light frame

Let me begin this History by taking you on a journey not in space but in time...

We first go back to the late 18th Century when Barnstaple was a major seaport of only some five thousand inhabitants. The traditional strip farming systems are disappearing and the Industrial Revolution is changing Society for ever. George III ascended the Throne in 1760 and Barnstaple due to its remoteness and the impassable nature of the roads would have had better communications overseas than with the rest of the country! It has been a turbulent century with the Jacobite rebellion, the Seven Years War with France and the great problems in North America only resolved after the War of Independence came to an end with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

It is 1783 which is of particular interest to us for in that year Sir Charles Bamfylde the first Provincial Grand Master of Devon granted a Warrant to the Loyal Lodge to meet in Barnstaple. Loyal Lodge proved successful and it rapidly grew in numbers and stature.

Before we leave the 18th Century let us take a short hop to 1790 to a small nearby village called Bishops Tawton there on 21st October the Britton Family celebrated the birth of a son: John Thomas – the hero of our story. He grew up and as a young man joined the Militia and we now jump forward into the 19th Century to find John Thomas has survived the Napoleonic Wars and Waterloo he has returned to his native Barnstaple, married and has a young family. He has been a Prize fighter, has setup a sporting club and is recorded as a Billiard Room Keeper.

In March 1828 he was Initiated into Loyal Lodge and became its Master in December 1839. It was in 1843 that he took a lead in the acquisition of the “Bath Furniture” and organised its transportation to Barnstaple. The story of that acquisition has been well told many times so suffice to say that the Masters & Wardens Chairs, Brass Pillars and Globed Pillars with other items are still in use today ( recognised as some on the finest masonic furniture in existence) and that John Thomas would have occupied those Chairs during various Meetings. A little later John Thomas became Lessee of the Public Assembly Rooms (now the Conservative Club) and Loyal Lodge took up residence there at a Rent of £15 per annum!

It was also during this period that the population of Barnstaple grew considerably and the Parish Church was no longer large enough to accommodate all of its Parishioners and so a second Church was built and in 1842 was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. John Thomas who is believed to have been a good vocalist and musician would have been an asset to the life of that Church.

Unfortunately in 1855 John Thomas suffered a fall breaking his ribs and the resulting tumour caused his death. Loyal Lodge decided a Memorial should be erected to John Thomas and in 1859 the South Window of St Mary Magdalene Church was dedicated to his Memory.

We must now move forward to the middle of the 20th Century: When two of our Members, W.Bros Bernard Bidgood & Don Garman were Choir Boys at St Mary Magdalene and where they both later got married. But by the 1970s the Congregation had shrunk and the Church fell into disuse. The Council were building the Inner Relief Road and purchased the Church. During its demolition the Worshipful Company of Glaziers stepped in and rescued the Britton Windows which they kept in secure storage.

Our last time jump brings us back into the 21st Century when in April 2017 the lodge received an enquiry via the Museum of Freemasonry asking if we would be interested in taking possession of the Britton Windows. That was the first we had ever heard of them! After some investigations and consultations the answer was a resounding YES. The intervening 2 years of the Project to bring them home has been at times challenging and frustrating!