St Saviour's Church
St Saviour’s at Ascensiontide
Ascensiontide is the season of the Patronal Festival of St Saviour’s Church, that is the occasion of its foundation. Prior to about 1850, the parishioners of Oxton walked to Woodchurch for a weekly service, but as the village of Oxton grew people abandoned this difficult walk along the path of Holm Lane and worshipped in an old barn on the site of the present church. The people wanted a church of their own. It was in 1857 that the Earl of Shrewsbury who owned the estate conveyed the land to Revd Joshua King of Woodchurch and he, in return, endowed the church with a tithe. Oxton was separated from its mother church at Woodchurch.
The first church of St Saviour was quite small, but at this season we think of those who were responsible for building the first St Saviour’s church in 1851 and of those who saw to the building of the present church in 1890 – 1891.
The foundation stone of the present church was laid on March 26th 1889 by Catherine King - who lived at Point of Ayr, Mill Hill Oxton, and a descendent of Revds Bryan and Joshua King, both Rectors of Woodchurch. The foundation stone is to be found at the base of the south east column of the tower – close to the lectern
The building (except for the tower) was completed in two years and the first service was held in 1891. The tower was completed the following year and was dedicated on Ascension Day 26th May 1892
Whenever you enter St Saviour’s you are aware of the architecture and of the windows but how often do you really look at the details of them? Can you say which saints are featured in the north aisle or which figures or biblical scenes are featured on the reredos? We plan in future issues to devote some space to the features of our church.
Meanwhile we have cause to celebrate for the worship that takes place in this church. There is also the chance to come in each morning between 8.30am 12.30pm if you want to spend some more time in private prayer. You may like to sit in silence and meditate or try to take in the beauty of the building. If you have not been in the church for a time you might like to come in when it is quiet. A warm welcome awaits you.
The dedication of the window in the north aisle in memory of the late Canon Alan Poulter showing Christ as the Good Shepherd prompted fresh interest in the windows at St Saviour’s and about the original windows in the church prior to 1941 and the blitz. The picture below shows the original east window which was bombed. It was a gift of Miss Catherine King who had laid the foundation stone of the church and it consisted of five lights – the central one showed the crucifixion and the lights either side depicted the twelve apostles.
We cannot turn the clock back and we do not know of anyone who remembers the windows prior to 1941. If our readers do know of anyone in the 75plus age range who can help us in this respect we would be glad to hear from them.
However the present windows can give rise, not only to an appreciation of their beauty, but also to study of their content. The east window in particular provides the link with Ascension as does the reredos.
This familiar and beautiful reredos is one of the most striking features as one enters St Saviour’s church. It is designed as a triptych (three panelled) and is made from gilded oak. The designer was G F Bodley a great architect and after whose family the famous Library in Oxford is named. The central upper panel depicts St Saviour – Christ in Glory and ascended, with his right hand raised in blessing and the left hand holding an orb surmounted by a cross.- the emblem of the universal empire.
The east window was designed and executed by Mr L C Evetts of the University of Newcastle – upon – Tyne and it was dedicated in 1974 to replace the former window lost in the bombings of the 1939 -45 war. In fact the lower section of the window portrays a tree with twelve crops of fruit. The leaves of the tree symbolize the healing of the nations - how apt given that this window replaces one destroyed by war!
If you look closely at the window you can see that the subject matter of the glass links with the reredos. The Ascended Christ in the reredos leads us to look up to the New Jerusalem depicted in the window. Read Revelation 21: 10 - 22: 5 as you determine the features of this window. The Holy City can be seen with its walls and spires and sun and moon. Jesus is seen as the Lamb of God with the resurrection standard so that we can all see and follow him. Near to the Lamb are the crown of thorns, the hammer, pincers and nails. The translucent glass of the central panel is cut (unusually) horizontally and has shades of blues and greens to represent the river of life (Rev:22) sparkling like crystal and coming from the throne of God and the Lamb and flowing through the city’s street.
Finally the Ascended Christ is surrounded by the four traditional figures of the evangelists who unify this more modern window with the evangelists who are also featured on the font and on the lectern.
In future editions we will describe more of the church windows and other features.
Appreciation for material is due to Brian Dunn and the late Roger Spencer as well as The Parish Church of St Saviour by FC Beazley (1930),Oxton St Saviour by Revd J Mullett (c1975) and Built to Serve Growing Community (1991)