By Helen Robinson AMGP, Oriel Glass Studio
Blessed on Sunday, 26th April 2015 by the Rt Revd Norman Banks, the Bishop of Richborough


In 1897 Queen Victoria achieved her Diamond Jubilee – 60 years as Queen – which the community of Downham Market commemorated with a stained glass window at the west end of St Edmund’s Parish Church.
In 2012 present Queen, Elizabeth II, achieved her Diamond Jubilee.  Looking ahead, back in 2009 the Rector and Parochial Church Council (PCC) all agreed that, if at all possible, St Edmund’s Church should commemorate Her Majesty’s long reign in the same way as Queen Victoria’s: by a specially-commissioned stained glass window to replace the last remaining plain glass window in the south aisle.
The project took almost 6 years in the planning and execution, guided by the Inspecting Architect to St Edmund’s Church, Oliver Caroe of Caroe Architecture, Cambridge, and as honorary consultant Canon Jeremy Haselock, Vice Dean of Norwich Cathedral, a noted authority on church art and glass.
To identify the right artist to make our window, over twenty artists were carefully considered by the PCC.  The design brief included the requirements that the design should (a) have its own artistic identity and integrity, whilst also (b) being mindful that it would need to stand alongside the three existing stained glass windows in the south aisle.  To achieve these two requirements successfully would be no mean feat.
A short list of two artists was eventually drawn up, both of whom had work in very well known Cathedrals and Churches.  In the end, the scrutinising Committee and Parochial Church Council were more than pleased with the design by Helen Robinson AMPG of the Oriel Glass Studio, Hertfordshire.
Our selection of artist and design was not the end of it!  After this, the proposed design had to go on to not only the Ely Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), but also, as a significant new piece of public church art, to the (national) Church Building Council for further scrutinisation, including site meetings and exacting questioning!
After passing through these stages, the proposed design could finally go forward to the Chancellor of the Diocese (who is a High Court Judge) for consideration for the necessary Faculty, the formal planning approval, which was granted without any modification or adjustment (which can sometimes be required by the Chancellor).
The Rector, Churchwardens and Parochial Church Council are very grateful for the generous support of Mrs Jane Kaminsky, without which the execution of this wonderful project could not have been achieved.


Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art

Who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.

(From the ancient hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus)
The Anointing, arguably the most solemn part of the Coronation Service forms the central theme of this window. The words of the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus sung as the Queen prepares for her anointing, distill the centrality of the Christian faith to the long reign of the Queen Elizabeth II.
The Central focus of the window shows the Holy Spirit as ‘celestial fire’, a corona sending beams of light out into the world. On either side are canopies based on the gothic detail of Westminster Abbey, ‘canopies’ sheltering the sacred moment of the Anointing.
The temporal role of the Queen is represented by the lion and the unicorn. The lion has been taken as the device of the Kings of England since the reign of Henry I in 1127, ‘rampant guardant’ as supporter of their shield. The unicorn has a more recent history, having been adopted as a supporter by James VI of Scotland when the throne of England passed to him in 1603.
To modern people in a largely secular world much of the symbolic meaning of these emblems has been forgotten. The lion, a symbol of power, was from the earliest times, a solar emblem and the unicorn lunar. They typified the eternal contrast between day and night, light and darkness, good and evil.
The two beasts carry banners with the cyphers of the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who, throughout sixty years, have supported one another through the sacrament of marriage.
Finally, the beasts stand in a field of poppies, the county flower of Norfolk so drawing the iconography in the window to a local conclusion.

Helen Robinson  AMGP

Stained Glass Artist