The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Celebrating Churchill’s Life

New Stained Glass Window and Garden Dedicated
Report by the Rev. Canon ADRIAN DAFFERN

Blenheim Garden BustThe Duke of Marlborough and his family are joined by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall (right) and Sir Nicholas Soames (second from left) for the dedication of the new Churchill Garden at Blenheim Palace.

St Martin’s Church, Bladon, is well known, not least to members of The Churchill Centre, as the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill. Many of you will have visited the church, and the Churchill graves. Even if you have been before, I hope that you will come again—for on 9 June this year, a unique event took place in the unfolding story of celebrating the immortal memory of WSC.

It came about like this: St Martin’s Parochial Church Council were clear that they wanted to do something to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston’s death. But what? The vision of a member of the church, Marenka Roseby, inspired us all—a new stained glass window. We began the process of commissioning a design, and short-listed three artists. The brief was specific—while we wanted a memorial to Sir Winston, we did not want a pictorial representation of the great man himself; rather, a depiction of the Patron Saint of the church, Martin (also the patron saint of soldiers), together with imagery and/or text that would provide a suitable celebration of Churchill’s life and work.

Emma Blount’s glorious design took our breath away, and we were glad to ask her to undertake the work. An excellent committee set to the business of fund-raising and publicity, the necessary permissions were gained, donors were wonderfully generous in response, and, in less than a year (is this some kind of record?) the window was installed.

Bladon windowThus it was that on a cloudy but warm June day members of the Churchill family, together with a number of local dignitaries, including Their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, gathered with children from Bladon Church of England Primary School and villagers to welcome Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall to unveil the window. A simple ceremony was held in the church before HRH drew the curtain to reveal the window in all its glory. HRH was presented to the members of the committee, including Marenka Roseby, who presented her with a beautiful glass plaque to commemorate the event. HRH then went to pay her own respects at Churchill’s grave, leaving a posy of flowers there presented to her by children from the local school.

This was the first of two significant events that day—for the royal party then moved on to Blenheim to dedicate the new Churchill Memorial Garden. This was very much the vision of the late eleventh Duke, who was keen for the Palace, like the church, to be a part of the fiftieth anniversary commemorations. Kim Wilkie’s innovative design includes a pathway, intersected by a ‘river’ of poppies, which tells the story of WSC’s life with simple inscriptions depicting milestones in WSC’s life set in the ground. HRH unveiled a magnificent bust of Churchill by Oscar Nemon that dominates the whole garden and which has already become a popular new feature of the Blenheim visitor experience.

St Martin’s Church, Bladon, is, perhaps,  everything you would expect an English village church to be: a loyal and local congregation, active in the community, and a much-loved and well-attended centre of worship. It is, however, much more. As the custodians of Sir Winston’s final resting place, we welcome many thousands of visitors who come to honour his memory. That means that we have a particular double calling: to be a place of honour for the man who many regard as a modern saviour; and to be a place of worship for the One who Christians know as their eternal Saviour. As we look back over a year of special events and memorable occasions, we give great thanks for this double calling. And we look forward to welcoming you the next time you come to visit us in Bladon.

Adrian Daffern is Team Rector of the Benefice of Blenheim with pastoral responsibility for St. Martin’s Church, Bladon.

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