The Piper Window
An especial treasure of St Peter’s is John Piper’s Palm Sunday Window, the third on the south side of the nave, to the left of the door as you enter. On bright days the sunlight streams through the vivid blue, gold and green tones so favoured by this artist. It was made possible by the generosity of the late Alderman C.J.V.Bellamy, Hon. M.A., J.P. and Mrs Maud Emma Bellamy his wife, who left £1000 for a memorial window which should relate to the text “suffer the little children to come unto me”: to their great sadness the couple had been childless.
Initially the District Church Council had considered a range of more traditional designs from a number of studios for the window at the east end of the north aisle, when the suggestion was made that we approach John Piper. He agreed to visit the church, advised us that the window proposed was not in a sufficiently sound state, but offered that with the resources available, he would be happy to design for a window on the south side. He also felt it would be difficult to illustrate the proposed text and suggested that we consider how children responded to Jesus, as for example the boy with the five loaves and two small fish or those who greeted him as he entered Jerusalem. The DCC and the executors both liked the latter suggestion and so the commission was put in hand.
The window was made by Patrick Reyntiens (who had worked with John Piper on the Baptistery window in Coventry Cathedral). On Whit Monday 1976, the Parish outing was able to visit his studio in the Chilterns to see the work in progress. Some changes to the design (Palm branches and waving hands of all sizes, sexes and colours) were discussed and included in the final version. For instance, the adult-sized green hand and arm grasping a palm branch was extended horizontally from left to right to link both lights in the window. We also learned that the child-sized hands at the bottom were drawn from an outline of John Piper’s sons.
The window was installed by Mike Stockford, who was churchwarden together with Dr Desmond Walshaw that year. It was consecrated by the Rt. Revd. Peter Walker, Bishop of Dorchester at the Patronal Festival Eucharist on Monday 29th June 1976 in the presence of the Revd Michael Ottaway, Vicar of St Peter’s, John Piper himself, the churchwardens and a large congregation. This inaugurated a week long festival of music, dance, drama, horticultural and historical exhibitions and more works, prints and ceramics by John Piper. We feel our window more than bears comparison with the Piper windows in other Oxfordshire churches at Nettlebed and St Mary the Virgin, Iffley.