1. ITV Report

Heart-shaped stained glass from Blitzed church returned to former parish in Victoria

By Andy Wasley - @andywasley

A precious reminder of London’s ordeal during the Blitz has been returned to a church parish near Victoria.

The heart-shaped glass from the destroyed Christ Church, Broadway.

A heart-shaped piece of stained-glass from Christ Church, Broadway – which was destroyed in 1941 – has been handed to the Reverend Ralph Williamson, the vicar of St Peter’s Church on Eaton Square. The item was handed in by John Hains, who found it amid Blitz rubble in 1953.

It’s a story that recalls London’s wartime ordeal – and how two parishes united amid the destruction.

On the night of 16-17 April 1941, Hitler’s Luftwaffe launched one of the most devastating attacks of the Blitz. The raid reduced 12 of London’s churches to rubble.

The Revd Ralph Williamson, vicar of St Peter's on Eaton Square

It was a very difficult time for this parish, and for all parishes in London. Christ Church was hit by fire-bombs that night. Two firefighters lost their lives trying to put the fire out, along with other people nearby. At the end of the night there was little left except the spire.

– Revd Ralph Williamson

The same raid killed the then vicar of St Peter’s: the Reverend Austin Thompson was struck by shrapnel while on fire-watch duty.

Remarkably, out of that terrible situation came a resolution. We’d lost our vicar, and they’d lost their church. So the vicar of Christ Church came to be the vicar at St Peter’s, and the two parishes came together out of that loss.

– Revd Ralph Williamson

During the War many areas of London were utterly destroyed, and some remained undeveloped for years. In 1953 John Hains, who grew up in the area, was crossing Christ Church’s bombsite. Something caught his eye.

I was crunching on broken glass. I looked down, and I picked it up: it was a heart. Being a caring person I thought 'I can't leave this here to be destroyed', so I put it in my pocket. Over the years, wherever I've been, I've taken it with me.

– John Hains
John Hains and Revd Ralph Williamson with the stained glass Credit: John Hains

Now Mr Hains is in his 80s, and decided it was time to see the stained glass reunited with the parish. After contacting the Diocese of London he was put in touch with Mr Williamson, who travelled to Mr Hains's home in Crawley to receive the precious item.

It will now be put on display in St Peter’s Eaton Square as a lasting reminder of one of London’s darkest chapters, and a tribute to the people who endured it.

I think it’s very important that we make links with the past and with the parish’s history. People today perhaps don’t always realise just how difficult things were here, not that long ago. I’m delighted that we have this really tangible and beautiful reminder of the love of God, which shines through even the worst nights of our lives – and the worst nights of that terrible war.”

– Revd Ralph Williamson