(Former) Great West Window, Romsey Abbey, Hampshire.

Although the great west window at Romsey Abbey is no longer in place, it is of much interest, not only because of its great dimensions, but because it was a memorial to Palmerston — who had wanted to be buried at the abbey, but was given a funeral at Westminster Abbey instead. After his death in 1865, it took a while to decide on an appropriate memorial (one idea was to add a mortuary chapel at the east end). But in the end a window was decided upon and dedicated in 1868. An account of it in the Liverpool Mercury of 22 July 1868 reads:

This window is almost without a parallel for size and proportion, the centre light being 39’ x 5’ 7 inches and the two side lights 36’ 6” by 4’ 2” each. The design of the window, by Messrs Clayton and Bell, is to exemplify the idea of government descending from heaven to earth. In the upper portion of the three windows is a representation of the highest idea of rule — the Lord Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of glory, surrounded by adoring saints and angels. Below are three subjects from the New Testament, showing acts of power and teaching, namely our Lord feeding 5000, the sermon on the Mount, and the tribute money. Below these again are three subjects from the old Testament, illustrative of power and government, namely, Joseph distributing corn in Egypt, the judgement of Solomon, and Daniel as ruler. In the lower tier are figures showing allegorically three modes of action in which an earthly ruler may beneficially exercise his power — first, in preserving peace and plenty; secondly, in making war in defence of his country and of a right cause; thirdly in breaking fetters and liberating captives; and at the bottom of the heraldic bearings of Lord Palmerston and the following inscription “In memory of Viscount Palmerston: obit 1865.” Beneath each of the Scripture subjects is a descriptive Latin text. In an arcading dividing the subjects horizontally are demi-figures of patriarchs, prophets, kings, apostles and saints.

It was not universally praised: the Rev. Berthon, who did so much work on the abbey during his ministry there, was to describe it as “the worst I have ever seen by Messrs Clayton and Bell.” But we cannot judge now: in 1961, storm damage necessitated the removal of the window, which was replaced by clear glass. The Palmerston window itself was placed in storage by Hampshire Museum Services.

Historic photograph kindly provided by parish historian Liz Hallett, who also provided the text; formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to the Victorian Web or cite it in a print one.

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Created 26 May 2019