St Michael's Church, Shotwick

The Trena Cox window

The story - A striking stained glass window depicting the inspirational figure of the Archangel Michael, one of God’s chief messengers and the champion of His people.

A church existed in ‘Soto-wiche’ when the Domesday Book was compiled. The Norman church which supplanted the Saxon one was built around the beginning of the 12th century, the arch of the South doorway in the present church is part of this building. Much of the church was rebuilt and extended in the 14th century, although over the succeeding centuries many other changes have taken place including the building of the tower which was completed in 1500. The grooves in the stones in the porch date back to Medieval times and were made by archers sharpening their arrows prior to Sunday practice and within the church there are many notable features including a fine collection of 17th and 18th century furnishings.

The image we have chosen, however, is a more recent addition, the striking stained glass window above the altar depicting the Archangel Michael by a local artist, Trena Cox. It was placed there by parishioners in memory of their long serving vicar, the Rev Frederick Ray Wandsbrough and his wife Eva Frances Annette. The Rev Wandsbrough served as vicar from 1902 to 1936 and “is remembered for being a typical specimen of a sporting parson. He often visited Chester wearing a tall silk hat and mounted on a big white mare”. (Raymond Richards, Old Cheshire Churches). He left a generous legacy to the church which, amongst other things, was used to increase the number of bells from four to six.

The east window with its vibrant colours makes an immediate impact from the back of the church. The choice of subject was an obvious one for a church dedicated to St Michael, the Archangel who is one of God’s chief messengers and the champion of His people. In his role as a spiritual warrior he rescues the souls of the faithful from the power of the devil in the battle of good versus evil. He is regarded as an advocate of justice, a healer of the sick and the guardian of the Church.

The commission to make the window was given to a local stained glass artist, Trena Mary Cox (1895-1980).Born on the Wirral Trena Cox attended classes in drawing, design and painting at the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead. In 1924 she moved to Chester and set up her studio there. In that same year her first windows were installed in Chester College (now University) Chapel and in the following three years she designed and made windows for Chester Cathedral. During the 1930s and 1940s she produced some particularly fine windows, many of saints, including St Michael for Shotwick Church.

In art the Archangel Michael is usually depicted with a sword vanquishing Satan in the form of a dragon. He is often shown carrying a pair of scales, not to measure justice but to weigh souls on Judgement Day. In many representations he is pictured soaring through the sky, sword in hand, ready to slay the dragon. Trena Cox has portrayed him as confident and self assured with an air of determination. He is wearing armour and holding an ornately patterned sword, beneath which lies the dragon. His emerald green cloak is decorated with swirls, his beautifully feathered wings are a combination of shades of red and yellow and orange and his status is indicated by his magnificent halo. The surrounding diamond panes have a beauty of their own, a mixture of pale, subtle colours, some decorated with patterns and one with a tiny pair of scales. There is such attention to detail, something new to discover each time you look at the window. In the side-lights appear the old arms of Shotwick and those of the Abbot of St Werburgh. The windows above contain pieces of Medieval glass, a reminder of the ancient history of this very special church.

Page last updated: Monday 14th March 2022 3:42 PM
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