The two window openings nearest the font are original, and at the beginning all the windows in the church will have been like these, with wide splays to let in the maximum light coming from rather small openings – small because glass was rare and expensive. The other windows in the church were inserted later.
In the fourteenth century the Romanesque windows in the choir were replaced with Decorated Gothic ones, and in the fifteenth century a lord of Donnington manor put Perpendicular Gothic ones in the nave. His name was John de la Pole, and he had his coat of arms displayed in the window on the south side, to make clear to everyone that he was the donor of these two windows. (The jumbled coat of arms opposite was put together in Victorian times. The pieces come from the arms of Edward Fettiplace, steward of Donnington at a later date).
The two Perpendicular windows under the tower were made at or after the time when the staircase to the rood loft was hacked out of the thickness of the wall. We can tell this because the south window is positioned in such a way as to make room for the staircase. These alterations may be the work of Edward Fettiplace, because his arms were displayed prominently in the window on the west front before the glass was accidentally broken up when the window was removed in 1856.
There are a few remnants of fifteenth century glass in the upper lights of the Perpendicular window on the north side of the nave. There are figures of angels and a white rose – the symbol of the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses – the side on which the de la Poles fought.
The rest of the glass in the church is much later. The west end windows are by Hardman & Co which began making stained glass in 1844 and became one of the world’s leading manufacturers of stained glass and ecclesiastical fittings. The east window, depicting the risen Christ, was made by Christopher Webb in 1932.
Most notable of all are the two windows in the Baptistery installed in 1995 and 2012 depicting the Tree of Life, the one in the context of Christ’s birth, the other reflecting the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The South window, by John Piper installed in 1995, shows the Tree of Life, with birds and beasts announcing Christ’s Nativity in Latin, which may be made to sound like the noises these animals make naturally, e.g. Christus natus est has the same rhythm as Cocka-doodle-doo, and Ubi Ubi sounds like the hooting of an owl, while the lamb’s Baa-aa-aa becomes Beth- le-hem. The North window, by Roger Wagner and installed in 2012, depicts the Tree of Life in full blossom, with Christ crucified, but in the glory of the coming Resurrection. From beneath the Tree flows the River of Paradise apparently towards the baptistery font, the waters of which when blessed are symbolically from that River. Sheep representing Christ’s flock shelter under the branches.
A clip from BBC TV’s The One Show, with Sister Wendy talking about these windows.