History of St Mary's Church

A brief history of the building …

The Saxon church of St Laurence, in the west of the parish of Upton-cum-Chalvey, was once the main parish church of the former village of Upton. By 1830 it had fallen into such disrepair that, seven years later, a new church had to be built on the site of the present day St Mary’s. Set in four acres of land on the edge of the ancient village of Upton, between Church Street and Windsor Road, (build to link the neighbouring Eton and Windsor with the Great Western Railway), the church was to be a monument to Slough’s growing status as a flourishing industrial town.

In 1874, the unremarkable Georgian Church was replaced with a neo-Gothic building. Planned by John Oldrid Scott, a son of Sir Gilbert Scott, the construction of St Mary’s preoccupied the architect from 1875 until the completion of the church spire in 1913. In 1878 an enlarged building, consisting of the Georgian nave and a new gothic sanctuary, chancel and transepts, was dedicated. In the meantime, funds were raised to complete Scott’s plans. BY 1912, it was possible to demolish the Georgian nave in order to replace it with a neo-gothic nave. A benefaction from Slough businessman James Elliman made it possible to complete the tower and spire by 1913.

Unique stained glass …

Within the building, there are numerous examples of fine stained glass, an outstanding piece of which is the Church’s West Window (1915). Commissioned by Mary Ellen Elliman, sister of the church’s benefactor James Elliman, it was created by the Jewish artist Alfred Wolmark (1877-1961). Groundbreaking and daring for its time, it inspired John Piper’s design for the windows of Coventry Cathedral. Elliman wished to commission a piece of art in an entirely new and unparalleled style. Woolmark, an exiled Warsaw Jew, had become renowned for his new approach to colour. His artistic breakthrough was in 1911 when, at a post-impressionist exhibition in London, his own work was exhibited with that of Vincent van Gogh. His rejection of form and acceptance of intense, raw colour appealed to Sir Joseph Duveen, who had been approached by Elliman. It took Wolmark two years to complete the window. Wolmark’s window channels the daylight intriguingly; in the morning amass with reds, purples and blues, as the sun is setting, yellow and orange panels are highlighted and bring to life a sea of greens.

The windows in the Sanctuary were designed by Charles Earner Kempe. The fine east window dates back to 1889 and depicts Christ in glory with the twelve apostles. Each panel has a traditional medieval canopy, and each apostle is shown with two guardian angels with Kempe’s distinctive peacock feathered wings. On either side of the sanctuary are two tall lancet windows. The four evangelists on the north are mirrored by four prophets to the south: Isiah, Jertemiah, Micah and Hosea. At the east end of the north aisle the window depisctin Saint Frideswide (Patron of the Diocese of Oxford) is the last window produced in the Kempe studios. The glass in the aisles was designed by Nuttgens, Pawle, Smith and the studios of Shrigley & Hunt.