Canadian TV crew visits Farm Street

Photo credit : Cache no9 productions
Photo credit : Cache no9 productions

A Canadian TV crew came to Farm Street on Monday 3rd June for a documentary about Farm Street Church’s old east window which was transferred to St Agnes’ Church, Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in the early 1910s.

While the old glass was installed in the small town, in 1912 the window over the high altar at Farm Street Church was reglazed to a new design which kept the same theme of the Tree of Jesse but was in a different style with a large image of Our Lady in the centre.

In 2013, Lac-Mégantic suffered a devastating rail disaster in which more than 30 of the buildings in the town centre were destroyed, and 42 people were confirmed dead, with more missing presumed dead. The church of St Agnes survived the disaster and is currently being restored. The documentary being produced is about the town and the works in progress, and is to be shown on French Canadian television SRC Radio-Canada on the anniversary of the disaster on 6th July, 2021. The TV crew interviewed Fr Christopher Pedley SJ, Assistant Parish Priest at Farm Street, and Mary Allen, Deputy Archivist, while filming inside the church.Workers preparing L'Eglise Sainte-Agnes for the Installation of the old East window

The main piece of evidence preserved in the archives is a letter written in February 1914 from Fr Choquette, priest at St Agnes’, to a Roger Watts, who appears to be responsible for transferring the window from London to Quebec. In addition to this, there is a set of photographs showing the installation of the window in Quebec. It is likely that Roger Watts was the brother of Philip Watts, a Jesuit and great grandson of the British architect Augustus Welby Pugin, who designed Farm Street’s high altar. The Watts family was also related to the Hardman family, who created the window that is currently in place over the high altar. Unfortunately there is no evidence in the archives to suggest how exactly he became involved in transferring the window to Quebec. According to the Minister’s Log Book for the time, the new window was unveiled at Farm Street 4 February 1912.

There is some confusion as to the history and trajectory of the window that ended up in Quebec. According to a Farm Street guide book, the window was installed in 1902 in memory of Lady Georgiana Fullerton by the legacy of her husband, Alexander George Fullerton. However, the window became encrusted with a layer of deposit from candle fumes, leaving the church very dark. Under the impression the glass had perished, Fr Charles Nicholson, who was then Superior, ordered from Messrs Hardman a new set of lights. When the old window was removed, it was discovered that the glass was intact. The former window was therefore restored and found a home at St Agnes’.

Mary Allen explains that “Fr Nicholson’s obituary, yet, throws in a red herring: it tells us that the Farm Street window was shipped to Guyana where it was installed in the cathedral in Georgetown, remaining there until a disastrous fire in 1913. The dates don’t quite add up so I suspect the author has got this window confused with another, but it would be interesting to know where the information came from. However, another thought is that Joe Dooley's piece says it was also reglazed in 1902, perhaps it was the window removed in 1902 which went to Georgetown. Unfortunately, the little information we have about the window is contradictory in various places and it may be that we never know the full story!”

If you are interested in any of the sources mentioned, please contact the Archives of Jesuits in Britain.