About the Church

Other Features

A particular feature of the church is the stained glass. The East window above the Sanctuary is dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, who is the central figure, depicted holding a jar of precious ointment. To the right, we see the Magdalen greeting the Risen Christ (depicted as a gardener, with hat and spade) and to the left, Christ absolving the repentant woman who had washed his feet with her tears at the house of Simon the Pharisee. The Latin tradition, going back to Hippolytus (Third Century) and St Gregory the Great (Sixth Century) has identified this woman with St Mary Magdalen, although this is uncertain. The lower lights of the window depict four roundels relating to the tradition that after the Ascension St Mary Magdalen evangelised Provence, in the South of France.

  • The Sanctuary Window
    The Sanctuary Window

The Lady Chapel, to the left of the Sanctuary, is filled with iconography of Mary, the Mother of God, depicted in the central panel of the stained glass, on the altar and elsewhere. The left-hand panel of the window shows St Catherine of Sienna, the Fourteenth Century mystic and Doctor of the Church (shown advising the Pope in the lower part of the window). The right-hand panel depicts the rather obscure St Robert d’Arbrissel, founder of the Abbey of Fontevrault in the Loire Valley (he is shown veiling a nun in the lower panel).

  • The Lady Chapel
    The Lady Chapel

Adjacent to the Lady Chapel is the Burton memorial window, given by Isabel Arundell in memory of her husband, the explorer Sir Richard Burton, who died a Catholic and whose remarkable mausoleum is found in our churchyard. The three saints in the window are St Mary Magdalen, St Joseph (on whose feast day, 19th March, Sir Richard was born) and St Agnes (whose feast, 21st January, was the eve of Richard and Isabel’s wedding). Burton himself appears in the lower part of the window, depicted as a knight.

  • Burton Memorial Window
    The Burton Memorial Window

Further along we find another memorial window, given by Mr William Towry Law in memory of his son Augustus Henry Law SJ, who died as a Jesuit missionary priest in South Africa in 1880. The saints depicted are Our Lady, St William and St Francis Xavier – the latter a Jesuit missionary like Augustus.

Opposite we note the First World War memorial window (with plaque below) and, near the sacristy door, a window honouring the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the depiction of St John giving Communion to Our Lady is quite unusual. Also on the south wall is a plaque in memory of Sir James Marshall and his wife Alice, who are buried in our churchyard, not far from the Burton mausoleum. Another Victorian convert to the Catholic Faith, Sir James became Chief Magistrate of the Gold Coast (modern Ghana) and is credited with inviting the two French priests from the Society for African Missions who laid the foundations of the Catholic Church in Ghana. He is honoured today by the Knights and Ladies of Marshall, a Ghanaian lay association, who celebrate an annual Mass in his memory here in our church.

  • Plaque in Memory of Sir James Marshall
    Plaque in Memory of Sir James Marshall
  • Sir James Marshall's Grave
    Sir James Marshall's Grave

The Wooden Calvary placed against the West wall gives an important place to the distraught St Mary Magdalen whose sorrow contrasts with the quieter grief of Our Lady and St John. It was supplied by the firm of Burns Oates, now probably best known as a publishing house, which provided many furnishings for churches and employed its own woodcarvers.

  • The Wooden Calvary
    The Wooden Calvary

Before you leave the church, look up and note the large West window in honour of the Holy Souls, given to remember all those who are buried in our churchyard. This tranquil resting place is usually open between 09.00 and 15.30 every day, but it is a good idea to ring to confirm opening times.

The most interesting tomb in St. Mary Magdalen's churchyard is the mausoleum of Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isabel Arundell, which is built in the shape of an Arab tent. You can climb a ladder at the back of the tomb to see the coffins of the explorer and his wife through a window.

The three saints in the window are St. Mary Magdalen, St. Joseph on whose feast-day, 19 March, Richard Burton was born, and St. Agnes. Her feast-day, 21 January, was the eve of Richard and Isabel’s wedding.

In the lower part of the window Richard Burton, incongruously dressed as a Christian knight, is shown praying for his family.

  • Sir Richard Burton's Tomb
    Sir Richard Burton's Tomb

Find out more about Sir Richard Burton's tomb...

We hope you have enjoyed your visit to our church, which is above all the House of God and a place of worship. We hope that you have found peace here, and we remember all our visitors in our prayers.