When the Reverend Harold Appleyard was appointed rector of Christ Church, Meaford in 1938, he looked forward to a lengthy tenure. He had been born in the rectory of St. George’s Church, Clarksburg, and his father had been the rector both there and at Fairmount. This would be like coming home for him. However, the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the terrible news of young men from Meaford dying overseas brought about a change of his plans.
Signing up as a military chaplain in 1941 with the rank of (honorary) captain, Appleyard soon found himself posted to an embattled southern England.
The destruction appalled him – homes, factories, schools – and so many churches. Almost immediately he began to collect shards of stained glass from the shattered windows of damaged churches. It is uncertain when he got the idea for the memorial windows, but his diaries reveal his intentions after only two months abroad.
One night he was on volunteer fire duty in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. There he met Mr. G. S. Sherrin, an architect appointed by the Crown with responsibility for the ancient churches of London. Mr. Sherrin was enthusiastic about the young chaplain’s idea and referred him to the Cox and Barnard Stained Glass Works in Hove, near Brighton in Sussex.
To Captain Appleyard’s great joy, Mr. Cox offered to design and re-lead the glass to fit Christ Church, Meaford, and he would do it free of charge in gratitude to Canadians for their war efforts!
As long as he was in England, he collected and carefully labeled bits of glass from scores of churches, large and small. Then, when his regiment moved to the continent in 1944, in the wake of the D-Day invasion, he continued his quest in France, Belgium and Holland.
It was usually possible to get permission from the church to remove the bits of seemingly unusable glass, and his diaries often refer to vicars or vergers giving him pieces for the memorial windows. Sherrin became so enthusiastic that he collected pieces from churches under his authority and passed them on for the Meaford windows.
When the war ended in 1945, Appleyard, now a major, returned to his Meaford parish. It was a proud day for the people of Meaford when a stage was erected in front of the Meaford Town Hall for the Governor-General, Lord Alexander of Tunis, to award the local Anglican rector the Military Cross for “calm courage, disregard of his own safety, and steadfastness of purpose”. It was a proud day for Appleyard as well, because his father had been awarded the same medal in World War I.
Then on August 11, 1946, the memorial windows were unveiled by Mabel Randle and Winnie Hackett, two mothers in the parish who had lost sons in the war. The church was packed, and the service was broadcast live on CBC radio and later in the British Isles and Europe.
Today these windows stand as a memorial to local men who paid the ultimate price of war. They contain many tiny pieces of coloured glass from some 125 English and Welsh churches as well as a few from Ireland, France, Belgium and Holland. With shards as old as 700 years or more, they are among the oldest glass on this continent.
Between the windows in the nave of the church hangs a plaque inscribed with the names of six members of the parish. It is fire scorched from war damage and was a piece of a pew from Christ Church, St. James Park, Westminster. It was also given to Captain Appleyard by the architect, Mr. Sherrin.
In the cloister between the church and the parish hall are three more windows. The one on the right (Parish Hall side) contains a large panel from Canterbury Cathedral (pictured here), “gladly granted” to Appleyard by the Dean and Chapter in 1943.
The left window (church side) is chiefly made up of glass from the churches designed by the 17th century architect, Sir Christopher Wren, donated to Appleyard for the Meaford church war memorial by Mr. Sherrin.
The centre window, featuring St. George and the defeated dragon, was commissioned and donated by Appleyard himself in gratitude for his safe return from battle.
Appleyard (pictured right) left Meaford in November 1949. Just over 11 years later, he was elected Bishop of Georgian Bay. In 1970 he became Bishop Ordinary as well to the Canadian Armed Forces. The Right Reverend Harold Appleyard, MC, DD, died in London, Ontario in 1982, shortly before his 77th birthday.
Description written by David Appleyard with Edward Appleyard & Nancy (Appleyard) Fraser, Harold Appleyard’s children.