A Bourne End carver who bought a box of stained glass at auction was shocked to discover he had unwittingly solved the 80 year mystery of their disappearance from a church during WWII.

Colin Mantripp, 63, purchased what he thought was a box of fragments of stained glass to use in his bespoke carved designs when it went under the hammer last year.

After spending a few months restoring and cleaning the beautifully intricate and colourful windows he noticed the words "St Mary's" inscribed in the glass.

He was stunned to discover that the windows he purchased for just £300 were actually windows from St Mary's church in Sheffield, South Yorks., which had gone missing during the war.


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In 1939, the majestic 20-by-12-foot neo-Gothic east window which shined down over the altar of St Mary's was removed to protect it from Nazi bombers.

Along with other stained glass from the church, it was hidden hundreds of feet below ground.

The location of the glass had been lost to rumours over the years and after the church was devastated during the Sheffield Blitz, it took almost 20 years before any restoration work began.

Colin said: "I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought this is an incredible amount of glass - I was delighted.

"For £300 I thought I bagged a bargain - and I didn't even know about its history.

"They're so beautifully done which is normal from that era when there was such an incredible attention to detail.

"I was completely shocked when I drove down to get it - and even more so after I learned about the mystery which followed these windows.

"I'm not sure what I'll do with the glass now that I've cleaned it up but it's great to have found a piece of history."

Colin runs a wood carving studio and has worked with sculptor Henry Moore, who was famous for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures.

He bought the stained glass at an auction last year as he uses stained glass to create stunning windows in his handcrafted doors.

But when he arrived at Roseberry's Auctions in London in July last year, he was shocked to find an eight foot long and three foot wide box which weighed over 600 pounds.

The granddad said: "I use old stained glass from churches and make windows in the doors with little shards of it.

"I was bidding for some glass at Roseberry's auctions in London and it said there was a box of stained glass.

"I thought that's exactly what I need.

"But it was so massive we needed six people to carry it."

The box was covered in dirt and the Victorian windows from the 1850s were filthy and needed to be thoroughly cleaned before Colin could be repurposed for his bespoke doors.

A few months later he found the words "St Mary's" etched in the glass and became curious about the origins of the windows.

Colin had a quick search online and discovered that there were windows that had gone missing for over 80 years.

After making the discovery, Colin contacted the church's vicar and offered to return the windows to their original home.

But his offer was refused as the church had already replaced the windows.

Reverend Claire Dawson said: "The windows are an important part of the church's history which dates back to 1830 and as nice as it would be to see them so much has changed for the church for the better that it wouldn't be practical to have them back.

"We are so much more than we were in 1939 we wouldn't be able to display them anymore as windows as we have a beautiful new window which was installed above the altar and is a celebration of the journey from the church's beginning to the present day."

In 2009 the glass was replaced and by a new £80,000 a modern abstract design window which was funded by the Arts Council and created by Helen Whittaker.