By Gillian Ashley-Smith
Like her grandmother’s memorial window, the memorial window to Katherine Verney was made by Powell of Whitefriars, and is in their order book for 1897 – 1902. According to the order book it was painted by one J D Egan, an artist about whom absolutely nothing is known. He was clearly influenced by the work of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, most obviously in the style of the angels at the top of the window, and the glorious, glowing colours of the robes and draperies. The subject is the raising of Jairus’ daughter. The memorial window was put there by Katharine’s father, and how poignant is the scroll between the angels that says “The damsel is not dead but only sleepeth”.
Katharine was born in 1875, the second daughter of Henry, 18th Lord Willoughby de Broke, and thus a niece of Mabel Verney. She was well known in Kineton, especially at St Peter’s, where she became a Sunday School teacher, and (successfully) took a bible class with a lively group of boys!
She also took part in the ‘Amateur’ dramatics so beloved of the Verney family. One newspaper report describes her appearance as Mrs Woodcock in “Woodcock’s Little Game” as an ‘absolute triumph’ in a play full of ‘bustle, brisk dialogue and causing convulsions of laughter on the part of the audience’. Those performances, in January, 1896, were to raise money for the organ and vestry of St Peter’s, and took place on three evenings. Two performances, with seats costing 2s 6d or 1s unreserved, were obviously for the people of Kineton; the other (the last night) cost 7s 6d or 5s, and involved the running of a special train back to Stratford and Ettington at 10.30pm. Presumably that evening was designed to raise as much money as possible from the ‘county set’!
The next January she was back on stage, but few would have guessed that the young Katharine was making her last stage appearance. In July of that year, 1897, a few days after her 22nd birthday, she was taken ill and died. Her father was truly devastated. He and Katharine had become very close after the death of her mother in 1894, and she had been his companion on many engagements. You may visit her unmarked grave, which is beside that of her mother under the small obelisk at Compton Verney, but we are lucky to have her colourful and artistic memorial as a window to look at and enjoy in St Peter’s.
© Gillian Ashley-Smith 2007