We left Dorking by coach heading for Tonbridge. Our first stop was at All Saints Church, Tudeley, which none of us had visited before. The small parish church is set in a rural location with a sizeable car park for visitors. Although the list of incumbents stretches back to 1251, most of the current structure is 18th century. Its claim to fame is that it is the only church in the country with all its 12 stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. After enjoying coffee and biscuits in the adjacent church room, we were joined by a local lady who talked to us about the life and works of the Belarusian Hasidic Jew Chagall, and how his windows came to glorify Tudeley.
The main East window, dramatically displayed against a background of white walls, was commissioned by Sir Henry D’Avigdor Goldsmid, a soldier, businessman and politician who lived in nearby Somerhill House. He was Jewish, but his wife was Anglican, and when their daughter Sarah died in a tragic sailing accident in 1963 at the age of 21, he persuaded Chagall to design a window in memory of her. Made by Charles Marq at his atelier in Reims, it is predominantly blue and depicts Sarah drowning and being carried up to heaven. When Chagall attended the installation in 1967, he surprised everyone by expressing a desire to do all the other windows, which were finally completed shortly before his death in
The traditional Victorian glass windows were removed to the vestry. Although we enjoyed fair weather, Chagall’s windows would have looked better illuminated by brighter sunlight. Most designs featured birds, fishes andasses and yellow and red, as well as blue, were his favourite colours. We were shown pictures of other examples of the artist’s work from Chichester cathedral and Jerusalem.
A short journey back in the direction of Sevenoaks brought us to Ightham Mote, a fine 14th-century moated manor house owned by the National Trust. Here our group were free to wander round the house and gardens and have lunch in the Mote cafe.