Stained glass windows commemorating the life of a prominent 19th century Barumite have come home to the town after being lost to it for three decades.

(Left) Loyal Lodge Master Roger H Moore and Sir David Wootton with Robert Paterson, who restored the windows and Barnstaple mayor 2018-19 Ian Roome. Picture: Tony Gussin(Left) Loyal Lodge Master Roger H Moore and Sir David Wootton with Robert Paterson, who restored the windows and Barnstaple mayor 2018-19 Ian Roome. Picture: Tony Gussin

The windows, described as 'outstanding' examples of the art and an exceptional piece of local history, were created in 1859 and dedicated to the memory of John Thomas Britton, a pillar of the community and a leading local Freemason.

They stood for more than a century in the former St Mary Magdalene's Church in the town, which was demolished in 1988.

The Worshipful Company of Glaziers stepped in to rescue them but since then they have been stored at its Stained Glass Repository in London.

But on Friday (May 17) they were presented to the Freemasons of Loyal Lodge 251, which meets at Trafalgar Lawn.

The 19th century windows dedicated to John Thomas Britton, returned to Barnstaple thanks to the Glaziers and Freemasons. Picture: Tony GussinThe 19th century windows dedicated to John Thomas Britton, returned to Barnstaple thanks to the Glaziers and Freemasons. Picture: Tony Gussin

The windows, which depict the building and dedication of King Solomon's Temple, will be loaned to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon to be on prominent display when it reopens after its extension and refurbishment work is completed.

The return of the windows is thanks to a number of glaziers and Freemasons, but ultimately was down to the good office of Sir David Wotton, who holds the post of United Grand Lodge of England's Assistant Grand Master as well as being Worshipful Master of the Glaziers Company.

The windows were in a poor state when they resurfaced, but when they were returned to North Devon the members of Loyal Lodge had them refurbished by Robert Paterson of Bideford and mounted for display by fellow Freemason Doug Boothroyd.

John Thomas Britton was known as probably the first ever professional photographer in Barnstaple, but it seems he had a huge number of interests.

Born in 1790, he survived the Napoleonic Wars and Waterloo, returning to North Devon to make his living as a successful prize fighter for a time, or so it is thought.

He was interested in a range of sports as well as being a musician. He joined Loyal Lodge in 1828 and was deeply involved in its activities and hugely respected for almost 30 years for his work around the South West and beyond.

He was also an active member of the St Mary's congregation and the windows seemed a fitting tribute after his death in 1855 which followed a fall.