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Restoration of the
Griffits Memorial Windows
at High Wycombe Library


Two windows commemorate James Oliff Griffits QC, who was the main benefactor of the original High Wycombe Library in Church Street, when it was founded in the early 1870s. Their restoration was jointly funded by the Society and the county council's Community Fund.

The windows were originally made by Swaine and Bourne of Birmingham. They are hand-painted glass.

One window shows a reading male figure in late 16th-century costume. Above him is the emblem of the 'lamb and flag'. He represents Literature and the emblem is that of the Middle Temple in London

The second window shows a female figure dressed as a Greek muse crowned with laurel leaves and writing with a quill pen. She represents Poetry and above her is a crowned swan, the emblem of Buckinghamshire.

James Griffits was the son of a saddler who worked in Queen Square, High Wycome. He studied for the law, becoming a barrister and member of the Middle Temple Inn of Court – and said that the time he spend in the libraries of the British Museum and the Middle Temple convinced him of the value of libraries in giving people the chance to improve themselves.

He therefore championed the opening of a public library in High Wycombe and raised the funds for this. According to the county council website, however: ‘This was not popular with the wealthy men of the town, as they would sooner see the working classes in the pubs that they owned drinking their beer rather than trying to educate themselves in a public library.’

But in 1875 Griffits got his way and, by paying for most of it himself, the old school in Church Street was acquired and the town's first public library opened.

When, in 1932, the library moved to a purpose-built headquarters in Queen Victoria Road, the old building was demolished to make way for a Woolworths store – and the memorial windows went into storage for five years. In 1937 they were then installed in the library's first-floor extension, where, sadly, they were mostly unseen by the public because they were hidden behind a partitioned office much of the time.

With the library's move to its present ultra-modern building in 2008, however, the windows have been restored to a prominent position in the reception hall. They now stand on either side of the Book of Remembrance for those Wycombe men and women who gave their lives during the 1939-45 War.

The Griffits Memorial Windows, restored and displayed with a contribution from the Society.