DURING the Second World War, several bombs and other high explosives fell on Waltham Abbey and its surroundings, causing extensive devastation.

On the night of Saturday, April 19, 1941, one of a pair of parachute mines, carrying either 500kg or 1,000kg of high explosive, fell in a watercress bed just north of the Romeland.

Many of Romeland's old houses were completely destroyed, and most of Church Street's windows were blown out.

The Abbey Church, sited in the middle of this area, was also badly hit.

Ted Carter, an ARP Warden, recorded the events in his diary: "A very loud wallop indicated that something was really near; a second or two after came the most appalling crash ever, and an awful sound of crashing glass and roof tiles.

"Someone was yelling frantically for brandy, and the local residents were running into the shelters.

"I got on my cycle to see what the trouble was, but had to walk before getting very far, owing to the great quantities of broken glass all over the road.

"I went down to investigate and found bricks, tiles, slates, glass, timber and rubbish all over everywhere. The shelter was filled with an excited noisy crowd, some of them pot-black from dust and soot.

"I went into the church and found a horrible mess all over. Nearly all the black-outs down, and practically all the stained glass on the north side completely destroyed. Dust everywhere and lumps of masonry all over the floor. Altogether a very sorry picture."

Many of the windows had been created by the celebrated Victorian artist and stained-glass window designer Henry Holiday, or had been designed by William Burges as part of his restoration of the Abbey Church in the early 1860s.

The loss of the windows was equally great to the local community - proud memorials to numerous noted local families and benefactors, including Francis, Carr, Edenborough, Banbury and others, were destroyed forever.

A second bomb, a V2 rocket, fell in the middle of Highbridge Street on March 7, 1945, taking out the only main road and link for the town.

As well as damaging gas mains, telephone communications and water pipes, the blast destroyed many of the buildings on either side of the street, including the Ordnance Arms, the Drill Hall and several houses.

The force of the explosion was funnelled along the street in both directions, and the eastwards blast smacked into the western end of the Abbey Church, shattering the large window immediately above the west doorway.

With the mayhem that ensued, it is perhaps understandable that the incidental destruction of another stained-glass window in the Abbey Church went unrecorded.

But this was no ordinary stained-glass window. It was the Bellringers' Window, a major work which had been commissioned especially for the church tower.

To make the loss more painful, no plans or sketches of the window were known to survive, meaning that it would be impossible to restore it.

This is why it is filled with plain uncoloured glass today, and it was thought to be lost for good.

That was until the two members of the Waltham Abbey Historical Society began to catalogue a collection of old glass slides in the society archives.

While browsing through the slides, assistant secretary Janet Grove and curator Cliff Gould came upon a hand-coloured view of a stained-glass window.

Careful comparison of the slide was made with contemporary written descriptions, and the pair soon verified that the scene was that of the lost Bellringer's Window from the Abbey Church tower.

The slide is in fact black-and-white and has been hand-coloured in an authentic manner, although it remains unclear if the colouring is faithful to the original.

While no plans are currently in hand to restore the Bellringer's Window, the discovery keeps it a certainty that a piece of the town's historic art is at least in safe keeping.