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A wood carver who bought a box of stained glass at auction was shocked to discover he had unwittingly solved the 80-year mystery of their disappearance from a church during WWII.

Colin Mantripp, 63, purchased what he thought was a box of fragments of stained glass when it went up for auction, intending to use it to create original windows in his handcrafted doors.

But when he arrived in July last year at Roseberry’s Auctions in London to pick up what was sold as “a box of stained glass”, he was shocked to find an eight foot long and three foot wide box which weighed over 600 pounds.

It was covered in dirt and so massive they needed six people to carry it.

“I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought, this is an incredible amount of glass; I was delighted,” said Colin, from Bourne End, Buckinghamshire.

“For £300 I thought I bagged a bargain—and I didn’t even know about its history. They’re so beautifully done which is normal from that era when there was such an incredible attention to detail.

After spending a few months restoring and cleaning the beautifully intricate and colorful windows he noticed the words “St Mary’s” inscribed in the glass, and became curious about the origins of the Victorian windows from the 1850s.

It only took a quick search online to discover that some windows had gone missing at a once-thriving parish 80 years ago.

He was stunned to discover that the pieces he purchased were actually the windows from St Mary’s church in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which had gone missing during the war.

In 1939, the majestic 20-by-12-foot neo-Gothic east window which shined down over the altar of St Mary’s was removed to protect it from Nazi bombers.

Along with other stained glass from the church, it had been hidden underground.

The location of the glass had been lost over the years and only rumors remained. After the church building had been devastated during the Sheffield bombing Blitz, it took almost 20 years before any restoration work began.

After making the discovery, Colin contacted the church’s vicar and offered to return the windows to their original home, but his offer was refused as the church had already replaced the windows.

Reverend Claire Dawson said, “The windows are an important part of the church’s history which dates back to 1830 but, as nice as it would be to see them, so much has changed for the church for the better and it wouldn’t be practical to have them back.

In 2009 the glass was replaced with a new £80,000 modern design.

“We are so much more than we were in 1939,” she added. “We have a beautiful new window which was installed above the altar and is a celebration of the journey from the church’s beginning to the present day.”

“I’m not sure what I’ll do with the glass now that I’ve cleaned it up but it’s great to have found a piece of history.”