- Vidimus - https://www.vidimus.org -

Ancient Lead in York Minster’s Great East Window

Fig. 2. The St William half of the shield after cleaning, with lead and glass revealed. © Nick Teed

Lead that has long been suspected to be medieval in a shield in the bottom row of York Minster’s Great East Window has been further revealed during conservation.

Fig. 1. The shield of York and St William, transmitted light © Chapter of York

Fig. 1. The shield of York and St William, transmitted light © Chapter of York

The shield in panel 1f depicts the arms of the see of York impaling those of St William of York, an intricate design of red mascles on a gold background (Fig. 1). A small section of lead in the right half (as viewed) of the shield survived the restoration and releading carried out in the 1950s, as well as the damage and repairs of centuries; it may be original to the window, which was created between 1405 and 1408. The lead is likely to have survived due to the complex design of the shield, which would be difficult to dismantle and relead. A few pieces of modern lead have been incorporated into the shield, but the lead surrounding the nine original mascles is ancient, with a narrow profile.

Fig. 2. The St William half of the shield after cleaning, with lead and glass revealed. © Nick Teed

Fig. 2. The St William half of the shield after cleaning, with lead and glass revealed. © Nick Teed

Cleaning carried out by conservators at York Glaziers Trust has removed a build up of cement and dirt, allowing closer examination of the lead.  This has confirmed the view that the lead is medieval, and most probably from the original glazing scheme.  This would represent the only lead in the whole window believed to be medieval, and will be returned to the window as found.  The conservation has also revealed yellow glass enclosed in the hollow red mascles, which was previously obscured (Fig. 2).

See the York Glaziers Trust website for more information on the Great East Window and the conservation project.