G. King & Son, Lead Glaziers of Norwich
Like many glazing firms, that of G. King & Son Ltd, Lead Glaziers of Norwich, was a family affair, handed down from father to son through three generations. Founded in 1927, it became a by-word for quality in stained glass restoration, conservation and the understanding of the medium. So it was undoubtedly the end of an era when the workshop finally closed in 2003, with the retirement of Michael King. The grozing irons may have been laid to rest, but the firm’s extraordinary archives and other collections are now available to the public and to researchers, many for the first time.
G. King & Son Archive The firm’s archives have not gone far, for they are now in the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich. They include not only work books and accounts, but also job files and many thousands of excellent black and white photographs – Dennis King was a keen photographer. There are also over 9,000 rubbings, made from the windows that passed through the firm’s hands, as part of the conservation process. All of this is now available for research and to inform the future conservation of the glass. Any glass that remained in the studio has been relocated to other workshops (with permission) or returned to its owners.
Library and Other Archives The work of the firm was supported by a formidable library. This has been acquired by the Stained Glass Museum housed in Ely Cathedral, where it is accessible to the public; a short online catalogue is available at the museum’s website. The strong collections for East Anglia are, of course, highly relevant to Ely and its surrounding region. Also at Ely are samples of leading, and test pieces for cleaning processes that were trialled by Dennis King in the 1960s and 1970s. Archives and materials of other kinds include those of the scholar Christopher Woodforde and of Roy Grosvenor Thomas, which are now owned by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers of London and kept on deposit in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Stained Glass Dennis King was also a collector, and a number of panels that he had acquired have recently found their way on to public view. Glass from Fairford parish church (Gloucestershire), alienated during a nineteenth-century restoration and apparently previously unidentified, is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. A fine panel containing a selection of heads and other pieces, ranging in date from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, will join the other magnificent glass gathered in the side chapels of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. This is highly appropriate, as G. King & Son worked for many years with the college to create this unforgettable setting for displaced glass.