- York Minster’s Great East Window: The last panel returns
- Birtsmorton Appeal: An Update
- Keith New: British Modernist in Stained Glass by Diana Coulter and Robert Smith: Publication Discount and Book Launch
- Norwich Historic Churches Trust: 2018 Programme
- University of York Spring Master Class
- Stained Glass Museum: Temporary Closure
York Minster’s Great East Window: The last panel returns
Sarah Brown, The York Glaziers Trust
On 2 January 2018 the final panel in the Great East Window was formally returned to the Minster, concluding one of Europe’s largest stained-glass conservation projects of recent decades (fig. 1). Between 2011 and 2017 the York Glaziers Trust has been engaged in the conservation, restoration and protection of this stained-glass master-piece, the work of an exceptional team of artists and craftsmen led by master glazier John Thornton of Coventry. Thornton was entrusted with oversight of the project in the winter of 1405 and was required to have the job complete by 1408. That he achieved his objective is suggested by the date which appears in medieval glass at the top of the window. Although Thornton was contracted directly by the Dean and Chapter of York, the donor of the window was Bishop Walter Skirlaw of Durham (d.1406), whose kneeling figure appears in the window’s bottom row, where he keels before Christ the Judge. His distinctive coat of arms has been found tucked away in a number of places in the window. The subject matter of the window is extremely ambitious, namely the beginning and the end of everything, with God the father and the company of heaven in the tracery (fig. 2), an Old Testament sequence of 27 scenes starting with the seven days of Creation (from the Book of Genesis, fig. 3), culminating in 81 scenes from the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation fig. 4), and nine panels depicting historical figures and heraldry at the window’s base (fig. 5).
The conservation project had a long gestation; the first discussions of the future care and conservation of the window began in 2005. The need to undertake urgent stone repair made the removal of the glass a necessity, and provided an opportunity to review its past restoration history, its current condition and the art-historical significance of this huge expanse of medieval glass. The Chapter of York showed great foresight in appointing at the outset a multi-disciplinary advisory group, the East Window Advisory Group (EWAG), comprising of art historians (including Professor Tim Ayers, Professor Richard Marks and Professor Christopher Norton), an independent conservation specialist (Dr Ivo Rauch) and representatives of the Chapter and the York Minster Fund (notably Precentor Peter Moger, cathedral surveyor Andre Arrol and development director Dr Richard Shephard), which directed and funded the overall programme of works, of which the conservation of the glass was but a small part.
Conservation work began in earnest only in 2011, after several years in which preliminary research was conducted (by Dr Joseph Spooner and Professor Nigel Morgan), fleshing out the picture already established by CVMA authors Tom French and David O’Connor. Environmental monitoring at the east end, with analysis undertaken by Dr Rauch and Dr Erhard Jaegers, informed the design of an internally ventilated protective glazing system that was an integral part of the conservation methodology from the start. The decision to dismantle the window was not taken lightly, and involved the development of a detailed method statement that required Chapter, Fabric Advisory Committee and Cathedral Fabric Commission approval before the Heritage Lottery Fund would approve the stained-glass components of its £10m support of York Minster Revealed. The EWAG, which met over 90 times, ensured that the project remained consistent in its application of the approved conservation methodology and provided much invaluable advice and guidance besides. A late adjustment to the original specification was the decision to use Lamberts Restauro UV © glass for the window’s outer protection, the first use in the UK of this remarkable new material that provides additional protection for light sensitive conservation materials. Now that the glass has returned to the cathedral, the increased light and legibility displayed by the window can be appreciated to the full (fig. 6).
The project was also a vehicle for training and knowledge transfer. Between 2008 and 2017 five new conservators were trained alongside the YGT’s experienced team, while many more young conservators joined the team for shorter internships. More experienced practitioners also spent time at the YGT, developing particular skills with a view to advancing their CPD and securing professional accreditation. Outreach and interaction with the public has also been a major objective. The ‘Bedern Studio’ provided a publicly accessible showcase for the conservation work, allowing visitors to the Minster to see actual conservation in action in real time. For those further afield an online ‘panel of the month’ could be explored through a commentary with ‘before’ and ‘after’ images. Perhaps for many it was the excitement of visiting ‘The Orb’ (fig. 7), a consciously modern structure located in the Lady Chapel, in which visitors could see five conserved stained glass at close quarters, with complementary displays on craft, technology and conservation in a nearby chapel. This has transformed public perception of the importance of the glass to the Minster, an invaluable legacy as we move forwards with a 20-year plan for the conservation and protection of the Minster’s other windows.
Further interpretation has been possible through more conventional forms of outreach. In 2014 a profusely illustrated book presented all the images of conserved glass from the Apocalypse section of the window. From March 2018 the entire window will be published in colour for the first time ever. You can pre-order your copy of The Great East Window of York Minster: An English Masterpiece (fig. 8), published by Third Millennium Publishing on 15 March 2018 by using this link: http://bit.ly/GreatEastWindow a fitting tribute, we hope, to the conservators and experts who worked together so fruitfully to protect the glass for future generations, and the extraordinary artistry of John Thornton and his anonymous collaborators who made this medieval masterpiece in the first place.
Birtsmorton Appeal: An Update
In April 2017 (see Vidimus 109), we raised awareness of an urgent appeal to raise more than £25,000 needed to conserve the beautiful and nationally significant fourteenth-century window glass at the church of St Thomas of Canterbury at Birtsmorton (Worcs.).
We are delighted to report now of the success of that appeal, and of plans being put in place for its cleaning, repairing and protection to conserve it for future generations. Funds for work on the glass were raised through donations and grants, from parishoners, charities and trusts including the LG Harris Trust, the Church Buildings Council, the Allchurches Trust, the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and the William and Jane Morris Fund of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The PCC of Birstmorton and Hollybush contributed half of the £27,000 bill.
A heritage open day is planned for Sunday, 16th September when conservators from Holy Well Glass, commissioned with the project, will be at the church to talk about their work and the conservation process. More details of this will be published in Vidimus in due course.
Keith New: British Modernist in Stained Glass by Diana Coulter and Robert Smith: Publication Discount and Book Launch
Further to last month’s pre-publication announcement of Diana Coulter and Robert Smith’s volume on Keith New: British Modernist in Stained Glass, we are happy to announce that this work is now available to order at a 10% discount until the end of February 2018.
A book launch is also planned for All Hallows by the Tower in the City of London on Thursday, 24th May 2018 at 6.00pm, and will follow a walking tour by the Twentieth Century Society, beginning at 3pm. Further launch events are planned (dates to be confirmed) for Bristol and Coventry Cathedrals.
To order this publication, please contact Orca Book Services by phone (01235 465577) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org quoting code 31KEITH.
Norwich Historic Churches Trust: 2018 Programme
The Norwich Historic Churches Trust’s Centre for Parish Church Studies (CPCS) has launched its programme of events for 2018.
Established to explore all aspects of parish churches, including historical, social, archaeological, architectural and liturgical, on both local and national levels, the CPCS offers a series of day and weekend schools, weekly courses, tours and practical sessions. These will typically take place in Norwich.
Many of these events will consider and examine the role of stained glass in medieval parish churches. On February 3rd, 2018, for example, John Vigar’s day school on Commemorating the Dead will include discussion of the commemorative function of stained glass, whilst later in the year Dr Allan Barton will explore The Visual Setting of Late Medieval Worship (14th April) and Medieval Stained Glass: Style, Design and Conservation (15th September).
For further information and to download a course brochure, visit https://www.nhct-norwich.org/cpcs/
University of York Spring Master Class
On Saturday, 3rd March, 2018, the University of York’s MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management will hold its Spring Master Class.
Following the theme of Collectors and Collections, speakers will include Dr Ute Bed-narz (CVMA Potsdam), Anna Eavis (English Heritage), Dr Marie Grill (independent scholar), Dr Joseph Spooner (CVMA GB), and Dr Ivo Rauch (University of York).
This event will take place at The King’s Manor, York YO1 7EP. Tickets cost £40 (student concessions are available) and include refreshments. To book places, visit https://stainedglassmasterclass.eventbrite.co.uk
Stained Glass Museum: Temporary Closure
The Stained Glass Museum will be closed to the public from Monday 5th – Friday 30th March 2018 due to restoration work taking place to the south nave aisle.