Trinity College Chapel, Oxford, Reopens after Conservation

After a year’s closure, the grade I listed chapel of Trinity College, Oxford, was reopened in April 2016. After one of the most comprehensive schemes of conservation and repair the chapel has undergone, it is once again resplendent in its former glory. Conservation work has been carried out on the entire chapel, including the east wall and the reredos; the woodwork (carvings, screens and panels); the pews; the ceiling, featuring paintings by Pierre Berchet (1659‑1720); the plasterwork; the floor; the founder’s tomb; and the organ. The beautiful scheme of stained-glass windows was also conserved, and a window in storage for over seventy years reinstalled.

Fig. 1. The right side of the face of St Leonard cleaned, the left side showing the build up of dirt on the glass.

Fig. 1. The right side of the face of St Leonard cleaned, the left side showing the build up of dirt on the glass.

Trinity College was founded in 1555, using the buildings of the former Durham College, but the medieval chapel, consecrated in 1410, was in a poor state of repair by the seventeenth century. The present chapel was built in the 1690s under the guidance, design and funding of the then president of Trinity, Ralph Bathurst. It was built over three years ‑ at that time a short period for such a project. Letters reveal that Bathurst had assistance from Sir Christopher Wren, who was consulted on the design at an intermediate stage, but in time to influence the external appearance and to give the parapets their wonderful, flaming urns. The finest craftsmen of their day were employed to produce what diarist Celia Fiennes, a pioneering and enthusiastic seventeenth-century traveller, described as ‘a fine neate chapple new made finely painted … now it is a Beautifull Magnifficent Structure’.

Although a nineteenth-century addition, the stained-glass windows are a significant feature of the chapel and they have now been cleaned for the first time in sixty years (Fig. 1). The accumulated grime, dust and dirt was painstakingly removed by a team from York Glaziers Trust, and small in situ repairs were carried out (Figs 2 and 3). The cleaning has shown off these windows to magnificent effect, and light now streams through the windows, which were almost opaque with dirt prior to conservation.  The windows were designed by J. W. Brown of Newcastle and made by Powells of Whitefriars. They were installed in 1886 under the direction of the then bursar, Henry Woods (elected president in 1887), to replace the original, plain glazing, and depict saints known to have been associated with the medieval chapel. The windows on the south side depict the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the dedicatees of Durham Cathedral; St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, whose shrine is at Durham; St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order followed by the monks of Durham; and the Venerable Bede, also buried at Durham. On the north side are St Catherine of Alexandria, to whom there was an altar in the medieval chapel; St Oswald, king of Northumbria, connected to both Lindisfarne and Durham; and St Leonard, to whom there was a window in the medieval chapel, although he had no obvious connection to Durham College (and, as patron saint of prisoners and child-bearing women, seems an unlikely choice).

Fig. 2. Detail from window s4, before cleaning.

Fig. 2. Detail from window s4, before cleaning.

Fig. 3. Detail from window s4, after cleaning.

Fig. 3. Detail from window s4, after cleaning.

The final window on the north side is the newly reinstated window to Isaac Williams, which was the first of the nineteenth-century windows to be installed. Fellow of the college, Isaac Williams (1802‑1865) was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement and this window in his memory was given by public subscription in 1873. It was crafted by the Königliche Glasmalereianstalt (Royal Bavarian Stained Glass Establishment) and depicts in rich colours the Crucifixion (Fig. 4) and Moses striking the rock, surrounded by architectural iconography echoing the screen and reredos. The window had been stored in the attic of the chapel, in a wooden crate, since its removal in the 1940s. All of the windows were removed from the chapel for protection from wartime damage, but the decision was made not to reinstall the Isaac Williams window after the conflict. Fortune had nevertheless been kind to the glass: when it was taken out of its crate, only three small pieces were damaged and these were easily repaired. Although the window is in good condition, the painted surfaces of the coloured glass were felt to be too fragile to expose to the elements. The window was therefore conserved (Fig. 5) and returned to a protective environment of isothermal glazing and installed in an innovative subframe developed by York Glaziers Trust. The existing (plain) outer window has been retained and acts not only as the protective glazing, but from the outside, largely retains the appearance of the window as it was.

Fig. 4. Detail of the face of Christ in the Isaac Williams window

Fig. 4. Detail of the face of Christ in the Isaac Williams window.

Fig. 5. The Isaac Williams window being conserved in the studio.

Fig. 5. The Isaac Williams window being conserved in the studio.

Over fifty craftsmen and women were involved in this major project, which was completed on time and with few unexpected challenges. The project captured the imagination of all of those who worked on it, and their contributions widened our understanding of Trinity’s best-known and most fascinating building.

Text by Martin Hall, chapel surveyor and contract administrator. A full version of this article was previously published in The Chapel of Trinity College Oxford: A Guide to the Restored Chapel, 2016. More information and links to additional articles and coverage of the restoration project can be found on Trinity College’s website.

Review: The First Transatlantic Stained Glass Symposium

Sophia Kircos reports on ‘The Hard Road from Stained Glass to Architecture: Advancing the Role of Art Glass in Contemporary Architecture & Design’, held 26 28 April 2016.

Fig.1: Dinner at Glashütte Lamberts factory

Fig.1: Dinner at Glashütte Lamberts factory

The quaint town of Waldsassen, Germany came alive in the last week in April as artists, architects, conservators, students and more came together at Glashütte Lamberts for the First Transatlantic Stained Glass Symposium. Co-hosted by Glashütte Lamberts and Bendheim Ltd, the conference received over 160 people from all over the world, traveling from more than fifteen countries. Twenty-three different speakers, including the president of Glashütte Lamberts, Hans Reiner Meindl, and keynote speaker, Andrew Moor, presented on a wide variety of topics.

The conference commenced with a warm welcome by the Lamberts family, a hearty Bavarian dinner, and a local beer tasting in the factory (fig. 1). Bright and early the following morning, tours of Lamberts were given explaining how the factory, which functions twenty-four hours a day, has produced mouth-blown sheet glass using traditional techniques and methods for over 100 years. Excitement grew high as flames shot out of kilns, and teams of burly men blew large glass cylinders as if they were completing a graceful dance with the greatest of precision and ease. The highlight of the tour was watching production at the swinging pit (fig. 2), followed by a visit to the glass storeroom, where over 250 colours of glass were displayed.

Following a welcome from the Mayor of Waldsassan, the conference got down to business. The first speaker, Adrian Lucca, a colour theorist living and teaching in Brussels, described his current project creating an installation for a metro station in Montreal, Canada. The variety of colours available from Lamberts had helped Lucca to create the perfect combination of pattern and colour for his computer-generated design. The project will include fourteen stained-glass panels, created with the studio assistance of Debongnin in Belgium, and will be permanently installed in 2017.

Fig.2: Production at the swinging pit

Fig.2: Production at the swinging pit

Several other contemporary stained-glass artists presented on their work throughout the conference, including John Reyntiens, a second-generation stained-glass artist of Reyntiens Glass Studio in London; Jordi Bonet, the third-generation owner of Vitralls Bonet in Barcelona; John Kenneth Clark, a Scottish glass-painter and expert in acid etching; and Ingrid Meyvaert, stained-glass designer at Mestdagh Studio in Ghent. Reyntiens, Bonet, Clark and Meyvaert all work using traditional stained-glass methods that have been passed down for generations, using mouth-blown glass to achieve their contemporary designs. The richness and variety of their work stems from a deep understanding of the materials with which they work, and from a passion for the survival of the craft to continue into the future. The use of glass in contemporary architecture   skyscrapers, façades, and integrated art designs   was explored through examples displayed by architects and engineers. Manfred Mislik, production manager at Glashütte Lamberts, described the processes of glass lamination, and encouraged those attending to think outside the normal realm of how glass has been traditionally used in building applications. With advances in resins, silicones, lamination materials, and a greater knowledge and understanding of the longevity of these materials, we are no longer restricted by the size of a sheet of glass, or by the strength of lead.

Fig.3: UV glass in the Great East window, York Minster

Fig.3: UV glass in the Great East window, York Minster

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Strobl discussed several issues in stained-glass conservation and how they have evolved over the years, often learning from problems that developed following the application of what were once considered suitable solutions. He explained the evolution of the stained-glass window, and how the medium has not been given the attention it deserves in the field of fine art and conservation. There followed a presentation by Hans Reiner Miendl on mouth-blown glass that offer 100% full UV protection, a fairly new product produced by Glashütte Lamberts, and the only glass of this kind on the market. This glass has been used for the protective glazing of the Great East Window at York Minster by the York Glaziers Trust (fig. 3). This new product allows protective glazing to be created in a fashion that emulates the lead lines behind it, while also protecting the original stained glass from harmful UV rays that could damage or discolour paint or products used during the conservation of the medieval glass.

The First Ever Transatlantic Stained Glass Symposium ended with an evening of music and dancing at the Lamberts factory. Under the dim glow of the flaming kilns, friendships and connections were made as the conference was wrapped up with a joyful celebration. I think it’s safe to say that all participants retreated back to their corners of the world, full of inspiration and rejuvenated with an even deeper appreciation for the medium that brought us all together in the first place.

York Minster’s Great East Window Inspires Glass at Chelsea Flower Show

Fig. 1. The garden  (c) Welcome to Yorkshire

Fig. 1. The garden (c) Welcome to Yorkshire

York Minster’s Great East Window has inspired the design of a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 23 28 May 2016. Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden,‘God’s Own County – A Garden for Yorkshire’, designed by Matthew Wilson (former head of RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate) will showcase Yorkshire’s stunning scenery, iconic heritage, industries, and skilled tradespeople.

The garden highlights the beauty of the Great East Window, the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the UK, via planting and landscaping that has been designed to reflect the wider Yorkshire landscape as well as the minster itself. The planting celebrates the diversity of plants in Yorkshire gardens with a series of beds directly inspired by the colours of the stained glass in the window, while the furniture of a cathedral   benches, pews and ornamental tombs   are represented by timber seats and blocks of yew and stone. The materials used will reflect the Yorkshire landscape and will feature stone pillars carved by York Minster’s masons, as well as traditional stone and timber gargoyles and monoliths loaned from historic sites across Yorkshire.

Fig. 2. The stained glass panels being installed

Fig. 2. The stained glass panels being installed

The garden includes stained-glass panels designed and created by the York Glaziers Trust. The panels are made using the same mouth-blown glass being used in the restoration of York Minster’s Great East Window, in colours matched to the medieval tones. The Very Reverend Vivienne Faul, dean of York, said: ‘The East Window is a masterpiece in stone and glass that has inspired generations. We are delighted that its beauty is to be replicated in a garden that will showcase the spirit of Yorkshire.’

At Chelsea, Welcome to Yorkshire has previously won one gold medal, four silver medals, one silver gilt medal, and five People’s Choice Awards. For more information, and for videos on the creation of the garden, click here.

British Society of Master Glass-Painters Summer Lecture

Friday, 17 June 2016, 6.15pm for 6.45pm start, open to all
The Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT
Frédéric Pivet: ‘Stained-Glass Windows of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris’

This illustrated lecture will explain the recent conservation of the windows of the Sainte-Chapelle and its contribution to the understanding of their original manufacture and aesthetic appearance.

In 1999, the French state started the restoration and conservation of nine of the fifteen windows from the thirteenth century and the fifteenth-century rose. Work began with the thirteenth-century windows, which had been restored in the nineteenth century. Since that work featured some very significant alterations to the paintwork, resulting in fragility and loss of glass-paint, the methodology adopted was closer to that applied in the conservation of painting than those normally used for stained glass   X-ray analysis, infra-red camera, and selective cleaning layer by layer. The restoration of the fifteenth-century rose was conducted in 2014 15. This stained glass is technologically and aesthetically different from the thirteenth-century windows. The fouling and patinas were similar to those present on the thirteenth-century windows but the excellent state of conservation of the materials allowed an aesthetic intervention, with gluing and releading.

The restoration was completed by the use of different types of external protection. These aesthetic and technical choices will be described in the lecture. As is common in an important restoration, these works have contributed a great deal to our knowledge of the history of the windows, the technology of the materials used (original lead, glass, painting), the organization of the original works, and a precise view of the glass-painters’ aesthetic. The lecture will demonstrate which technical methods the glass-painters used to realize their work: panel shapes, different glasses, painting techniques, etching, and leading.

Admission to the lecture and optional buffet supper is by ticket only. Visit the British Society of Master Glass-Painters’ website for details, to download a booking form or to book on-line. Late enquiries may be made by telephone (07909 070739).

Events at the Stained Glass Centre

The Stained Glass Centre in the Church of St Martin-cum-Gregory in York, supports the study and appreciation of stained glass.

Spring Lecture: Thursday, 26 May 2016

Prof. Sarah Rees Jones, University of York: ‘A Holy Neighbourhood? Rethinking the relationship between Richard Scrope and the Church of St Martin in Micklegate’

Tickets are £6 (£5 concessions). If you would like to become a Friend of the Stained Glass Centre, the lecture is free   you can join on the night!

7:30pm start. Doors will open at 7pm, when refreshments will be available.

Summer Workshops

There are a few spaces left on the popular workshops! Four one-day, self-contained workshops in glass-painting and leading will be held in summer 2016:

Sunday, 12 June 2016: glass-painting
Sunday, 26 June 2016: leading and glazing
Saturday, 9 July 2016: leading and glazing

The workshops run from 10.30am to 4.30pm and are led by Ann Sotheran, a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass-Painters who has twenty-five years’ experience of designing and making stained glass. The cost of attending each day is £60, which includes all materials and use of tools and equipment.

You can book a place on any of our workshops through the Stained Glass Centre’s Eventbrite page.

Numbers are limited to ten for each workshop. If you need any further information, please email the Stained Glass Centre.

If you would like more information about any of the events, or about becoming a Friend of the Stained Glass Centre, you can email us.

Vacancy: Junior Stained Glass Glazier/Conservator

An opportunity has arisen for Lincoln Cathedral Works Department to appoint a junior member of staff who is skilled in working on historical and architectural stained glass. The Glazing Department is a small team dedicated to the care and maintenance of the large collection of stained glass and leaded windows of Lincoln Cathedral and the plain glazed windows of the Close Houses.

Applicants need a degree of competency and should be able to demonstrate a good level of professionalism in the practical craft.  The person should have good understanding of current stained glass conservation practices.  A relevant recognised qualification or equivalent proven ability is essential.  Although you will be part of a team, this post also requires  good organisational skills and you will be expected to work at times with minimum supervision to complete projects.   The ability to work on site and at high level is an essential requirement of this post.

Two year fixed term contract. Salary up to £19K p.a. dependent on skills qualifications and relevant proven experience.

To download an application form and further information  please visit, or email

Closing date Mon 18th July 2016.
Interviews will take place on Tues 2nd August 2016.