Expert restoration work for historic stained glass
13 May 2009
A team of experts has been restoring the nationally treasured historic stained glass windows at St Winnow Church before an important inspection by guildsmen. Stained glass conservators are a dying breed - the number of people trained in the craft is only in the hundreds in this country. The four craftsmen from the Holy Well Glass Workshop in Wells are staying in Lostwithiel while they work to restore the window in all weather.
Director Dan Humphries said: "There are three Cornish churches that have been found to be fitted with this 15th century glass and St Winnow is one of them. It is an extremely beautiful church and very distinctive and the glass is knock-out. We are doing a process of isothermal glazing which protects the glass and stops condensation settling inside. We are fitting one light of the four which make up the window - it's going to take us a while as we are cleaning all the glass. The medieval glass is particularly precious."
The team examined the glass in situ and then a detailed plan was drawn up and lots of photographs taken. The window was removed and fixings examined. Back at the workshop in Somerset, it was dismantled to be cleaned and conserved under a microscope and then releaded.
The team had to be extremely careful not to wipe away the 15th century paint, which can be so easily lost forever. Dan added: "We are cleaning 150 years worth of Victorian glass too and we have got to be really careful. We are working really hard to get this light finished in time for the visit from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Stained Glass. It's one of the ancient Livery Companies of the City of London, founded as Guilds to protect the interests of medieval glass-makers and regulate standards. This project is down to the local community raising the money and applying for grants - it's wonderful that it has finally been realised."
The east window of the Lady Chapel has been described by Steve Clare - owner of Holy Well Glass as "undeniably beautiful yet possessing a naïve and architecturally regional quality, yet some of the figures are remarkably sophisticated".
Steve also said the depictions of the Virgin suggested the glass assembled in this window was collected from several windows in the church. The window today is 60% original glass dating from the 15th century, to 19th century work with the St George figure "remarkably" well preserved.
The window is cited as being of national significance in the book English Stained Glass by Painton Lowen. The project, expected to cost up to £35,000, is due to be completed by the end of the summer.