Stained Glass – Preserving our past
Stained glass windows in churches and other public settings are not only instructive in their depiction of religious and historical people and events, but they are also demonstrative of the skills of the designer, painter and glazier, and it is the continued skills of repair that maintain their position and condition in these public spaces.
The use of stained glass in design remains popular today and is prevalent in residential and commercial buildings, as well as places of worship.
Furthermore, increasingly architects, builders and specifiers are recognising the value of incorporating glass into heritage renovations and refurbishments. Contemporary glass can create and divide spaces without obscuring or detracting from architecture, as it allows light to flow around the building and can work perfectly in conjunction with stained glass windows without impacting on their artistic beauty.
The restoration and preservation of stained glass is a serious pursuit in the UK. A number of companies and associations are currently engaged in projects and events around the country.
At the end of March 2019, Historic England is hosting a one-day conference to look at the causes and treatment of environmental deterioration of stained glass. Environmental deterioration is arguably the most serious risk facing stained glass windows. The conference will present the results of Historic England’s research into the design and efficacy of ‘environmental protective glazing’ (ventilated secondary glazing).
The conference is for everyone interested in ecclesiastical buildings; from building conservation advisors, funders, architects and surveyors to all owners and custodians of fragile stained glass or other decorative glazing.
Conference speakers include Tobit Curteis, Leonie Seliger, Steve Clare, Andrew Arrol, Chris Wood, Giles Proctor, and Robyn Pender. Their discussions will cover aspects of the protection of stained glass endangered by environmental deterioration: practical conservation and research, case studies, and planning issues.
Education and engagement is also a core value for The Stained Glass Museum. In November 2018, the Museum celebrated its 40th anniversary since opening to the public with a visit from its patron – His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
The Stained Glass Museum is the only museum dedicated to stained glass in the UK. It was founded in 1972 and opened to the public in the north triforium of Ely Cathedral in 1979. In spring 2019 it will have been open to the public for 40 years.
Today the museum has an internationally-significant collection of stained glass illustrating the development of the art from the medieval period to the present day. Through its collections, educational visits for schools and other groups, diverse series of public events and practical glass workshops for adults and children, the museum offers a variety of opportunities for engaging with stained glass heritage. The Stained Glass Museum is located in Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire.
Finally, the British Society of Master Glass Painters was founded in 1921 and promotes the highest standards of design, craft and creativity in stained glass. The society is the UK’s only organisation devoted exclusively to the art and craft of stained glass. The Master Glass Painters Trust was set up as a Charity with the goals of promoting and protecting Britain’s rich tradition of stained glass and its contemporary practice.
The promotion and preservation of stained glass is something that deserves significant time and attention in the construction industry. It offers a glimpse and insight into the craftsmanship of the past and in many cases provides invaluable sources of historical knowledge.