A Visit to Holy Well Glass

June 21, 2019 / 

Our Conservation Director, Stuart Pearce, was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the studio of Holy Well Glass in the beautiful cathedral city of Wells last week.

The specialist conservators at Holy Well Glass are currently working on repairs to the precious William Morris designed windows from St. Stephen’s Church in St. Peter Port, including the 3 tall west windows which depict the Tree of Jesse. Morris’ firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. had only recently been formed when they were appointed for the design and supply of the windows for the church (completed in 1865), and therefore these windows are some of their earliest works. For some these are arguably the most important Victorian stained glass windows from this period.


Below are a number of images taken from Stuart’s visit with a description of the works being carried out:

1 The ‘Abraham’ panel. Close inspection suggests that this was probably one of the better condition panels as the extent of new soldering of lead joints is fairly limited and the only replaced leadwork is around the centre left of the image.


2 The ‘Abraham’ panel (close-up). Replacement leadwork as described above. All original leadwork is retained as long as it remains sound, therefore following one of the key modern conservation philosophies – retain as much historic fabric as possible.


3 The ‘Ruth’ panel. Laying over a paper ‘rubbing’ of the window, the panels is largely dismantled to allow repairs to begin. The use of the blue and red ‘floral’ band under the figure is particularly striking. Fortunately the figure at the top of the window and the painted head below are intact.


4 The ‘Ruth’ panel (close-up). This clearly shows the delicate jointing repairs across the blue glass.


5 A close-up showing a new border section being pieced together. The photo shows an end-on view of the lead ‘cames’ which are ‘I’-profiled to take the pieces of glass in the web of the ‘I’. The junctions of the lead are then soldered and the joint between the lead and the glass is filled with a linseed oil putty.


6 The ‘Aminadab’ panel. Repairs underway around the piece of painted text. The faded red lettering shows how the control of heat in the kiln (which sets the paint on the glass) was not as reliable as in a modern kiln. Once the windows are back in their rightful place in the church, it is intended to protect the windows with a phosphor bronze framed, external protective glazing panel which will further reduce the rate at which the paint fades.


7 Replacement painted glass. When a piece of decorated glass has a single break in it, a simple copper foil repair is often acceptable – one ends up with a single line across the image which is probably barely noticeable from the floor of the church. However, with multiple breaks this approach would lead to a ‘spider’s web’ of repair lines across the piece, destroying the aesthetic of the image. Here is such an example where the piece was remade, re-decorated and dated (to show intervention in 2019 for future conservators).


8 Dedication text and heraldry. Fully repaired section of one of the base panels, waiting for the puttying to be applied to the leadwork.


9  The head of Salathiel. Deemed irreparable this shattered piece needs to be re-painted and with no available copies of the original…..see next image.


10 The head of Salathiel. The artists at Holy Well Glass review all the faces on the entire window to look at the style of all the facial features so as to recreate a face which will be in-keeping in the original design. Again, this piece will be marked with ‘2019’ to show future conservators that it is not to be mistaken for an original part of the window.


11  The head of Salathiel. The artist at work on the reproduction.


For more information on St Stephen’s Church please visit http://st-stephens-guernsey.org/

Many thanks to all the Team at HolyWellGlass for the warm welcome offered to us, and for sharing their knowledge. http://www.holywellglass.com/