Conservation of Stained Glass

 

Like all other components of a building, stained glass windows naturally deteriorate with age and weathering and so require a regular maintenance programme to keep them water tight, structurally sound and to ensure their longevity. Usually this will first be required after about 50 - 75 years from installation, sometimes sooner depending on quality of glazing, aspect and exposure.  When one considers the conditions under which stained glass has to exist, this attests to the inherent strength and resilience of the medium.   No other art material has the capacity for survival as does leaded glass, provided it is properly maintained.   Its exterior is assailed by wind, rain, hail and sun, while the interior is often subject to extended periods of dampness caused by condensation or leakage.

Most members of the clergy or custodians of stained glass are unlikely to be involved in more than one instance of repair or maintenance during their whole career. As a result of this most custodians lack experience and some have even been exploited by a few unscrupulous contractors. Fortunately, such occurrences are rare, however they are not non-existent and one should be very sceptical of any contractor who suggests that a window needs to be removed and have all of its lead calme replaced.  More common though is the damage caused to windows by inexperienced contractors who have not been trained for this type of work.  For this reason custodians can better serve themselves by being aware of the basic indications, current or developing, of the need for attention to stained glass.  The basic indications of deterioration and the methods employed to rectify the problems can be found in the links on the upper left of this page.

The ‘Leckie’ window by M. Napier Waller, 1935.

The Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes by Clayton and Bell, 1887.

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