The Stained Glass Windows - a note from the Dean.
2 May 2017
I am sure you have noticed the scaffolding which has been erected on the south side of the nave. This is the start of our project to conserve and protect the stained glass windows at this end of the cathedral. The funding for this project has come from the World War I Fund set up for cathedrals by George Osborne, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the work being undertaken by Barley Studios will continue until after Christmas. During Project 2015, we were able very successfully to conserve some of the windows in the East End. This gave the impetus to do similar, though much more extensive, work in the nave.
In our application, our Cathedral Architect, John Bailey, gave an account for the need for this work,which you might be interested to read. It provides a basic introduction to our stained glass, and is printed below the back of this note for your information. The windows on the south side will be removed, during which time clear glass will be installed (so that we don’t have to live in the dark, and so that we do not look boarded up to the world outside).
These windows will be isothermally glazed. This is a form of double glazing that deters further deterioration to the glass. The protective glazing keeps the glass dry on both sides. It protects it from the elements externally, but equally importantly reduces condensation on the painted surface of the glass by retaining air at a similar temperature all the way round. There are a couple of methods of applying this system and the first thing we shall do is a trial to see which works better in our circumstances.
As the Architect explains in his note, the windows on the north side are in much better condition - and they will simply need a clean and wire grilles added. This is the last major piece of work to do in the building, and I am delighted that it is now underway. There will be some disruption, but we shall do our best to keep this to a minimum, and ensure that cathedral life continues pretty much as normal. Thank you for your patience with this. And please do ask, if you have any questions about the work as it progresses.
The case for conservation - by John Bailey, Cathedral Architect
Wakefield Cathedral has an exceptional collection of 19th century stained glass and at its heart is one of the most outstanding collections from the studio of Charles Eamer Kempe. The Cathedral’s collection of glass spans Kempe’s working life of 1877 to 1907 and consists of 23 windows. Perhaps the jewel in the collection are the series of windows in the north and south nave aisles. In the north aisle we have windows depicting Creation (1894) and The Fall of Man (1887), and then five windows depicting prophets and kings from the Old Testament (1886, 87 and 1891). The final window in the north aisle represents the Annunciation (1889) and leads into the south aisle windows which are based on the New Testament. The south aisle windows start with 5 windows showing the Apostles and Saints from the New Testament, all dating from 1873, and one window dedicated to female saints from the New Testament also dated 1873. The western most windows in the south aisle are in fact not by Kempe. The first is by H.M.Barnett (1888) and represents the infant Jesus and Christ in Majesty, and the second is by J Hardman & Co dated 1874 and represents the blessing of children and the Baptism of Christ. The last window in the nave to consider is the western window in the tower. Perhaps the single most impressive window, it
represents the resurrection of the dead and is by J Hardman & Co dated 1868. This is the third oldest window in the Cathedral.
There has been great concern over the condition of the Stained glass particularly on the southern side of the Cathedral and the western end for many years. A condition report undertaken by Johnston’s of York in 2007 showed major issues with leaking lead work and loss of painted detail. In 2016 a further updated report was commissioned from Barley Stained Glass Studio to ascertain the condition of the glass. This was partly prompted by continuing water penetration through some of the windows in the South Aisle and a concern that significant further detail was being lost. The
report has confirmed that the condition of all the stained glass windows in the South Aisle and the western window in the tower has deteriorated and that we have got to a stage where all need Isothermal glassing if we are not to lose further detail making some element unreadable. The stained glass in the south Aisle is now the most significant conservation issue affecting the historic fabric of the Cathedral and elements are at risk of loss. The continuing loss of painted detail is caused by under firing of the glass, and direct exposure to the south facing sun and prevailing wind.
The north aisle stained glass because it is not exposed to the sunlight and prevailing weather has survived much better and the only significant risk is from mechanical damage. These windows are now the only windows not protected by external wire grilles and their protection is considered
essential to avoid further damage. As Cathedral Architect I have brought the issue of the stained glass’s conservation to the attention of Chapter. Chapter has made great strides in conserving and cleaning all the stained and plain glass windows in the eastern half of the Cathedral and it is now essential if we are not to lose significant historic fabric that the windows in the western half of the Cathedral are tackled.