Cutting edge glass lets the light in but not the sun

30 Jul 2014 @ 12.26 pm
| History

Calling in the glaziers can be a chore, but when your window is the size of a tennis court, it requires 16 miles of support, as Richard McDougall finds out

Going up… Photos: Richard McDougall

Having never been good with heights, a photo call 160 feet up on the 16 miles of scaffolding poles that currently envelope the East face of York Minster was not an ideal shoot. However, an opportunity to see the Great East Window restoration in detail, as the first glazing is reinstalled, was impossible to pass up.

The window itself was the vision of John Thornton, a glazier from Coventry who “became a Yorkie” according to Sarah Brown, scholar in the University of York Department of History of Art and leader of the preservation work. Starting in 1405, he and his team finished this enormous task in just three years.

Head Glazier, Nick Teed fits the protective glass into the stone.

Today, six hundred years later, the restoration of his magnificent work enters its final stage. Head Glazier Nick Teed and Master Glazier Tony Cattle were hard at work when I wobbled jelly-legged out of the lift. They were using templates to work on fitting the protective glass ‘outer skin’. These are clear replicas of the original stained glass, complete with exactly matching leading.

The state-of-the-art glass is hand-blown in Germany and York Minster is the first building in Britain to employ it. It is UV resistant, and protects the historic stained glass behind, not just from the elements but also from Ultra Violet radiation. This will help stop discolouration of the pigments and prolong its life.

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Click to see the full image

Whilst we were atop the scaffolding, we were also treated to a general tour of the works, including one of the largest carvings on the exterior of York Minster – St Peter. The original had been badly eroded over the years so stone masons had to research and create a new version. Click on the images below to see the general works.

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Work on the East Face of York Minster is due to be complete in 2016, when the mammoth task of dismantling the scaffolding will be complete and the magnificent elevation can be revealed.