When leading goes wrong
I’m not bitter but, in this country, a great quantity of medieval stained glass was destroyed by the twin ravages of Thomas Cromwell and the English Civil War.
Happily, when a subsequent Revolution took place in France, we managed – selflessly indeed – to import some of theirs, rather than leaving it to be destroyed as the rioting, ill-tempered and probably unwashed French populace sacked some truly gorgeous monasteries.
In the following century, we English repleted our supply: the optimism of Empire coupled with the efficiency of the Industrial Revolution meant that we now approached the manufacture of painted stained glass with a hitherto unwitnessed zeal.
Some of this efficiency turned to ashes when, in the ceaseless quest to reduce firing times and increase studio productivity, new fluxes such as borax were added to powdered glass paint.
Yes, since the firing temperatures were duly lowered, the Victorian kilns could indeed handle more glass.
But the glass, alas, was therefore destined to give up its paint within a hundred years or less. – Which, being accidental, does not even qualify as a pioneering form of “built-in obsolescence”.
And yet nothing – not even the combined forces of Reformation, Puritanism and the National Assembly of 1789 – can equal the devastating might of a careless modern-day restorer.
Now we have all seen examples to cause more misery than was endured by the entire House of Atreus.
Today, therefore, we thought to show you something altogether more entertaining.
Picture the scene:
- A vast Victorian window must be re-leaded
- It is duly removed, stripped down and cleaned
- And it is laid out on a glazing bench as yet another job for the hurried glazier to churn out
- The re-assembly proceeds apace, unfairly pressured by time and money
- The window is soldered, cemented and re-installed
And now at last – returned to its magnificent setting in the East end of a glorious English country church, once more illuminated by the dazzling amber sun – everyone can finally examine the wondrous carefulness of the restoration, not to mention the truly meticulous and immaculate glazing …
I don’t want to run the risk of being thought that I protest too much, but let me say again: we had no hand in this.