Monday, August 6, 2012

Magnificent medieval stained glass back at Coventry Cathedral

Thousands of fragments of medieval stained glass which survived the bombing of Coventry Cathedral during the Second World War go today on public view for the first time in more than 70 years next week.

The Old Cathedral of St Michael at Coventry was bombed almost to destruction on 14 November 1940 and its ruins now sit alongside the city's modern cathedral. However, the historic building's magnificent stained glass survived the Blitz, having been removed and placed in storage in 1939. The glass has not been seen by the public since.

Now specialists from the University's renowned conservation consultancy division, Crick Smith, are working with World Monuments Fund Britain and Coventry Cathedral to restore and put back on public display the surviving pieces, which represent Britain’s largest collection of loose medieval stained glass.

The project involves cleaning and repairing an estimated 5,000 fragments of stained glass, many of which have degraded over time in storage. Some of the glass is by 15th century Coventry-based stained glass artist John Thornton, while other pieces date between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The meticulous work will be carried out by a team of experienced conservators from Crick Smith, joined by current students and graduates from our Conservation and Restoration programmes, in full view of the public in Coventry's Herbert Art Galleryand Museum. The project runs from 6 August 2012 to 31 October 2012, with another two months' work scheduled next summer.

The team will be working with stained glass historian Heather Gilderdale-Scott to identify and date the fragments, as well as building a database to record informatinn about the origin, condition and historical significance of the pieces, including photographs.

Ian Crick-Smith, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Lincolnand co-founder of Crick Smith, said: "For the first time the glass will be available for public viewing and for further research and study. When in the cathedral, the glass was predominantly at clerestory level or high within the east end apse. It was therefore not easily viewable. In the future the glass will be displayed in a way which will allow the public to view it closely.

"The centre of Coventryhas some very important historic buildings, yet it is often overlooked as a historic centre. The conservation of the stained glass and its prominence as a collection of historic artefacts will act as a focus for the rediscovery of historic Coventryand the regeneration of the historic quarter

Dr Jonathan Foyle, CEO of World Monuments Fund Britain, and Honorary Doctor of the University said: "We are looking forward to an involving and fascinating project. Crick Smith were prepared to set up their stall in the centre of Coventryrather than remove the glass to a remote workshop. This public-faced conservation work is ideal, as it allows the citizens of Coventry and visitors to see the glass where it belongs, and share the discoveries. The access will encourage many to reflect anew on a rich historic environment that rewards curiosity and deserves investment."

Above image shows Prof Jonathan Foyle in the blue suit and World Monuments Fund Project Manager, Melissa Marshall to the right on the back row.

Back Row:
MA student Gemma Smart, Prof JF (WMF), York MA graduate Fran Scargill, Melissa Marshall (WMF)

Front Row:
MA Graduate Kelly Orange, MA student Josh Klieve, Graduate Diploma student Jean Lambe, BA 1st Yr student volunteer Laura Fox
To watch a short film by Prof. Jonathan Foyle talking about the project:

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