The Full Story
Recclesia’s Stained Glass Studio is well known for its conservation expertise, so when one of the most unusual stained glass windows in North Wales was identified as being in urgent need of attention, we were called in to inspect. The William Morris Tree of Life window in the Stanley Chapel at St Cybi’s Church in Holyhead on Anglesey is a major tourist attraction. Commissioned by a Muslim family for a Christian building, the window is unique in not depicting any characters or animals. Instead, the entire window is given to the Tree of Life or the Jesse Tree, which fills the glass with rich foliage in sumptuous greens and pomegranates in pink and deep orange.
After a hundred and twenty years in place facing the Irish Sea, the window had started to deteriorate to the point at which glass was breaking and being lost forever. Several sections were completely missing, and our report identified thirty seven broken pieces of painted glass. To add to this, the lead came matrix holding the glass together had deteriorated to the point at which the window was moving, rattling in the wind and letting the weather in.
The entire window had to be removed piece by piece from the masonry and returned to the conservation studio where a painstaking process of repair was undertaken. The window was exposed to several methods of conservation treatment as noted on the right. The entire window was stripped down and cleaned by hand and all of the broken glass was put back together using reversible edge-bonding techniques.
The sections that were missing entirely were filled with new painted images which were established using church records and old photographs. Many days were spent making glass to exactly match the colour tone and texture of the original glass, which was then painted by our artist and fired in the kiln at the studio. The new sections were signed and dated so that future conservators would be able to identify the interventions.
The project was recorded using the CVMA standard system in the form of conservation rubbings and computerised scans with legends, along with a full photographic record throughout with additional images taken using a digital microscope attached to a computer. The stained glass window was reinstated just before Christmas 2009 and has been described as both breathtaking and mesmerizing.
Recclesia Stained Glass is one of the few studios in the UK to fabricate our own protective guards. New powder coated stainless steel guards were installed at St. Cybi's to ensure the security and longevity of this beautiful historic glass.