A little bit of Ruddington’s history has now been reinstated thanks to some painstaking restoration work for our Parish Church.
RUDDINGTON.info reported last summer how some of the stained glass windows at St Peter’s had been targeted by vandals – leading to the closure of the churchyard at night. Of those broken, perhaps the most upsetting of all was the beautiful St Bartholomew’s window – with the face of the 1st Century Apostle badly damaged during the mindless attacks.
The good news is that most of the fragments of glass were recovered, enabling experts to recreate the historic pane as closely to the original as possible. This work was entrusted to Loughborough based husband and wife team Ian Freshney and Claire Williamson, who run M.E. Stained Glass and Claire Williamson Stained Glass respectively.
“The church approached their architect, who passed on my details, as I had previously carried out work for him” explains Ian. “It is a very specialist skill, particularly when dealing with historical buildings and stained glass. There are not many companies that have all the skills to complete the entire works needed when restoring windows in historical buildings. Myself and Claire have a unique situation. There are not many husband and wife duos that each run their own separate stained glass companies specialising in stained glass and window restoration. We collaborate on projects where our different skills are both required.”
“There is a long time spent assessing the windows and the broken glass before any works are carried out” adds Claire. “Each broken piece of glass will be carefully matched as close as possible, with new available mouth blown glass. There are hundreds of different glass colour options to choose from, first of all you need to reduce it down to your favoured few, a process that takes quite some time. Once you have done this, you then need to assess the few samples against the original glass in different light settings, to make sure you have the best match possible. Every piece of glass is hand painted using traditional ceramic enamels. The techniques of painting have not really changed for centuries, the only technological improvement has been with the kilns that we use.”
Claire continues: “We photograph all damaged pieces, prior to any removal from the leadwork or stonework. The next step is to carefully remove the remnants of the broken pieces, making sure that none is lost or damaged further. A template is then taken of the opening, so we can accurately cut a new piece to the same shape and size. At the studio we carefully clean and piece together all the broken pieces of glass, hand draw areas that are missing, select the closest match of glass and cut to the correct size. The new glass is then hand painted in layers, slowly building up the image. Each layer is fired overnight in the kiln, to permanently adhere the paint to the glass. It can take as many as 20 layers to complete the final piece. The individual pieces are then fitted back into the windows in situ. If a large area of glass and lead has been damaged, the entire window is removed for restoration at the studio.”
Ian confirms: “The works are complete now and we are very pleased with the results. The obvious aim to create new pieces that match the original so well, that you cannot tell that they were ever broken in the first place.”
Reverend Andrew Buchanan of St Peter’s Church says: “We’re thrilled that the stained glass windows have been repaired – and to such a brilliant standard too – all ready to service the village of Ruddington for another 133 years!”
Of course, the vicar’s delight at getting his church windows back, as good as new, is tempered by sadness that this incident happened in the first place:
“As you might imagine, this specialist restoration project was expensive, costing in the region of £9000. Fortunately the church was insured and our insurers will bear majority of the cost. However, more than the cost (and the inevitable increase in insurance premiums that will result) or the destruction of beautiful historic art, what upset me most about this incident was that someone would take out their frustration on a building that houses a community that would really like to help!”
He adds: “During lockdown it’s been heartbreaking that so many of our support groups, (like our friendship group for our seniors, weekly ‘Little P’s’ (for preschoolers and their carers), Messy Church (for families), our Thursday, Friday and Sunday children and youth activities), have all had to go ‘on hold’ or online. I can’t wait for everything to be unlocked – although I suspect in the aftermath of this pandemic there will be even more need for the care that St Peter’s seeks to provide.”
Meantime, village residents are asked to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour around the church. You can call Nottinghamshire Police on 101 – or ‘phone 999 if you see a crime in progress.