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Bristol Cathedral completes restoration of Victorian Rose Window, thanks to gift from anonymous donors

4th December 2017

Categories: Latest News

Bristol Cathedral is delighted to unveil its Victorian Rose Window, newly restored and repaired after gift given by a donor wishing to remain anonymous. The project began at the end of July and has been completed in time for Advent and Christmas, during which time the Cathedral will welcome thousands of people for services and concerts. In celebration of the work, the Cathedral is also launching a new windows trail for families and children, publishing its first Cathedral colouring book and bringing new merchandise to the Cathedral shop.

“We watched with interest as the work was done to repair stone work and metal in need of urgent attention. The most startling and thrilling consequence of the repair is to get the glass back, not just restored, but suddenly brilliant and eye-catching. The west end of the cathedral is changed. We are utterly delighted.” The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Bristol In the 1530s, the medieval nave of the Augustinian Abbey that had been founded by Robert Fitzhardinge was being re-built. However, in 1539 the Abbey was handed over to Henry VIII’s commissioners, closed and the work on the nave was never finished.

Housing was built on the nave site and for the next 300 years the congregation worshipped awkwardly in the truncated transepts and east end. By the 1860s the central tower was becoming structurally unsound and so in 1868, G. E. Street was commissioned to build a new nave in the gothic revival style. J.L. Pearson added the two towers at the west end and a further re-ordering of the interior was completed in the early part of the twentieth century. The rose window was an integral part of the nave scheme and was designed and made in 1877 by Hardman, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of stained glass at the time. The central roundel of the rose window depicts Christ in Majesty, surrounded by angels praising and playing music, joined round the outside by people working in various arts, crafts, professions and trades.

No significant programme of repair has been completed on the window since its Victorian installation. Recent surveys of the window have revealed that some glass has bowed and flexed. There are also a number of cracks, which were likely to have been caused by blast damage from the WWII explosions that destroyed the nave windows on the north side of the Cathedral and damaged parts of the School. Supporting bars are rusting, the glazing putties have deteriorated and the leads are thin in some places. In addition, the glass itself is dirty and in need of cleaning - a legacy from the days when the A4 ran alongside the north side of the Cathedral, generating traffic pollution. External weathering has eroded the details of the mouldings and masonry, some of the stonework is cracking and there is evidence of water ingress and condensation. The restoration of the Rose Window was carried out by Ellis & Co (Restoration and Building) who are award winning experts in the conservation, repair and renovation of historic and ecclesiastical buildings, and by Dan Humphries Stained Glass.

“We were very privileged to do the masonry cleaning, pointing and glass conservation on the prestigious west window at Bristol cathedral. It is a very beautiful and iconic window and we are proud to have helped conserve it for future generations to enjoy” Sean Clark, Lead Mason and Director of Conservation at Ellis and Company. “It has been a pleasure to work on the Bristol Cathedral rose window. Hardman's glass of this period is noted for its elegant linework, exemplified here in the slender figures and expertly rendered drapery and musical instruments of the angels. The fact that this is normally a fairly inaccessible window, high in the west gable of the cathedral has added to the usual satisfaction of
seeing work up close and becoming familiar with each piece as work progresses. Add to this the fabulous setting, the relatively unusual format of the rose window and the prestige of working in one of Britain's great ecclesiastical buildings and I think it's safe to say that this will remain one of our most memorable projects.” Dan Humphries, Dan Humphries Stained Glass 

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