Many of the older buildings in Vancouver, particularly in the Shaughnessy area, are now coming to an age where original windows are starting to need restoration. This window is a beautiful example of English glass painting and is entitled “A reading from Homer”.
It was probably commissioned when the house was built over a hundred years ago, and is certainly the oldest residential stained glass we’ve seen here. When we were first asked to make an assessment of the condition of the window, we were quite astounded to discover that this forty square foot window was fabricated in one complete piece and apparently held together by sheer good fortune and a flimsy metal frame soldered to the lead on the outside. As the weight of the window wasn’t correctly supported, the bottom section was bowing inwards and the lead pulling apart at the joints. There was also substantial cracking of the glass in the top sections, but fortunately the figures were not yet damaged.
In Europe, stained glass is always designed and fabricated in sections. When installed, each section interlocks with the one above by a lap lead with soldered copper ties and is strengthened by a horizontal steel “saddle” bar to support the weight and prevent undue stress on any area of the window. In this case it is highly likely that the window was painted in England and the individual pieces then sent here to be leaded. Lack of awareness of installation methods probably led to its fabrication in one complete section. When designing and drawing the window, the original artist would have allowed for positioning of horizontal bars so as to be sure that they would not interfere with important details such as heads and hands. We were able to extend those partial divisions and make the window into four separate sections. The restoration itself was a careful process. Starting with the removal of the window, very gingerly as we had no way of ascertaining how the deteriorated lead would hold up on being moved, after which John had to partially dismantle it into movable sections while on the outside flat roof. Once back in our studio, a rubbing was made of each section to ensure the later correct positioning of each piece. The sections were then placed in a soaking bath to gently clean age old grime with PH neutral baby wash so as not to harm the paint. After which the window was re-fabricated using high quality lead, and re-installed correctly. We think the original artist would be happy to know his work is still appreciated today.
“My wife and I had the pleasure of working with John and Laura of Gilroy Stained Glass during the restoration of a large stained glass window for our home. The project was very complex due to the size of window, approximately seven and a half feet wide by six and a half high. The window was originally constructed a hundred years ago as a single panel, which over the years had led to bowing and slumping of the entire window along with some breakage of individual pieces of glass in the window. The first anticipated difficulty was removing the window from our home before the restoration could begin, which occurred without incident. John and Laura then went about dismantling, cleaning, re-engineering the structure of the window and finally reassembly of the window. The last step was the reinstallation of the beautifully restored window back into our home. The total project from start to finish took approximately 4 months. During this time Laura and John always kept us informed of the progress of the restoration work.” ~ Kerri-Lee and Tim W, Vancouver