PART TWO: St. Alkelda Takes up Residence in Her New Home
Born in Kirkby Malham in 1619, Col. John Lambert was a distinguished soldier and key politician during the English Civil War/Commonwealth period; rising to the rank of Major General before the age of 30. At this time, Oliver Cromwell’s forces (under the command of Lambert) were widely responsible for wreaking structural havoc amongst the churches of Craven and further afield; smashing out windows and destroying stone crosses and carvings.
It is known that Lambert used St. Alkelda’s Church at Giggleswick to shelter and stable his horses during one of his early 17th century campaigns. Thomas Brayshaw’s A History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick states that “stained glass containing a preponderance of blue pieces” was recorded in the East window of the church in 1620. However a photograph taken during the alterations and renovations of 1890-92 shows the east window containing plain leaded glass. While there is no concrete evidence, given its obvious loss between the early 17th and late 19th centuries, it is reasonably safe to assume that Lambert and his men were the prime culprits for this destruction.
In the preface to A History if the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick, Ralph Robinson noted Brayshaws involvement in the 1890’s renovations: ‘While the work was in progress, he visited it almost daily, sifting the soil beneath the floor in search of some fragment broken from a monument in iconoclastic days, and always making notes of any discovery that might throw a glimmer of light upon the history of the fabric.’
Could Brayshaw have salvaged fragments of the much earlier glass recorded in the east window and could this possibly have found its way into the hands of the maker of our St. Alkelda panel? Certainly it is not beyond the realms of possibility; the heavy pitting of the blue glass within this piece bearing similar characteristics to surviving mediaeval glass of the period.
Having made a number of enquiries with professional contacts and through online forums (all of which were inconclusive), we recommended a higher opinion be sought and so the panel found itself making a trip to visit Sarah Brown, Director of the York Glaziers Trust and chairman of the British committee of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi. Sarah and a number of her colleagues proceeded to spend several hours inspecting St. Alkelda to try and ascertain its age, particularly that of the heavily pitted blue glass.
Their considered opinion (of which there can be few higher): that the glass was not medieval but rather early 20th Century that had been cast to mimic the aged qualities of medieval glass.
And so, with one mystery solved, the panel made its way back to our studio where we were finally able to begin work on it.
Originally it was proposed that, once cleaned and repaired, the panel might be displayed within church in a wall mounted and back-lit frame. However in discussing this approach a number of concerns/issues were raised. These included not only security but also of how glass of this type loses its brilliance and inherent “glassy-ness” when displayed in this manner. We then suggested the panel be installed into one of the churches two remaining plain leaded glass windows. By adopting this approach St. Alkelda would be architecturally incorporated within the buildings fabric and provided with a good natural daylight source to bring the best out of the glass.
Having been granted permission to proceed on this basis and with a faculty in place from the Diocese of Leeds, our repair, restoration and conservation work to the panel got underway. This included the following processes:
- Removal and replacement of the panels perimeter lead came
- Multiple epoxy resin strap repairs to cracked glass
- Application of cold paints and stabilizer to a number of chipped/failing areas of paint-work
- Injection bonding to multiple hairline glass fractures within prominent areas (face and feet)
- Replacement of a number of shattered individual glass pieces included hand painted/kiln fired detail
- Glass cleaning
- Removal from church of the existing central lancet within a triple lancet window
- Leading of the St. Alkelda panel into a new replacement central lancet light
- Re-installation of the new central lancet panel
- Manufacture and installation of a new stainless steel protective wire guard
Following completion of all studio based works, St. Alkelda took up residence in her new home within the south aisle at St. Alkelda’s church during a beautifully sunny (and unseasonably warm) week in February of 2019. A formal dedication was undertaken during Holy Communion by the Archdeacon of Richmond & Craven, the Ven Jonathan Gough on Sunday 16th June 2019.
While there remains a number of unsolved questions surrounding this piece of work (who made it and for what reason?) the panel can now be viewed and enjoyed within its rightful place in the beautiful and historically rich setting of St. Alkelda for generations to come.
Our images include various stages of the project including studio based repair and restoration works, on-site fitting and rather specially; a very rare image of the church during its late 19th Century refurbishment in which can clearly be seen the plain leaded glazing within the east window (top right) alongside a number of macabre long-term residents.