The salvaged medieval glass of St. Michael’s, Coventry was brought back to life through an innovative joint project between World Monuments Fund Britain, Coventry Cathedral and the University of Lincoln.
Hidden away in storage beneath the new cathedral was the largest collection of loose medieval stained glass in Britain. Over 5000 fragments of stained glass were removed from the windows of the medieval St. Michael’s Cathedral before the devastating bombing of November 1940. Unseen by the public for over 70 years these precious works of art portray the life of the city from the 15th century. Some of the work is considered to be that of Coventry born John Thornton, the foremost stained glass artist of his time.
The facilities to store the glass were unsuitable and its future uncertain. The new cathedral has limited storage provision and the fragments were housed in a hot environment, which resulted in condensation on the glass. The delicate pieces were starting to stress – crazing and ‘crizzles’ or fractures formed, leading to their disintegration.
After vital conservation work the glass will eventually be showcased and put on view to the public. As part of the wider plan at Coventry Cathedral , World Monuments Fund Britain is working in partnership with the Cathedral to protect the ruins of St. Michael’s and imaginatively display the stained glass to tell the story of Coventry.
During the summer of 2012 a supervised team of Conservation students from the University of Lincoln was tasked with conserving the glass using a combination of techniques. The initial stage of the project was to clean and stabilize the fragments to prevent further deterioration. Dust on the surface of the glass can harm the delicate painted surfaces.
After a light brushing, a dilute solvent was used to wet clean the fragments where required. Some of the larger particles of dirt were delicately removed mechanically using tools.
After cleaning, the fragments were photographed and given a unique reference number, with the details entered into a database, which also records the condition and location of the fragment. Those fragments that showed clear breaks were carefully bonded back together with suitable adhesive.
The Cathedral now has this unique and important collection fully recorded, catalogued and stored in a suitable environment to minimise future risk.