This year marks the 30th anniversary of the SPAB Fellowship. Founded to nurture craftspeople at the beginning of their career and introduce them to building conservation whilst also allowing them to develop their own craft. This unparalleled experience encourages hands-on learning and a passion for building conservation. We’ve trained over 100 Fellows, from all over the country, working in many different trades. SPAB Fellows are some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable craftspeople, and work on some of the most important buildings in the UK.
We’re celebrating with three videos featuring some Fellows from the past 30 years. Last autumn we caught up with them at their place of work: Alex Gibbons (cob builder, 2014 Fellow), Helen Bower (stained glass conservator, 2001 Fellow) and Ray Stevens (stonemason, 1987 Fellow).
Ray Stevens, stonemason at Calke Abbey
Alex Gibbons, self-employed cob builder based in Cumbria
Helen Bower, stained glass conservator, filmed at York Glaziers Trust
Read more on the background of the Fellowship in the spring 2017 issue of the SPAB Magazine, reaching SPAB members by mid March.
by Dearbhail Keating
We travelled from Tewkesbury to Redditch to spend the day with Ben Sinclair of Norgrove Studios Ltd. Ben runs Norgrove Studios specialising in leaded stained and decorative glass design and conservation using traditional techniques. Ben has spent many years working with glass and as a result is extremely knowledgeable about the different types of glass and very experienced in identification.
The day began with analysing samples of slab, crown and cylinder glazing. These all have their own unique characteristics and place in history. The Scholars quickly appreciated how types of glass have changed over time and how identifying the glass in buildings is a useful tool in dating. Determining the type of glass is also crucial information to know before embarking on any conservation work; to replace glass insensitively can have a very detrimental effect on the aesthetic of a building.
Example of slab glass
Slab glass is one of the earliest forms of glass formed by pouring molten glass on a flat surface within a mould and is rather thick and distorted in appearance. Crown glass is formed by mouth blowing a sphere of glass, the end is then cut off and the glass spun into a disc in this curvilinear form gives it much of its character making it relatively easy to identify. Crown glass can be spun into very thin layers making it very light; it was therefore particularly popular in the first half of the 19th century when the window tax was in existence as the tax was calculated by the weight of the glass.
Example of crown glass
Cylinder glass is also formed by mouth blowing, this time in a cylinder. The ends are then cut off and the glass is fired again before it is flattened into a sheet. The glass is asymmetrical and has a beautiful varied texture by which it can be identified. By the early-20th century more uniform glass was being made, first drawn sheet glass which was formed between rollers directly from the furnace.
Examples of cylinder glass
Float glass followed in the 1950s and it’s this glass that we recognise today. Following the briefing we were tasked with identifying a number of samples of glass. In the studio we observed the pain-staking task of piecing back together an intricate stained glass window. The window had been damaged due to vandalism so replacement of some glazing was necessary. To enable the repairs the entire window was removed from the church in one piece and brought to the studio allowing it to be laid out on the workbench and fully assessed. The extent of the damage meant the window could not be repaired in situ. As much of the existing glazing as possible was retained and repaired. Broken pieces of glass that could be salvaged were pieced back together by introducing an additional piece of lead. After tutorials from the experts, the Scholars had a go at glass cutting (with various degrees of success)!
Stained glass repair
We were also lucky to accompany Ben to English Antique Glass nearby glass blowing workshop where the process of making cylinder glass as well as blown glass light fittings was observed. This opportunity really gave us an appreciation of the time taken to produce traditional blown glass and to understand the whole process of glassmaking, from a bag of sand through to a sheet of glass. Thank you to all at Norgrove Studios Ltd for a great day!
by Hannah Reynolds
Each year the Scholars spend a week at a cathedral. Cathedral week is organised by the Cathedral Architects Association, who generously donate to the Scholarship fund. We returned to Lincoln Cathedral to build on the knowledge gained on our earlier day trip.
The nave at Lincoln Cathedral
Our visits were organised by cathedral architect Nicholas Rank and included days with the cathedral consultant engineers, Geoff Clifton and Garry Willis of Ramboll; the cathedral archaeologist, Philip Dixon and Lincoln City Council’s heritage team leader, Arthur Ward. We were also lucky enough to return to the cathedral’s works departments to learn more about the conservation of medieval glass and protective glazing from conservator Fernando Cortéz Pizano; stone conservation from Neil Bywater and masonry in the work shop with the masons team.
Medieval glass conservation withFernando
Cathedral week gave us a thorough grounding in the history, running and funding of Lincoln Cathedral and the wider ecclesiastical system. We were able to get up-close and personal with the works being undertaken on the cathedral which meant we were able to get to grips with the philosophy and approach to conservation and repair of Lincoln Cathedral.
Thanks to Philip Dixon we also had the opportunity to visit both the nearby Bishops Palace and Lincoln Castle and were able to understand the conservation approach within the City of Lincoln as a whole from our guided tour with Arthur Ward.
The Scholars have covered over 200 miles in just one week, visiting five different sites. Norgrove Court, built around 1649 with mid- 19th century alterations, was the location for a glass working workshop with Ben Sinclair of Norgrove Studios Ltd. They specialise in the production of new stained glass using traditional techniques and the conservation of old stained glass.
The week finished with a visit to Middleport pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, which was hosted by Tim Greensmith (2004 Scholar) of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. The group were involved with the gentle repair of the main pottery building. Middleport Pottery is the last working Victorian pottery in the UK and has been conserved with the help of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust
Victorian kiln at Middleport pottery, Stoke-on-Trent
At Warwick Castle the Scholars inspected the sandstone walls. In the past, replacing the damaged stone had been problematic; often the stone that was used was too hard and weathered differently from the existing stone. A local quarry now supplies Warwick sandstone for a better match. The group visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire where Theo Sturge, a leather conservator, explained the difficulties of repairing historic leather lining. The Scholars also spent some time in Lincolnshire where they toured a 17th century oak barn with architect Mary Anderson.
Inspecting the stone at Warwick Castle