Tudor stained glass conserved for centuries to come

Project

In February 2016, we welcomed back one of our most beautiful attractions following months of ground-breaking conservation work. You can enjoy the exquisite Tudor stained glass once again.

 
 
 
 

Our chapel’s stained glass is the finest in the National Trust’s care and considered to be among the most beautiful 16th-century glass in Europe. It features King Henry VIII, who visited The Vyne several times, as well as his sister Margaret and first wife Catherine of Aragon, together with their patron saints.

When condensation gradually began to eat away at the windows, causing pitting and corrosion, the glass was removed for conservation and re-fitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing by specialists Holy Well Glass.

The rare panes of glass, known as ‘lights’, have returned to The Vyne once more. The last light featuring Henry VIII was reinstalled on Tuesday 9 February 2016.

 

The story behind the glass

 
The stained glass windows are believed to have originally been created for the nearby Holy Ghost Chapel by Flemish glaziers. The craftsmen were from the school of great European artisans involved in major schemes such as Henry VIII's King's College Chapel, Cambridge. 
 
At some point, possibly to protect it from ransacking Roundheads during the Civil War, the glass was removed and hidden, later re-appearing in the chapel at The Vyne.
 
Among the scenes depicted is an image of a young King Henry VIII. He stayed at the house on several occasions, first with Catherine of Aragon and later with Anne Boleyn, as the guest of William Sandys, his Lord Chamberlain. 
 
Another window depicts Catherine of Aragon and a third shows Henry's sister, Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland when she was just 13 years old.
 

The conservation project

 
The stained glass is delicate because the paint and enamel used at this time were not highly fired. This allowed subtle layers of shading, but left the glass soft and vulnerable to abrasion. Much painted glass detail from this period has been lost because of this.
 
Stained glass specialists Holy Well Glass began work on the project back in 2013 when they removed one of the 18 stained glass lights to evaluate cleaning and conservation techniques. 
 
The light was reinstalled with a protective layer of external 'isothermal' glazing. Infra-red imaging was used in conjunction with humidity monitoring to assess its efficiency in eliminating condensation. 
 
The technique was shown to be effective and the remaining 17 lights were removed for cleaning in August 2015.
 
Isothermal glazing was installed on the outside of the windows to physically protect the glass. The historic glass was mounted in a bronze frame with ventilation gaps at the top and bottom. 
 
The frames were then mounted 5cm in front of the secondary glazing to allow warm internal air to circulate around the stained glass. 
 
This now keeps the temperature and humidity stable and eliminates condensation.