Laura Atkinson has been working as a conservator at the The Cathedral Studios since 2012, she was lead conservator for the Westminster Abbey glass finds project. She has an MA in Conservation of Historic Objects from The University of Lincoln. Previous to this her background is in 3D design, glass blowing and museum work. She is interested in historic glass production methods, particularly medieval sheet glass. Utilizing her mixed background of academia and practical hands on craft, Laura enjoys working collaboratively with other glass blowers exploring and rediscovering production techniques.
The discovery and redisplay of medieval stained glass at Westminster
The Cathedral Studios, 8a the Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EG
In June 2018, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries will open at Westminster Abbey. The new gallery will display previously unseen treasures from the Abbey’s collections and allow for the first time visitor access to the Abbey’s medieval triforium. Before work started on creating the new gallery, the triforium space was cleared of the many accumulated stored objects and the floorboards were lifted. During this preliminary work, nearly 30,000 fragments of stained glass were discovered beneath the triforium floor.
The majority of the fragments are medieval in date and although many are small, their condition is remarkable given their age. During the sorting, fragments of particularly artistic and historic value have been identified, and long separated broken fragments reunited. Some of which will be on display in the new public gallery. Further to these select fragments, two new windows utilizing the found glass have recently been installed into the access bridge leading to the gallery.
This paper outlines the work The Cathedral Studios at Canterbury Cathedral carried out sorting, photographing and cataloguing the fragments. Developing a suitable creative method for selecting fragments from such a large and varied collection to include into the two new windows presented challenges. However, from these challenges arose an opportunity for The Cathedral Studios to develop a unique and innovative technique for displaying many of the fragments in the widows. This new system frees the stained glass fragment’s edges from the technical necessity of being wrapped in lead and enables the historic glass to be viewed in full.
It is hoped through the redisplay of Westminster Abbey’s lost medieval stained glass, and the supporting database and photographic record, further research into this significant discovery will be encouraged