6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Hampshire Life today click here

Stained glass at The Vyne and its battle with condensation

PUBLISHED: 16:09 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 January 2016

The Vyne Chapel (National Trust Images, Oskar Proctor)

The Vyne Chapel (National Trust Images, Oskar Proctor)

Archant

It has survived the ravages of the English Civil War and WW2 bombing raids, but lately the precious Tudor stained glass at The Vyne has been under attack from a new enemy, condensation. Viv Micklefield uncovers the illuminating conservation project designed to save it

Sparkling jewel-like whatever the weather outside, the rich ruby, sapphire blue and amber coloured panes are considered the finest example of 16th century stained glass found anywhere in Europe. Yet this exquisite depiction of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ isn’t lighting-up one of the nation’s great cathedrals or royal palaces, instead, it resides in the chapel of National Trust property The Vyne, in Sherborne St John. And what’s more, this is just a glimpse of a much bigger reveal to come.

That’s because since last summer, within the walls of what art historian Horace Walpole praised as “the most heavenly Chapel in all the world”, the Trust has taken-on its most ambitious stained glass project ever: to remove the remaining 17 of the chapel’s 18 windows so that they can be first cleaned and then refitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing.

“We’re really proud to have this glass,” says Dominque Shembry, The Vyne’s house steward. “It’s hugely significant and on a par with what you’d see at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge and St George’s Chapel in Windsor.”

As Dominique goes on to explain, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding how these windows, measuring up to 1.95m high and 0.46m wide, come to be at The Vyne at all.

“Originally the glass was located at the much older Holy Ghost Chapel in Basingstoke, the burial place for the local Sandys family. We don’t know exactly when it was moved up here to The Vyne, which Sir William Sandys, who was Henry VIII’s lord chamberlain, had built in the 1520s - one suggestion is this may have happened during the English Civil War.

“At that time, there was a lot of action going on around Basing House, so the glass may have been removed to protect it from the Parliamentarians, who destroyed the decoration and stained glass in many churches. Legend says it was hidden in fish ponds, although we don’t know if there’s any truth in this. We think it was rediscovered around the 1680s by The Vyne’s subsequent owner Edward Chute and his wife, because their coat of arms appears in one of the panes.”

Despite this later addition, the stained glass found a fitting resting place as the chapel, together with the house’s famous oak gallery, still proudly bears its Tudor origins to this day. And with the scenes of a young Henry VIII, his first wife Catherine of Aragon and his sister Queen Margaret of Scotland interspersed alongside biblical references, as one of the volunteers Ken Standing puts it, the glass is: “A visual history book”.

Considering its age the colours remain incredibly vibrant. But with pitting and corrosion gradually becoming more evident, conservators became concerned about its survival and in 2013, began to assess what could be done.

Most of The Vyne’s stained glass is believed to have been created by Flemish glaziers and designed by Bernard van Orley, court painter to Margaret of Austria, and according to Steve Clare, the National Trust’s specialist advisor, it is particularly vulnerable. “The problem is that the glass paint and enamel were generally not as highly fired as earlier glass or later Victorian glass,” Steve observes. “It’s soft by nature, and painted detail on glass of this period is often lost due to abrasion. Add the effects of condensation and you begin to understand why the Trust has decided on this complex project to protect it.

“The purpose of this work, carried out by conservation studio Holy Well Glass, is to provide a stable environment for the glass that will ultimately slow the mechanisms of decay.”

Keen to monitor their success, Steve and his team tested out the new protective glazing system on the central Crucifixion window, which sees the original stained glass angled forward of a second clear glass window to allow for air to circulate between. In a first for 16th century glass conservators, infra-red thermal imaging has been used alongside checking for humidity levels in order to spot any signs of further deterioration. And following positive results the green light was given to roll-out the project, which will cost just under £100,000.

“We’re employing the Trust’s ethos of restraint, and all the processes and materials we’re using are reversible,” confirms Steve.

Arriving at the chapel during recent months you’d be greeted by swathes of dust sheets. However, with the stained glass undergoing treatment off-site, the window spaces left behind have already been filled with clear glass and simple lead tracery, allowing natural light to flood-in for the first time in 500 years.

Seen from the temporary viewing platform installed, new life has been breathed into the intricately carved wooden choir stalls that are decorated with heraldry, plant motifs and cherubs, as well as the 18th century trompe l’oeil artwork on the walls.

And that’s not all. With visitors able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up-close to the craftsmanship displayed on the completed window, Dominque hopes that many more will be captivated by its beauty once the rest of the glass is reinstalled in the New Year. “They’ve made some amazing discoveries during the conservation, including finding glazier’s marks on the Henry panel that no-one previously knew were there,” she says, adding: “Having permanently removed the wire grills that used to be on the outside of the windows, this also makes a huge difference to how people will see the glass in the future as it produces a much sharper image.

“The Vyne’s stained glass has become such an integral part of the chapel - to have it protected in the way that it will be is so exciting.” 


READ ON

Special events in Ditchling in 2016 - Ditchling is the charming rural village that plays host to a wealth of art and history, attracting visitors from around the world, as Alice Cooke found out

Some of the best places for meditation in Sussex - Science proves that meditation can dramatically improve our wellbeing. Hazel Sillver suggests some of the best places to practise it around Sussex.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

10:36

Claire Pitcher finds that Minstead is the quintessential New Forest village, with its quaint green, chocolate box cottages, country pub and a strong sense of community spirit

Read more
Yesterday, 12:58

From birds of prey to monkeys, the Isle of Wight is teeming with animal attractions, wildlife parks and zoos for lots of summer holiday fun. And don’t forget to look out for the red squirrels, says Viv Micklefield

Read more
Yesterday, 11:58

With the New Forest, South Downs and a picturesque coastline, Hampshire is an amazing place for a walk. We round up a few of our favourites

Read more
Friday, August 18, 2017

10 of best photos of Hampshire shared on Instagram over the past week...

Read more
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

According to Visit England, Brits took 56 million domestic overnight trips last year. And with temperatures (hopefully) soaring this summer, staying home is the new going abroad. Natalie French checks out some of Hampshire’s best offerings

Read more
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On or off the water, there are fun-packed summer days ahead in Emsworth, says Viv Micklefield. She takes a look at what can be squeezed into a day trip to the shores of Chichester Harbour, but feel free to stay for longer

Read more
Monday, August 14, 2017

A beautiful village is something we’re certainly not short of here in Hampshire. We decided to shortlist 10 and invite you to vote for your favourite!

Read more
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Want to get away from it all? Then why not load up, hop on the ferry and move to the Isle of Wight? Emma Caulton has compiled an ABC of the very best of Island life

Read more
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

There’s nothing wrong with being a butterfly enthusiast, just don’t capture them and stick them into an album. Those days are gone and Tiffany Francis has some simple advice for lovers of these beautiful insects: look but don’t touch

Read more
Monday, August 7, 2017

The atmospheric garden at Bucklers Spring combines contemporary and traditional ideas with iridescent winding streams of lavender and ornamental grasses, in the riverside setting of historic Bucklers Hard. Leigh Clapp paid a visit

Read more
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In memory of Jane Austen, who died 200 years ago, Steve Davison heads to Chawton for a wander in the South Downs National Park just south of Alton

Read more
Monday, July 31, 2017

This may be a busy port city and the country’s cruise capital, but it hasn’t made the most of its waterfront. Until now. Emma Caulton finds a city becoming a destination in its own right

Read more
Monday, July 31, 2017

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Hampshire this month

Read more
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Full of chocolate box thatched cottages and surrounded by Hampshire and Wiltshire countryside, Amport offers walks, wildlife, good pubs and top attractions, as Claire Pitcher discovered

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Hampshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Hampshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search

Search For a Car In Your Area