Birmingham Cathedral’s four remarkable stained-glass windows can now be seen in all their glory, following extensive conservation work.
Today (7 Nov 2023), we can share some of the first images of the east end windows in the morning light, on the first day that they are fully visible from the inside of the cathedral.
The Burne-Jones and William Morris windows at the cathedral are considered some of the finest stained-glass windows in the world and the most spectacular pieces of art in the city.
Their conservation has involved over 500 days’ worth of cleaning and repair work. During this time, more than 20 panels were removed from the windows for specialist restoration before being re-installed in the cathedral. This has been completed, thanks to support from National Lottery Players via funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Expert conservators from Holy Well Glass have completed their work to clean and repair the windows partially in situ and partially in their workshop in Wells. The old protective grilles have also been replaced on the outside of the building to improve both protection and the view of the windows from the outside. These works will ensure that these precious pieces of the city’s history are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The windows show four well-known scenes from the life of Christ. At the east end of the cathedral, visitors can gaze up at three windows depicting the birth of Jesus in The Nativity, Christ’s return to heaven in The Ascension, and reflect on the scene of his death in The Crucifixion. Under the tower at the west end of the cathedral, a fourth window shows the world’s final days in The Last Judgement.
The Divine Beauty Project, which has included not only the conservation work itself but also a programme of engagement activities, has been generously supported by National Lottery Players via a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This support has enabled Birmingham Cathedral to run scaffolding tours free of charge over five months of conservation work, in addition to school workshops, the commission of some graffiti street art inspired by the windows on the worksite hoardings, and drop-in sessions with the conservation team for the public to get within touching distance of some of the panels being cleaned and repaired.
Photos of the windows
Photo – The Crucifixion stained-glass window following conservation – November 2023.
Photo – The Ascension stained-glass window following conservation – November 2023.
Photo – A section of The Nativity stained-glass window following conservation – November 2023.
Photo – A section of The Crucifixion stained-glass window following conservation – November 2023.
Photo – A section of The Ascension stained-glass window following conservation – November 2023.
Matt Thompson, The Dean of Birmingham Cathedral, said: “Our windows are now back in the cathedral, shining brightly over the nave as they were always intended to. The four scenes in the windows reflect our life at the cathedral as a worshipping community and place of sanctuary for people across the city and region. Now that these precious pieces of art are back where they belong, we would like to invite all to come and enjoy them over the coming months, especially during the Advent and Christmas season, when there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to join us.”
Anna Pitt, CEO at Birmingham Cathedral, said: “Over 3000 people have experienced the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of getting onto our scaffolding and seeing our windows up close during their conservation. Around a third of visitors on our tours had never been into the cathedral before, which really shows how the windows can capture the imagination of so many new people. The invitation is there for all to come and see the windows in their full glory over the coming months. We are grateful to all our supporters, including The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for helping to fund both the conservation of these historic treasures and to bring the experience and stories behind them to life for so many people.”
Jack Clare, Director at Holy Well Glass, said: “It has been a privilege to oversee the works to preserve these four remarkable windows; it really has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to Burne-Jones’ masterworks. I’d like to pay special mention to our gifted team of conservators, who have expended great effort and taken immense care in their work throughout the project. The project has clearly gripped the imagination of visitors, and we have greatly enjoyed interacting with them throughout the extensive programme of public engagement events. We hope once the windows are unveiled, many of them will return to experience them in their full glory.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “I’m delighted that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting Birmingham Cathedral in cleaning and repairing this important heritage, preserving its legacy for future generations. I cannot wait to see the stunning windows unveiled later this year, made possible thanks to National Lottery players.”
Events celebrating the windows and their conservation will be ongoing until summer 2024.
This will include the return of the sell-out Luxmuralis light and sound experience Divine Beauty at Night on 4, 5 and 6 January 2024.
The cathedral will also continue to offer school workshops and a special celebration for the end of the project to share some of the fascinating insights gained during the works.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported this project over recent years.
About Holy Well Glass
Holy Well Glass is a family-run centre of excellence specialising in the conservation, restoration, and design of stained-glass. Their team has worked on cathedrals, churches, and country houses across the UK and beyond. They also work to commission and manufacture custom systems for Environmental Protective Glazing. For more information, visit the Holy Well Glass website.
About The National Lottery Heritage Fund
As the largest dedicated funder of the UK’s heritage, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s vision is for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future, as set out in our strategic plan, Heritage 2033.
Over the next ten years, we aim to invest £3.6billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players to bring about benefits for people, places and the natural environment.
We help protect, transform and share the things from the past that people care about, from popular museums and historic places, our natural environment and fragile species, to the languages and cultural traditions that celebrate who we are.
We are passionate about heritage and committed to driving innovation and collaboration to make a positive difference to people’s lives today, while leaving a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy.
Divine Beauty is generously supported by National Lottery players, via The National Lottery Heritage Fund.