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Working on on a Heritage at Risk Church, the conservation of Union Chapel East Window

Union chapel is listed at Grade I, which reflects its importance as a chapel by a leading C19  chapel architect James Cubit. The Chapel dates from 1876-7 and is an octagonal building and planned internally so that all could see and hear the minister whose pulpit was plasced on the eastern side of the octagon. The wheel window with its stained glass within stone framing is on the eastern elevation, behind the pulpit.

Union Chapel is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk list. Repairs to the fabric are being steadily undertaken and the chapel has been successful over time in obtaining some grant funding. It is also used as a music venue which helps with viability.

Internal View of the Chapel – before works

The East window is not visible from any point externally except from a gutter between roof slopes above the Sunday School. The glazing comprises an outer ring of eight stained glass panels depicting figures of angels playing a variety of musical instruments, with an inner ring of eight smaller panels depicting stylised floral patterns and a central panel depicting a shield surrounded by eight smaller panels whose details are largely obscured.  The glass was made by Frederick Drake of Exeter and is dated 1877, the date of completion of the Chapel. The glass is held in Bath stonework which has carved columns and capitals internally but is completely flat faced externally.

When we were asked to help, there was a secondary layer of glass externally, heavily cracked. This was probably fitted at the time of construction, as evidenced by the glass continuing under the stonework of the capitals, possibly in order to protect the internal glass. The need for this was unclear as the window is well hidden externally and not likely to be subject to any vandalism or even excessive heat build-up. As a result of the breakage of the outer glass the outer face of the stained glass had been exposed in a few places, with great risk of water getting in. Although generally sound, the stonework had deteriorated in a number of places, especially in weather vulnerable areas. The brickwork around the window was also not in a good condition.

In agreement with Islington Council we removed the secondary glazing however retaining and cleaning the ferramenta. The stained glass was cleaned, glazing rebates pointed with lime mortar and the stone locally repaired. Bricks were also carefully removed and repaired/replaced.

David Sear of Lincolnshire Glass studio inspecting the secondary glazing.

Brick repairs

Brick repairs – After

Stone repairs – After

Completed work