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Stained glass artists and conservators restore period features to former glory
Luxury homebuilder Bancon Homes has commissioned a specialist in stained glass to preserve historic features at a former city centre chapel.
With some of the windows at Aspire House, off Claremont Street, estimated to date back as far as 1871, expert care was required to restore the delicate glass.
Aspire House is an exciting development of four unique homes, which combine contemporary living with other character features such as extra height ceilings, pink granite pillars and Gothic arches as well as the stained glass.
For Bancon Homes, these windows were an integral part of the design for Aspire House, so had to be restored with care.
The company commissioned Prestwick-based Rainbow Glass Studio to carry out a report and assess the feature windows to help preserve as much of the building’s character as possible.
The original Victorian style of the stained-glass windows allowed the specialists to estimate they were first installed between 1871 and 1897.
Jamie Tosh, operations director at Bancon Homes, said: “With a building of this age comes many challenges. As well as the windows, we also had to research the best methods of preserving exterior stonework, the roof and the granite pillars.
“It was important to us to ensure that the historic features which make this former chapel so unique and special were properly and carefully restored. We have worked closely with the team at Rainbow Glass Studio and the finished windows make for a beautiful talking point in the homes in Aspire House.”
Rainbow Glass director, Moira Malcolm, said: “They are very attractive windows which complement this building and we strongly advised they should be restored and retained within the development as part of its history.”
Due to the age of the building, we faced a number of challenges when handing such a delicate material and a mix of on-site repairs was required alongside external repairs in the Rainbow Glass workshop.
Among the issues faced were the leaded panels, which were glazed directly into the stone.
“The lead is original and had thinned considerably over time. There was a high chance that it would fall apart when removed from the structure, so we assumed that it would need re-leaded,” said Moira.
Over the years, structures have changed to comply with modern building standards and regulations. Ventilation plays a key part in the comfort and functionality of a home but it’s also a key factor in stained glass window design.
Moira explained: “Ventilation is essential in creating the correct environment for the future preservation of stained glass. A lack of ventilation can actually accelerate the deterioration of the glass causing issues such as fracturing in the solder joints or the formation of mould.
“We could see evidence of all these issues throughout the chapel’s windows, so our aim was to come up with a solution which retained as much of these as possible.”
Creating a bespoke step by step process for the restoration, the studio identified treatment for each type of window and design.
In addition, the specialists worked with Bancon Homes and its contractors to ensure joinery work would adhere to the window specification.
“There were 12 window types, all with different requirements. We firstly started repairing these on-site by cleaning the glass and sealing any painted broken segments with suitable epoxy resin adhesive.
“Some of the windows however had to be removed and returned to our workshop, where we re-leaded these and replaced all the broken and miss-matched glass.”
Bancon Homes’ contracted joiner provided templates of the new frames to make sure the windows fitted the new design seamlessly.
Moira added: “We use a variety of cleaning techniques to help retain the glass. However, if it remains cloudy and dark we usually recommend replacing them with new glass, which is carefully sourced to match the original colour and texture.”
“All the broken glass segments in this case were re-cut with new glass of the same quality and colour. Where it’s an option, we also retain and conserve a segment of unusual glass if we feel it merits retention. Any glass that has not been cleaned successfully is also recut.”
Rainbow Glass uses traditional glasscutters to cut and colour the glass, but the intricate details of these colourful windows are all done by hand in the studio.
Moira said: “The colours within the glass are made by professional glass blowers while all the details and design are hand painted and then kiln fired.”
The result is that the stained glass windows at Aspire House are not only wonderful to look at but are also extremely long lasting, so buyers can be assured that the windows are in top condition and will require no maintenance.
Bancon Homes and Rainbow Glass have replaced a total of 45 windows, with most only requiring a thorough clean up and secondary glazing to ensure the homes are warm and energy efficient.
Part of the popular west end Aspire development, Aspire House consists of four two-bedroom, self-contained properties which blend stunning high-quality modern appliances and technology with traditional character.
Named after iconic areas across the North-east, prospective homeowners can choose from the Ardoe, Ferryhill, Maryculter and Skene house styles. Prices currently start at £299,995.