This is not the moment to have butterfingers.

Conservationists have been painstakingly removing stained glass panels during the first phase of work to protect 600-year-old windows at York Minster.

The work is part of an 11 year, £11m conservation and restoration project at York Minster will start next week.

The major project to repair and maintain stone and stained glass in the cathedral’s South Quire Aisle, which dates from the late 1300s, originally began in 2016, with activity to date focusing on replacing and conserving stonework.

Specialist conservators from York Glaziers Trust are now beginning work to protect the area’s medieval stained glass, starting with the removal of two windows from the upper Clerestory level.

No protection

The windows, which date from the early 1400s and are approximately 70 feet from the ground, currently have no protection from the elements and are showing the signs of six centuries of exposure, with the glass having cracked and buckled in places allowing water in.

The work is part of a wider 20-year partnership project between York Glaziers Trust and York Minster to ensure all the cathedral’s windows, which hold the largest collection of medieval stained glass in the country, have protection from the environment.

Director of York Glaziers Trust Sarah Brown said:

  • The windows in the South Quire Clerestory have been unprotected for 600 years and are now heavily corroded, with extensive paint loss, fire damage and even holes in places.

    The conservation work will include removing all 72 panels from both windows over the next nine months so gentle cleaning can be undertaken in our studios, any glass fractures can be repaired and the lead nets can be stabilised.

    Once complete, the panels will be returned to the Minster in late 2019 with new, state-of-the-art protective glazing to prevent further decay and preserve the irreplaceable glass for future generations.

Damaged in 1829 fire

Nick and conservator Zoe Harrigan remove a stained glass windows panel
The windows, part of a scheme of eight, are believed to have been created between 1404 and 1414 and tell the story of the triumph of Christianity in the North of England, and the crucial role played by York Minster.

The windows were severely damaged in 1829 during a fire started deliberately in the cathedral’s Quire by local resident Jonathan Martin. The graffiti marks of the 19th-century glaziers who repaired the windows following the fire can still be seen.

The windows are two of around 70 of the cathedral’s 128 mostly medieval windows which currently have no protective glazing, leaving their glass vulnerable to corrosion and decay.

The 20-year strategic glass plan will see state-of-the-art glazing extended to all of these windows, halting the decay and buying much needed time for conservation work.

Steady as she goes…

Funding for the £11m project has been kick-started with an endowment grant of up to £1m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which will be invested to create a regular source of income for the 20-year work.

To help reach the £1m target and generate further funding for the project, the awe-inspiring Northern Lights sound and light projection will return to the cathedral by popular demand in October this year for a week-long run. The installation debuted in June last year playing to sell out audiences across two nights.

Tickets for the events, which will run from 24 to 31 October, will go on sale on Tuesday 28 May.