Three days in the belfry..

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Hurrah! I just installed three more windows for Trinity Episcopal in Branford, Connnecticut, to accompany the Archie Hanna Memorial window (2013) and complete the facade that looks out onto the village green.

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Above, the design; below, sections of the finished stained glass in the studio.

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The rose window was made in pieces to fit into an original wooden window frame with curved tracery. The 162-year-old woodwork is sound and sturdy but the window frame had bowed and distorted somewhat over the years; the individual openings for the glass were far from symmetrical! Richard fabricated a carefully measured steel yoke to hold the old wooden frame securely in place for another few hundred years or so.

I spent three days amongst the dust and pigeon poo in the belfry removing old glass; cleaning, restoring and painting the old wood frame; and installing my new window.

Access to the bell tower was via a cupboard door on the choir loft. From there, all of our tools, materials and the new stained glass window had to be hauled up on a rope. We made the 35ft ascent dozens of times over the three day installation, climbing like monkeys up a succession of 1″ thick wooden battens that had been nailed to the beams of the church. The access shaft was barely 2ft wide (fine for me, but a bit of a squeeze for Richard!).

I took the last photo with my iPhone, looking down over the toe of my shoe before descending through the darkness once again, groping to keep my footing. See our yellow rope fresh from hauling up a broom and some tubes of caulk, and the orange extension cord dangling into the abyss.

The two little arched windows, each about 4ft tall, had their own special challenges to keep us on our toes. One was in a very small cupboard, the other perched over a stairwell, requiring an asymmetric ladder.

Back in the summer we removed the old sashes and created new stops at the window sills. I made cardboard templates of the openings for building the two new windows. As with the rose, nothing was neat or symmetrical. The new stained glass was held in place with pre-cut curved wood trim, sealed against the weather with compressible foam tape. Each has an aluminum H-bar for support that we’d prepped beforehand in the studio.

Why make stained glass for a cupboard? Or for the bell tower where no-one will see it?

These last three windows are intended to be seen from outdoors, to complement and support the Hanna Memorial window. The stained glass will be illuminated from dusk ’til dawn, lighting up the facade of this lovely old New England church.

Hanna Memorial window. Stained glass by Debora Coombs for Trinity Episcopal, Branford CT showing the Holy Family by the Sea.

Last year I posted lots technical information about the Archie Hanna memorial window (above) including cartooning, colour selection, glass cutting, sandblasting, painting and fabrication. There are some real-time videos of glasspainting too. The window shows the Holy Family by the Sea, with Joseph holding baby Jesus beside a salt marsh with, apple blossom, roses, wheeling seagulls and more. Browse through these by clicking ‘ Trinity Branford’ in the word cloud underneath the Search box to the right.

 

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One thought on “Three days in the belfry..

  1. Thanks again for sharing the mysteries of this ancient art that I love so much. You and Richard are an amazing team! Anything that can be imagined is possible! Trinity Branford made an excellent choice in giving you the job…technically correct and artistically incredible!

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