Companies unite to restore 170-year-old stained glass window at Alton Towers
Two companies have joined forces to help protect and restore the historic stained glass window in the gothic mansion at popular visitor attraction Alton Towers.
The three-year restoration was carried out by Williams & Byrne, based at Stanton Lacy near Ludlow, and the metal frames used to house the stained glass were manufactured by Bulldog Security Products in Much Wenlock.
The stained glass window is the last masterpiece of British architectural genius Pugin, who died in 1852.
It’s the latest in a series of multi-million pound projects being carried out by Staffordshire-based Alton Towers to preserve its iconic buildings and history for the benefit of future generations and the latest work centred on the three-storey high oriel window in the mansion’s grand Banqueting Hall – the largest stained glass window ever installed in a private home.
The mansion was the former home of the Earl of Shrewsbury and took 50 years to build. The window was removed in 2010 and put into storage while Alton Towers sought someone to renovate it and bring it back to its former glory, some 170 years after it was originally installed.
David Williams, of Williams & Byrne, said: “Alton Towers contacted us and we were delighted to help. It was a great project to work on, an extraordinary undertaking but incredibly worthwhile and everyone is extremely happy with how it turned out.
“These are some of the finest heraldic stained glass windows in Britain, possibly in Europe, and the level of detail and care slot into place so beautifully – Pugin really pulled out all the stops on this window. What had failed significantly was all the painted detail of the dragon and eagle wings – most of it had faded, it looked like a kind of faded ghost of a window, so we had to reinstate all the painted detail.
“When the window was originally made, all the detail was painted on the inside face of the glass which was then fired in a kiln. To reinstate that detail we painted on the reverse side of the window, making almost a facsimile of what had been on the front. This allowed us to conserve all the original image and bring it back to how it would have looked when it was first installed in 1850.”
Mr Williams said he had previously worked with Bulldog and thought the firm would be the ideal option for manufacturing the metal frames to the specifications he was looking for.
“I knew Bulldog had light engineering capability and the skills we were looking for to make good metal frames to take the windows,” Mr Williams added.
“Originally, all the windows were set into the stonework but the way they were going to be put back was to put them in metal frames so there could be a condensation gap between the exterior glazing and the stained glass.
“We needed a good, reliable, company which would produce the frames to spec and Bulldog met those requirements, making all the metal frames we needed – about 80 in all. The window is absolutely unique and the scale of the work was unique but it was a real joy to work on over the last three years.”
Ian Jordan, managing director of Bulldog Security Products, said: “This was an amazing project and we enjoyed being part of it. David has done an incredible job with the stained glass and we were happy to help when he asked if we would be available to manufacture the metal frames.
“The gothic mansion and this impressive window at Alton Towers are important historically and it’s great to see this work being undertaken to protect and conserve these attractions for future generations to enjoy.”
Warren Critchley, project lead and Alton Towers Resort heritage committee member, added: “Most people when they think about Alton Towers they think about rollercoasters, but 130 years before it became a theme park it was home to the Earls of Shrewsbury. Alton Towers itself is a massive gothic mansion that took over 50 years to build and the most significant part of the completed mansion was the grand Banqueting Hall and the jewel in the crown was this fantastic three storey high window.
“In 2010 the window went into storage until we could find the specialist skills needed to renovate the window and give it the true artistry it needed to bring it to life. It is the largest stained-glass window ever installed in a private home.
“The window is the latest project in a series of multi-million heritage projects carried out over the last few the years here at the resort. As custodians of Alton Towers we want to invest in and undertake these projects ensure we preserve these iconic buildings and features for future generations to come.”