Visitors to The Vyne in Hampshire can witness a unique project to conserve beautiful 16th-century stained glass windows in the Tudor Chapel. Having survived Civil War armies and Second World War bombing raids, this precious glass is now under attack from a new enemy.
The Chapel contains the finest stained glass in our care, considered to be among the most beautiful 16th-century glass in Europe. Famous for its jewel-like clarity, it features images of King Henry VIII, who visited The Vyne several times, as well as his sister Margaret and first wife Catherine of Aragon, together with their patron saints.
But condensation is eating away at it, causing pitting and corrosion. Thankfully modern technology is coming to the rescue. The glass is being removed so that it can be re-fitted with state-of-the-art protective glazing by specialists Holy Well Glass.
Stained glass conservator Steve Clare removes Tudor window depicting King Henry VIII, from The Vyne’s Chapel ©National Trust Images James Dobson
Scaffold platform offers once-in-a-lifetime view
As the stained glass is removed, the empty window spaces will be temporarily filled with clear glass featuring simple lead tracery that matches the outline of the original imagery. This will offer a previously unseen perspective of the Chapel during the work from a scaffold viewing platform.
‘Our viewing platform will give visitors a fantastic view of the Chapel’s other historic features,’ says house steward Dominique Shembry. ‘These include the incredible detail on the Tudor wooden stalls, which are carved with heraldry, plant motifs and cherubs, and the 18th-century trompe l’oeil artwork on the walls.’
Get up close to superb Tudor craftsmanship
The viewing platform also provides a unique opportunity to study up close the superb workmanship of the Chapel’s central window. This stained glass, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, has already been successfully fitted with new glazing as part of a pilot project and is remaining in place.
The external wire grills currently covering the Chapel windows are also being removed so that the stained glass can be seen in its original 16th-century splendour when it returns later in the year.
The Vyne Chapel – L to R Henry VIII’s sister Queen Margaret of Scotland with St Margaret of Antioch, ©National Trust Images, Helen Sanderson
Technology captures conservation in action
A new exhibition reveals more about the stories portrayed in the stained glass and the legends surrounding its mysterious past. There’ll also be a chance to examine some of the original glass before it’s reinstated in the Chapel.
Film footage of the conservators working on the glass in their studio will be captured using audio-visual technology supplied by Panasonic, including wearable cameras.
This, together with time-lapse photography of the glass being removed from the Chapel’s windows, will be projected into a new exhibition space, giving visitors a unique opportunity to follow the work as it progresses.
A Tudor power house
The Chapel, together with the Oak Gallery, are the most complete surviving Tudor interiors at The Vyne which was the home of Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys. Sandys entertained Anne Boleyn at The Vyne, but was later to escort her to her prison in the Tower of London.
The glass itself was made, not for The Vyne’s Chapel, but for the nearby Holy Ghost Chapel. The myths surrounding its survival are many, but it is thought to have been rescued from the Chapel during Civil War hostilities, and hidden, later to appear at The Vyne.