Window on the war.

A very special anniversary came up for Bath Abbey on March 13th 2015. It marked 60 years since the restoration and rededication of the East Window which was blown out during the Bath Blitz in 1942.

 The east end of Bath Abbey

The east end of Bath Abbey

It was officially unveiled at a special dedication service on Sunday the 13th of March 1955.

Looking up through the chair stall to the East Window. Click on images to enlarge.

Looking up through the chair stall to the East Window. Click on images to enlarge.

Only last year, Bath Abbey launched its Creating Voices audio archive which comprises an audio guide dedicated to the restoration of the East Window.

This includes a clip of Eric Naylor, a member of the Abbey’s congregation at the time, who gives a first-hand account of the rededication ceremony as well as an interview from Clare Cook, the partner of Ron Kirk, who together with his father, Harry Kirk from Clayton and Bell.

Clare talks about what it was like for Ron and Harry to be responsible for the mammoth task of restoring the Abbey’s East Window to its original glory. You can access this via http://www.bathabbey.org/history/creating-voices-oral-history-project/east-window

Following the 1942 blitz, the Abbey could not be used for regular services for some time. Bits of glass were dropping from the broken windows and the wind-swept through them.

It wasn’t until the war ended in 1945 that the Abbey began to think about restoring the window as well as other aspects of the building.

The East Window in all its colourful glory.

The East Window in all its colourful glory.

The glass from the window was so badly damaged that practically every glass maker in England said that it couldn’t be restored. Until the glass-making firm, Clayton and Bell, took up the challenge – sending father-and-son team of “glaziers”, Harry and Ron Kirk.

It wasn’t until April 1952 that the first stained glass lancet window was ready to go back into the window frame.

By 16 April 1953, the first tier of the window was completed and over 17 months later, at the end of October 1954, the bottom tier was in place.

Sixty per cent of the original glass, collected by members of the Abbey congregation, was used in the restored window. An amazing fact – considering that the East Window is made up of 864 square feet (or 80 square metres) of stained glass!