Work begins to restore Bristol Cathedral's Rose Window

First published 7th August 2017

Work has begun to restore and repair Bristol Cathedrals Rose Window after an anonymous donor made a gift of 125,000, the largest philanthropic gift since the rebuilding of the Nave in the 1860s. 

The Rose Window project began at the beginning of August and will last around 12 weeks. In celebration, the Cathedral will be launching a new windows trail for families and children, publishing its first Cathedral colouring book and bringing new merchandise to the Cathedral shop.

In the 1530s, the medieval nave of the Augustinian Abbey that had been founded by Robert Fitzhardinge was being re-built. However, in 1539 the Abbey was handed over to Henry VIIIs commissioners, closed and the work on the nave was never finished. Housing was built on the nave site and for the next 300 years the congregation worshipped awkwardly in the truncated transepts and east end. 

By the 1860s the central tower was becoming structurally unsound and so in 1868, GE Street was commissioned to build a new nave in the gothic revival style. JL Pearson added the two towers at the west end and a further re-ordering of the interior was completed in the early part of the twentieth century. The rose window was an integral part of the nave scheme and was designed and made in 1877 by Hardman, one of the worlds leading manufacturers of stained glass at the time.

The central roundel of the rose window depicts Christ in Majesty, surrounded by angels praising and playing music, joined round the outside by people working in various arts, crafts, professions and trades. No significant programme of repair has been completed on the window since its Victorian installation. Recent surveys of the window have revealed that some glass has bowed and flexed. There are also a number of cracks, which were likely to have been caused by blast damage from the WWII explosions that destroyed the nave windows on the north side of the Cathedral and damaged parts of the School. Supporting bars are rusting, the glazing putties have deteriorated and the leads are thin in some places. In addition, the glass itself is dirty and in need of cleaning - a legacy from the days when the A4 ran alongside the north side of the Cathedral, generating traffic pollution. External weathering has eroded the details of the mouldings and masonry, some of the stonework is cracking and there is evidence of water ingress and condensation.

The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Bristol, said: It is probably the clergy who know the Rose Window best. We are the people who see it, from the altar, every Sunday morning. It is a glimpse of the worship of heaven, full of angels playing musical instruments. It is also a Bristol window, it has the life of the city in it. 

"I am delighted it is going to be made safe and secure and we are so very grateful to the extraordinary generosity of our anonymous benefactor. Deans who follow me will also now be reminded that we set worship at the heart of this fascinating, generous city and that we only ever join in God's worship, we never lead it ourselves. 

The restoration of the Rose Window is being carried out by Ellis & Co (Restoration and Building) who are award winning experts in the conservation, repair and renovation of historic and ecclesiastical buildings.

Sean Clarke, from Ellis & Co, said: We at Ellis & Co are looking forward to once again be working at Bristol Cathedral, the works consist of glass and stone conservation to the Rose window on the West Elevation. The chance to work on such a prestigious building is always one that we look forward to. 

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