More than half a century ago the York Glaziers Trust was formed, building on centuries of craftsmanship associated with York Minster, Britain's treasure-house of stained glass. The Trust is dedicated to the care of the Minster's windows and the preservation of historic stained glass nationwide - the vision of Eric Milner-White, Dean of York from 1941 until his death in 1963.
During the nineteenth-century, restoration of York Minster's windows had been undertaken by a variety of external contractors, including Newcastle-based William Wailes (1808-1881), London-based Burlison and Grylls (formed by John Burlison (1843-1891) and Thomas Grylls (1845-1913)), and York-based John Ward Knowles (1838-1931). However, from the early 1900s, the care of the Minster's stained glass had been entrusted to a private stained glass workshop operated by the Dean and Chapter. The buildings on Deangate, which house the Minster's Works Department, were constructed from 1913, following the demolition of the former buildings occupying the site in 1903. These former buildings included stables for the horses used to pull hearses and mourning coaches. At this time the Minster's precinct was enclosed by a 12ft high wall; one of four gated entrances to the Minster's grounds was to be found at the intersection of Deangate and Goodramgate. Together with York Minster's stone masons, joiners, electricians, and other skilled craftsmen, the glaziers have continuously occupied 6 Deangate, in the shadow of the Minster, for over a century.
From the 1900s to the 1930s, the Minster glaziers had completed the restoration of all of the Minster's windows, as part of a continuous cycle of work supervised by Robert Charles Green (1864-1936), clerk of works at York Minster from 1895 until his death in 1936, and then by his son William Jesse Green (1896-1979).
Following World War Two, the Minster glaziers were led by their foreman 'Bob' Oswald Ernest Lazenby (1904-1983). He was part of a team of three that included Herbert Nowland (1880-1972) of Temple Newsam, Leeds. Nowland had been a glazier since he was fourteen years old, but first reported for work at the Deangate workshop during wartime - when already a pensioner - after the original glazing team had been conscripted to fight. Following the war, he stayed on at the Trust, and was the principal glazier associated with the restoration of the Great East Window in the 1940s; Lazenby was said to have assisted only on the more complex panels. Nowland retired in 1955, after celebrating his 75th birthday, and Lazenby in 1968.
80 of the Minster's windows were removed for safety during World War Two. Subsequently, it was Dean Milner-White who directed and chronicled the restoration and reinstallation of these windows in the aftermath of the Second World War. Milner-White supported a small team of glaziers entrusted with this task, including Lazenby, Nowland and their young apprentice Peter Gibson (1929-2016), who began his training in stained glass at 16.
With the help of the Pilgrim Trust, the Dean's vision of establishing a specialist independent stained glass studio was later made a reality. The Trust came into being on 20 July 1967 with Peter Gibson OBE as its first secretary and superintendent. Peter had been associated with the Deangate workshop for half a century, beginning his apprenticeship there in 1945, and only retiring in 1995. Under his leadership, the Trust's expertise was put to the test in 1984 when a fire in the Minster's south transept caused terrible damage, endangering the famous rose window.
The Trust now employs an international team of 18 members of staff. As well as their original premises on Deangate, for the last decade the Trust has also operated a second workshop at Bedern Chapel, York, the former ancient home of the Minster's Vicars Choral since 1349. From 1998 to 2007 the Trust was involved in the conservation of York Minster's c.1414 St William window. Another particular highlight, from 2011 to early 2018, has been the conservation of the Great East Window (1405-08) by the glass-painter John Thornton, one of the most important and well-known stained glass craftsmen of the medieval period. From 2016, the Trust has also initiated a 20-year rolling programme of conservation and environmental protection in partnership with York Minster, beginning with the conservation of three of the Minster's world-famous fourteenth-century nave aisle windows.
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