St. Alkmund’s Church, Shrewsbury: Francis Eginton
The highly successful conservation of an 18th century window (circa 1797) depicting the figure of ‘Faith’ (a thinly veiled Assumption of Mary) by Francis Eginton of Birmingham, after Guido Reni.
St. Alkmund’s Church, the only remaining open Anglican Church in the historic centre of Shrewsbury, was founded in the 10th century. The 15th Century spire and tower are all that remain of the medieval structure after the rest was demolished in the early 1790’s. Today’s building still retains four of its thirteen large original 18th century windows with cast iron frames from nearby Coalbrookdale, the crucible of the Industrial Revolution. The prominent East Window is by Eginton. His ground breaking glass painting technique involved layering of several pieces of thin crown glass, skilfully painted, stained and enamelled on all faces. The technique achieves an effect of great depth and richness. It is likely that each piece was kiln fired at least twice to fuse the paint to the surface of the glass. The two, or sometimes three completed pieces were simply pressed into linseed oil putty beds in the metal frame. His works have been described as transparencies in glass, the glass treated like a painted canvas. As with the Eginton window at Stourhead, problems with cracking of the thin panes of glass was apparent at St. Alkmund’s. The panes were set tightly into the cast iron frames and into very hard linseed oil putty, and there was little tolerance for expansion and contraction of the glass or settlement of the iron frame. The iron frame also required urgent repairs. Consequently it was necessary to remove all of the glass to the workshop for conservation; mainly in the form of epoxy resin repairs, a small degree of newly painted inserts and copper foil repairs, and protective backing plates as necessary. The frame was conserved by Dorothea Restorations. During removal of the glass it became clear that the frame had originally been gilded, this finish was re-applied, adding to the sumptuous high Anglican atmosphere of the chancel.
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