The Conservation Process | UNB

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College of Extended Learning

The Conservation Process

Deterioration of the windows

Exceptional for their craftsmanship, beauty and size, the stained glass windows are one of the distinguishing features of Memorial Hall’s Gothic Revival auditorium. 

The six windows lining the East and West walls measure 5’5” X 14’6” and were produced by the studio of the Robert McCausland Company of Toronto and installed in Memorial Hall between 1926 and 1943. This company, founded in 1865, was known for its expertise and craftsmanship.  Its glass production was state-of-the-art, making use of the innovative technologies developed by the Tiffany Studios just south of the border.  Its artists were highly trained; many came from the British Society of Master Glass Painters. The Bailey window, in particular, shows evidence of the hand of renowned stained glass artist Napolean T. Lyons. Lyons’ signature in a particular 3- layer lamination technique was used to create more depth in portraits, hands and feet.

The large multiple paneled showpiece on the south facing wall measures 7’3” X 11’6” and was produced by the Clayton and Bell Company of London, England.  Formed in 1885 and in business until 1993, the studio was known for the quality of its glass, the beauty of its designs and its efficient production. They were in high demand to produce stained glass windows for the Gothic Revival churches being constructed at the turn of the 20th century. They were particularly well known for brightly coloured multiple paneled windows like the one in Memorial Hall.

Over time, these exceptional windows have become unstable due to the settling of the building and general deterioration from exposure to the elements.  The effect of the intense sunshine on the East windows in particular, was exacerbated by the unvented glass installed on the exterior of the building.  While useful for protecting the fragile stained glass, the exterior window panes had the unfortunate effect of creating a superheated air pocket that in combination with the sheer weight of the glass itself has weakened the lead came, causing the glass to buckle and crack. In some cases, glass has gone missing. At some point since their installation, in an attempt to prevent moisture seepage, someone used Portland Cement to seal the lead to the glass.  Not only did this mar the original fine lines of the lead came, creating an ugly silhouette, it was also almost impossible to remove.

Years of condensation, dirt and general decay had caused the tracery and sills to deteriorate and become built up with grime. The clarity of the windows was further obscured by grimy, almost opaque glass and a metal grill installed to protect them from potential impact.

The abatement

The window sills and tracery were also showing their age and needed repairs due to water damage and the effects of time. This required that the paint and caulking be removed, and the wooden frames be repaired and repainted. The windows were first installed during an era where asbestos was used in caulking compounds and lead was used in paint.  Samples of these products were removed for analysis and test results indeed showed the presence of lead and asbestos. Lead is an inorganic contaminant that can leach into soil and ground water creating environmental problems.  Asbestos is a silicate, that when disturbed or abraded can cause “fibrils” or fine strands of asbestos to be released, posing a health risk when inhaled. Qualified abatement technicians were employed to remove the contaminants to ensure that the fine particulate matter or fumes were not generated and released, compromising air quality.  They  were also responsible for proper disposal of contaminated materials in accordance with current environmental regulations.

Ned Bowes

While stained glass artists are quite rare, even rarer are those who have the knowledge and expertise to work with old glass on an architectural scale.  Fortunately, Ned Bowes who lives just outside Fredericton along the Magaguadavic River is such a man. Born and raised in the Miramichi, NB, his interest in the decorative arts led him to Calgary in 1974 where he began to work on restoration projects with English artist Robert Hunt. He later had a rare opportunity to train with the french stained glass artist Maurice Loriaux in his studio in Santa Fe, NM.  Loriaux who had worked with Marc Chagall, was one of the foremost producers of ecclesiastical glass in the United States. Ned was awarded the title of “Maitre de Vitraux” from the American Stained Glass Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1980.  With over 38 years experience, Ned has worked on large restoration projects throughout North America and the Barbados.  He has also  worked on the windows of most of the churches in New Brunswick and historic homes in Fredericton. Ned and his company, Shades of Light, produced the "Encaenia" windows from the drawing by Molly Lamb Bobak. These windows can be seen in the Edwin Jacob Chapel of Sir Howard Douglas Hall.

Ned has dedicated his vast knowledge and exceptional skill to bringing Memorial Hall’s signature stained glass windows back to their original glory.

The process

Taking Ned Bowes over 2000 hours and 2 years to complete, the restoration of these windows included removing the glass one section at a time from their location, carefully sandwiching them between slabs of gyprock and transporting them to his studio in Brockway, NB. Ned then began the painstaking process of removing thousands of pieces of glass from their lead armatures, cleaning each one, reassembling them with new lead, and eventually re-installing them in Memorial Hall.

Disassembling and cleaning the glass and cleaning the glass involved soaking each section in an oil bath for up to two months to loosen the cement and came. Especially challenging were the sections of the Ashburnham, Taylor, and Fenwick windows that were parged with Portland cement from an early attempt to seal and stabilize the windows. Having previously used WD40, Ned experimented with other products and discovered an effective glass cleaning product that worked much more quickly to penetrate the cement, making it more porous, and easier to remove.  He then scraped and shaved the lead and cement from the back of each section, allowing the pieces of glass to be removed.  Once removed, the front, back and each edge was thoroughly cleaned.

Pieces of the puzzle

Photographic references, exact measurements, and a grid system allowed Ned to relocate the pieces to their proper position. Once the pieces were in place, he used lead came reinforced with a brass core to rebuild the sections of window. These were soldered, holding the glass pieces in place, and then tied to reinforcing rods.

Made up of a variety of types of glass, each window is unique and slightly different. Particularly challenging were the sections made from mouth-blown English glass. This glass, when rolled out, varied in thickness from 3/8 to 1/16 of an inch.  This variation required studios to make their own lead came profiles to accommodate the irregularities. Limited by commercially available products, Ned used a lead profile that was slightly larger than the original. As a result, the final dimension of the windows was slightly larger than originally. This along with the asymmetry of the windows required slight in adjustments in the installation of the windows back into their frames.

The installation

Once all the glass panels were finished, they were repackaged in their gyprock sandwiches and transported from Ned’s studio back to Memorial Hall.  Once on site, each window segment was laid out for a final cleaning, measuring, preparing and finishing.  Ned Bowes along with his assistant Trevor Wells, spent the better part of the summer of 2018 working on this final phase.

While Ned and Trevor were working on the windows, UNB Facilities Management removed the boards and insulation that had been placed over the windows for the winter to keep out the elements.   Once the sills and tracery were repaired and painted, the stained-glass panels were returned to their original location. A sheet of LEXAN was installed on the exterior of the windows and vented to permit the exchange of air, keeping moisture and heat from building up.  LEXAN is a transparent thermoplastic product that comes in large sheets and is perfectly suited to this application: it is resistant to ultraviolet light;  it is impact and scratch resistant; it does not fade, discolour or become brittle over time, and it can handle the extreme temperatures of New Brunswick’s harsh climate.

The finished windows

The stained-glass windows are an integral part of the Gothic character of Memorial Hall and contribute to creating a space which is attractive, humane, and welcoming. The auditorium is a place which gathers people together and fosters creativity and exchange. It is an incubator for artistic pursuits at UNB and invites an audience to share in the exceptional creations of artists, actors, dancers, musicians, and poets. 

The newly restored stained-glass windows are now truly a showpiece for the University of New Brunswick. No longer marred by cement and dirt, or obstructed by external barriers, the windows have been returned to their original brilliance, preserved for the next generation.  Dedicated to members of the university community, the windows feature family crests and personal insignia, as well as images drawn from poetry, history, and science.  They commemorate Henry Seabury Bridges, John Fletcher Taylor, Thomas, Earl of Ashburnham, Lieutenant George Paget Fenwick, Loring Woart Bailey, John Douglas Hazen and Franklin Sharp Rankin and Marjory Rankin Coleman; real people, who through their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, contributed to the quality of life in this province. 

Projects like the restoration of the stained-glass windows raise awareness within the community about the importance of cultural objects, the need for their preservation, and the significance of the past. 

These windows, like any other work of art, provide cultural enrichment to the community.  They have the power to inspire, to challenge, to educate, and to assist people in the process of discovery. These windows provide a foundation upon which tomorrow is built.


For more information
Marie E. Maltais, Director
506 453-4623

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