‘The Stained Glass of St Mary’s Fairford: Conservator or Restorer’ by talk by Keith Barley.
This was the title chosen by Keith Barley for the Croome Lecture held in the Ashcroft Centre on Feb 28th 2007. The hall was packed for this annual lecture organised jointly by Cirencester Archaeological and Historical Society and the Cirencester Civic Society. He spoke about St Mary’s and its unique scheme of late medieval glass, and then he traced the subsequent interventions which began as early as the 16th century with damage to window 9. He took in the probable removal during the Civil War which would account for some misplacement when glass was returned, the consequence of the Great Storm of 1703 and the 19th century misguided replacement which was halted, not least by the efforts of Canon Carbonell “the unsung hero of 19th century restoration.”
Keith spoke about, and illustrated his own early work at Stanford on Avon. At that stage any intervention was viewed with the greatest suspicion and the authorities wrote to him expressing forcefully the strict constraints under which he would have to work. Indeed they made it clear that if he went too far his career would be very short. He had a good academic adviser and collaborator and between them they managed to gradually loosen the shackles. He then outlined the principles that guided his work in Fairford: original glass would not be altered but could be made legible by attaching a backing plate (which could always be removed); where original glass was lost then he would try to match the context with new glass to complete a picture, whenever possible he would remove mending leads and edge-glue pieces; where he could identify pieces that had been moved he would try to restore them to their original site. The large audience that almost filled the hall thoroughly appreciated the lecture. They had been made to think about the fine line between conservation and restoration.