Creative use for glass rescued when church was demolished

IT began as a hobby six years ago, to pass the winter months following the death of his wife, but now Ray Bell's stained glass artwork takes pride of place in two Yorkshire churches.

For St Wilfrid's at Gilstead, near Bingley, he constructed a cross and two candle holders and for Holy Trinity, near Bingley, he recreated a rose window, which had been in the church before it was demolished and rebuilt on its present site.

Mr Bell originally took up the craft after his wife died in 2001, and the candle holders and cross are dedicated to her.

He said: "It'll be six years in January since I took it up. My first piece was something simple, I made a woodland glade, which only needed a few pieces and I've gone on from there."

He explained the technique he uses. "Firstly you make a plan on paper, called a cartoon. Then you cut out pieces of glass to suit. It's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Then you join the pieces together with lead sections and solder the joints together. Finally you seal between the glass and lead using black filler before polishing with old fashioned black lead grate polish."

According to Mr Bell, stained glass as a craft goes back hundreds of years.

"The earliest known pieces in the UK were found in Jarrow and date back to 760 AD. Before the Reformation it was a real craft and it had always been used to decorate churches and old houses."

The glass that Mr Bell used for all his church pieces came from material rescued when Holy Trinity was demolished.

"When the church was knocked down there were some spare bits of glass. These were left lying around for years until the Rev Andrew Clarke asked me if I could do anything with it. I had the idea of making a cross and candle boxes out of it."

After he had finished making the three pieces, Mr Clarke, who is vicar of both parishes, asked him if there was anything else he could make out of the glass, and suggested a possible memento to the rose window.

"The rose window was trickier to do. The only image I had was a postcard because when it was knocked down it was moved to the repository at Ely Cathedral.

"I had to have the image blown up so I could use the same proportions. I had to guess a bit and simplify it slightly as it was very complicated."

All the pieces were created using recycled glass and Mr Bell is keen to emphasise the history of the materials.

"All the art is made from glass that is around 100 years old. Also the base of the cross was made by our churchwarden from oak rescued from a refurbishment at St Wilfrid's. Therefore the art is a sort of continuation and its nice to use material that was previously in the church."