An Arty Challenge

17th November 2014   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 2 minutes

Commercial Director Darren Foy talks about his recent foray into the world of stained glass art:

The breadth and depth of the construction industry never fails to amaze me. Throughout my career I have worked on projects ranging from heavy civils to specialist fit-out. Every so often something comes along that is a total departure from the regular fare and it makes you appreciate how adaptable most of us construction professionals are and need to be.

Back in 2007 I recall being asked to put together an order of cost estimate for a proposed new entrance to Birmingham Cathedral. Aside from the works involved with forming a new entrance structure clad in sandstone to match the existing listed building, the project would involve moving and relocating a rather large stained glass window. A very valuable stained glass window!

A little research revealed that the window in question was by Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain. Speaking to a selection of stained glass window specialists to work up a cost to remove, store and reinstate the window revealed a significant disparity in costs. These ranged from tens of thousands to eye watering amounts with more zeros. As usual it all came down to their attitude to risk, in this case dealing with a stained glass window that was insured for £1m+.

Seven years later and I had cause to enquire about stained glass windows again. We have been appointed by a client to produce a cost plan for a refurbishment of a chapel. Part of the works may involve the commissioning of a new stained glass window. I was very grateful to be able to speak this week to Mel Howse who was responsible for the design and manufacture of the last stained glass window commissioned for this particular chapel.

Mel is a designer and maker of vitreous art and public art, working in enamels, glass and metal. Her website is and contains some stunning pieces of art.

Sometimes, opening the copy of Spons on your desk doesn’t present the answer.