Saving the Chapel windows

Plan of glass
Plan of glass
Plan showing where glass from Chapel was stored during 2nd World War. 1944.

L.P. Wilkinson, King's Fellow and Classicist, summarizes the removal of the stained glass, and captures the sense of a Chapel deprived of one of its most glorious features, in his A Century of King's: 1873-1972 (King's College, 1980): 'On 1 September 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, a telegram had gone out to the holidaying members of the Council asking their consent to the removal to safety of the East Window of the Chapel. Seven others were also removed during that Michaelmas term. Then there was a pause until the war heated up in the summer of 1940. By the end of 1941 all the ancient windows had been removed. Their rectangular sections were stored in the cellars of Gibbs' and in other cellars in Cambridge and elsewhere. They were replaced by sheets of grey tar-paper, with occasional horizontal strips of plain glass at the bottom to let in light. The West Window of 1879 remained, appreciated at last in the absence of unfair competition. But the Chapel was colder than ever in the winter, and the tar-paper rattled thunderously in the wind.'

The file containing the plan shows that cleaning and restoration work was undertaken during the war and post-war years, so the necessity of saving the glass from destruction also became an opportunity to mend and enhance it. Correspondence also shows the financial restraint imposed on the College in applying for Government funds for war restoration work, and it was not until 1948 that the glass was replaced.

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