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A Guide to Traditional Leadlights

Updated: 6th June 2023

Traditional leaded lights

What are 'traditional leadlights'

Traditional leaded lights with stain glass Leaded lights in a country home hallway

They are decorative windows which are made up of multiple small sections of glass, generally square or diamond and fitted together with ‘H’ shaped lead cames. The name leadlight refers to all windows where the glass is held together by lead and this term then extends to stained glass for the more ornate windows which incorporate pictorial coloured glass etc.

Traditional leaded lights can be found in various types of buildings, particularly those with historical or architectural significance. The presence of leaded lights in their many different forms will vary depending on the historical period, local architectural styles, and the preservation or restoration efforts of specific buildings.

Ecclesiastical buildings often adorn stained glass windows depicting religious scenes or symbols, as did many old manor houses, stately homes, and historical residences which feature leaded lights with intricate patterns or designs in the leadwork, adding to their aesthetic appeal.

Buildings from the Tudor and Elizabethan eras often have leaded lights in their windows. These structures showcase the characteristic diamond or rectangular-shaped panes. Victorian and Edwardian buildings, including residential homes, townhouses, and public buildings, feature leaded lights with a mix of stained glass and leaded lights in their windows.

Although between the 1860’s to 1930’s leadlights became an architectural feature in many buildings, today they are rarely installed due to the cost being a lot higher than applied lead to a single piece of glass.

How Are they made?

This technique has been used for hundreds of years and is a traditional craft undertaken by highly skilled professionals.

The glass used will either match existing or be at our client’s special request. Lead came is chosen to match any previously installed windows which is normally either 9mm or 12mm wide. The style of lead has either flat or rounded edges.

Leaded lights being made in the factory

Once the glass has been carefully cut the process can start on a flat bench. Two lengths of wood are nailed to it and lead strips are placed along the edges to form the border. From here glass pieces are added with lead came (cut to size) positioned in order to separate each piece. Once all pieces have been used the final border is fitted and these are then squared up ready for soldering.

Soldering irons are used on all joints and on both sides of the leadlight. Flux is used, allowing the solder to adhere better to the lead which results in a stronger joint. Once this process is complete the panel is placed ‘face up’ on the bench and leaded light cement/putty is repeatedly brushed into the recesses to seal spaces between the glass and lead came.

Whiting powder is then sprinkled over the panel to absorb any excess cement/putty. The panel is scrubbed and then a process called ‘picking’ is performed. This is the trimming back of the cement/putty and once completed the panel is left to dry. Finally, the panel is polished in preparation for fitting.

Architectural Bronze Casements and leadlights

We have worked on many projects involving leaded lights. These are mainly restoration projects where ‘like-for-like’ replacement windows are required. In some cases we have encapsulated the original stained glass into a double glazed unit to preserve the original work and provide a more energy efficient unit.

For larger leaded units, we strengthen the joints of the glass with copper ties which are then secured to saddle bars that are riveted onto the frame. We offer 3 different styles of saddle bar to suit your project.

Speak to our design team or request a brochure

Architectural Bronze have decades of experience and expertise in designing and making bespoke bronze products.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you bring your project to life.