Why are they called leadlights?

Before the 16th Century windows or apertures had unglazed openings, typically sliding or folding shutters were used instead – made out of wood, horn, oiled cloth or similar.

The earliest glazed windows first appeared in prominent buildings or in wealthy families. They used very small pieces of glass (quarrels or quarries) held together with soft lead strips (cames). In order to make a large window therefore the space was subdivided by stone or timber mullions so the small leaded panels – or “lights” – could be installed either fixed or opening.

Hence the name leadlights was created, often abbreviated to “lights”. Stained glass is often nowadays grouped with leaded lights in terms of speciality, primarily due to similar methods of construction however stained glass requires a more artistic skill set and process.

What type of glass should be used?

Modern glass production is focused on supply of a perfect, blemish free product. Which has meant a decline in the supply of “antique glass”, produced by the traditional mouth-blown method.

The art of making antique “muff” or “cylinder glass” is still practised by one company in the UK but the majority is sourced from a small number of firms in Europe.

Window Restoration or Replacement?

Repair or replacement is the main dilemma people have when they have problems with distorted or broken leaded lights. These issues can lead to  water damage and/ or extreme draughts.

The problem with leaded windows is that unless the damage is slight or localised it is not something that can be easily repaired by an average DIY enthusiast but a specialist glazier can temporary glaze and re-lead the whole panel, as new.

If your property Grade I or II (and II*) listed then repairs on-site or in a workshop are the only viable option normally. In this scenario draughts are solved using Secondary Glazing – which has added benefits such as extra security and significant noise reduction.

Where replacement is an option there are a few modern alternatives such as aluminium windows, double glazed timber or even uPVC windows. There are two main things to consider with replacement; cost and visual appeal.

Appearance is crucial as double glazing with stick on lead just cannot replicate the unique shimmering effect and vitality of a traditional leaded light.
Our advice would be to do your research, talk to friends or people who have similar property and view examples of what can be done. If you would like to discuss the options available, please contact Craft Glass who specialise in working with leaded panels.