Family donates Cathedral window in memory of daughter

02/08/2016
The parents of a Durham University student, who died whilst studying in the city, have donated a new stained glass window in Durham Cathedral, in memory of their daughter.

Sara Pilkington died suddenly from a cardiac-related condition in February 2012, during her final year studying Combined Arts (BA Hons) at Durham University where she was a member of Collingwood College. Now a new stained glass window will be installed in her memory in the North Quire Aisle of the Cathedral.

Sara’s parents Jonathan and Jools Pilkington, have been working closely with the Chapter of Durham Cathedral and a team of experts, to consult on the design and installation of the new window. Their hope is that the design will reach out spiritually in some special way to all people entering the Cathedral and honour and celebrate the unique link between the Cathedral and the University, which was felt so strongly by Sara during her time in Durham.

Chichester-based glass artist Mel Howse has been commissioned to create the piece, which is expected to be installed in 2018. Mel has 24 years experience of creating and installing contemporary stained glass into listed buildings and also of creating cutting edge contemporary architectural glasswork. Her previous commissions include work for Winchester University College Chapel, Boxgrove Priory, Lancing College Chapel, Sainsbury’s Milton Keynes and St James’ Hospital Portsmouth.
She is a scholar of The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust and has been awarded a number of Heritage Awards for her work, including most recently the Building Crafts Award for her work on the Friese Greene House in Hove. Mel said: “Working on any memorial piece, but especially one that will be set in a place like Durham Cathedral, is a great responsibility but one that I am thrilled to have been offered the chance to take on. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that many glass artists can only hope for, so I am incredibly excited to have been awarded this commission.”

Mel will create the new window at her own studio in Chichester, and at local industrial facilities where she has space to create works of this scale. She added: “Since I started working on this piece, it has become a very personal project for me and I really feel like I have got to know so much about Sara through the wonderful testimonials from her family and friends. I hope that I will be able to reflect beauty and wisdom through the design of the window, which will be situated close to St Cuthbert’s Shrine; a place of such sanctity and calm in the Cathedral.”

Durham Cathedral’s Head of Development, Gaye Kirby, said: “We are hugely grateful to the Pilkington family for their very generous gift.  The new window will replace one which is currently in need of repair, bringing with it colour and light to the Cathedral’s North Quire Aisle and reflecting the joy that Sara brought to those who knew her.  It will be a beautiful and poignant piece of art which visitors to the Cathedral will be able to enjoy and find meaning in for many generations to come.”