Horsham pair’s Falklands adventure

JPCT 190412 Cliff (left )and Simon Durant, New Street Ecclesiastical glass. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 190412 Cliff (left )and Simon Durant, New Street Ecclesiastical glass. Photo by Derek Martin

A FATHER and son team from Horsham have spoken of their Falklands adventure 23 years ago, when they were commissioned to help repair the cathedral in the wake of the conflict.

Back in 1989 Cliff Durant was approached about repairing the glass after money was put aside to repair Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley from the South Atlantic Fund, championed by Sarah Ferguson’s father.

He snapped at the chance and flew down to Mount Pleasant from the RAF Brize Norton four times, taking his 14-year-old son Simon on the last trip.

“People seemed very happy with life, as the island had been given back to them by the British, as even now they look at themselves as British,” he said.

“They had felt very unsafe because the Argentinians kept making threats.”

“They would not have anything to do with the Argentinians, but they did welcome Argentinian families to see the war graves,” he added.

“We were most honoured to be asked to complete the work, in fact they treated us very nicely, they asked to talk on their local radio, we were invited to the Queen’s Governor’s House for dinner, and they even loaned us a land rover to see the island.

“We worked away for weeks taking out all of the glass, totally restoring it, putting in new oak windows and then replacing the beautiful glass.”

Some of the stained glass used, still sitting in Stanley’s cathedral, came from disused green-rolled English glass that was sitting in Horsham Museum’s courtyard.

The pair, stained glass artists in New Street, are one of only 25 accredited conservation studios in the UK, restoring stained glass in some of the most prestigious buildings in the country, including the House of Commons.

And while they have done work in Barbados, France and parts of the UK, their trip to the Falkland Islands was a highlight for both of them.

“It was so weird to go to the other side of the world and have people speaking like they’re in Hampshire,” Cliff said.

He described how their entire studio was shipped from Shoreham, taking four weeks to arrive. When it did the packaging wood was claimed straight-away because wood was such a scarce resource on the virtually treeless island.

Apart from a couple of weeks off school Simon said the litter and debris stuck out most, with rum bottles floating in the harbour, tins of spam, spent ammunition and a bullet-ridden helicopter strewn across the countryside.

Cliff began the family stained glass business in 1972 with his father on Roffey corner, gradually bringing his son into the fold.

“It’s an honour to do the work that we do, getting under the skin of the original artist,” he explained.

“It’s a thing of beauty, the undulation of light coming off the glass. That may seem insignificant but that’s what we specialise in.”