In April 2022 Maria Read wrote to South Leeds Life about Hunslet Moor Primary School where she currently works, as part of her research into the history of the school.
The letter included a photo and one of the questions she asked was “The photo is of a piece of stained glass, I believe from the original school on Burton Ave. Do you remember where in the school it was? I know it is the school badge but what is the story behind the glass? Who made it?”
It turns out we do know the story behind it and who made it! His name is Ted Spencer and his daughter contacted us after reading Maria’s letter. I met Ted and his daughter Tina in his flat in Beeston at the start of the summer and Ted told me all about this stained glass and many others.
Ted retired in 1995 at the age of 65 having worked as a bus driver and for AG Glass making double glazed windows. He was looking around for something to do with his retirement and some local children saw him making a stained glass window, something they had not seen before. He explained the process to create it and they asked him to make their school badge. He loved the idea and his first glass was for his childhood school, Corpus Christi in Halton Moor.
However, despite their appearance, Ted didn’t make typical stained glass but developed his own technique and used materials he bought from a shop in Morley. He started with a drawing (and not having professional art training Ted marked up pieces of old cardboard calendars with squares to ensure the accuracy of the image), and then made the shapes for the glass using coloured translucent plastic which would be adhered to a piece of glass with water.
The next step was the lead which came on a wheel, and once he took the backing paper off, he would stretch it out by hand until it was soft and use a roller to stick it over the glass and the coloured plastic to create the appearance of a traditional stained glass. The leaded glass was placed between two panes of laminated safety glass creating a tripe glazed unit in a wooden frame. The units had to be safe for a school environment.
At the time Ted was living in a two up and two down in the Lindens and he made his stained glass designs in his dining room at home alongside his other main retirement activity, working in his allotment.
After Ted’s first piece he went on to make about twenty for organisations in Leeds including a number of schools; St Anthony’s, Beeston Primary, Cockburn, Temple Newsam, Westerton (where it is still in place), Corpus Christi, St Patrick’s, Greenwood, St Michael’s, and the Blue Peter logo for the children’s ward at St James’ Hospital. He also made some for friends and family using a variety of designs including the Leeds United logo of the time and one using the family crest which is now in New Zealand!
Ted never charged for his creations and was inspired by the stained glass he always enjoyed seeing in churches.
As Maria said in her letter to the paper:
“History should never be a just a list of dates and events but rather it should be living, breathing memories of real people who lived and experienced life and all its ups and downs” and my meeting with Ted proves just that.
Do you work somewhere that has one of Ted’s beautiful and unique creations? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to feature more of his work and continue this exploration. They will be initialled EBS – Edward Benedict Spencer.
One Reply to “Beeston’s stained glass maker”
My Son helped make a stain glass window at Cockburn School for Beeston Primary School it looked lovely.
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