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My 2023 USA visit and kryptonite

Regular visitors to my website may have noticed that for part of May I was unable to ship any orders. That’s because I was in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I had a brilliant time meeting existing customers and showing samples to
potential customers.

Not only does the British accent tend to open doors (or windows!) but when you walk into a USA antique store with my product, people tend to be very surprised – usually in a nice way. I always say to Americans
that British stained glass is not better, but it is distinctive*

I needed an assistant. The successful applicant, my mum, was appointed on the basis that she was happy to do what I want and follow me anywhere: box ticked! We arrived in Philadelphia, where we spent the first four days.

Independence Hall – the original capital of the USA, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.

We’re not really into tourist attractions. I appreciated Independence Hall** but what we really enjoyed in Philadelphia was visiting an architectural salvage dealer at a church. He invited us to see all the items of value his crew were removing. This is my idea of sightseeing!

It was in North West Philadelphia, in one of the “less desirable” neighbourhoods. It’s my opinion that this is where the good stuff can be found. Once an area has been “upgraded” or “gentrified” there’s less treasure about and of what remains the new owners may be less willing to part with.

It was an ordinary church for that area, built in the 1920s. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the stained glass as whole windows but there were fragments that stood out. Increasingly with church glass I’m finding it’s more practical to sell as spare parts if one has the time and space to dismantle***. The salvager had already removed several
intricately carved stone pieces such as those highlighted below:

What interested me is the large size of the building given it was a relatively ordinary church. Just like in England, these old churches are gutted to be turned into condominiums.

Everything is bigger in America!
My beautiful assistant!

From another church, the dealer gave me this clump of glass which was also from an ecclesiastical window. In his store he had baskets full of these. I guess paper weights are just one ornamental reuse idea. It’s incredible how something this thick could be used in a window; it reminds me of kryptonite from the Superman movies. He gave us each a piece which we treasure as mementos of the trip – you can’t get this from a museum gift shop!


Our accommodation was in Northern Liberties (NoLibs as the locals call it) which was easy access to Old City. I don’t often drink Coke but felt a desire as I was in the USA. However gentrification meant it wasn’t on the menu at the local cafe so I had to make do with a lavender lemonade!

We rented a rowhouse. These charming little buildings are what defines Philadelphia for me. There’s a bedroom on each level. These date to the 1800s – a Philly resident told me those with dormer windows are early 1800s.

A rowhouse on our street.

Shop buildings in Philadelphia, and I imagine many other areas of the USA, have the ceilings decorated with pressed tin. While old British buildings might have ornate plaster moulds it’s not feasible to fill the whole ceiling with that method. I liked how these ceilings haven’t been repainted in a long time. It contributed to the rustic character the cafes wanted to convey.

Many Americans tell me they admire Britain because we have “history” and “old buildings”. How old is “old”? The majority of old houses that most British people live in are late Victorian – 1930s. Philadelphia is a relatively small city but I can’t think of anywhere in London where there are so many clusters of 19th century housing that middle-income people live in. Yes we have castles and stately homes but they are either owned by luxury hotel chains or the aristocracy or have been donated to the National Trust. No doubt you can find quaint British Bed and Breakfast accommodation which claim to date hundreds of years but most likely those buildings have been significantly developed in order to be habitable. If you change the head of a broom and later its handle, is it the same broom?

After Philadelphia we drove to Sullivan County in north eastern Pennsylvania which has a small village on a mountain top called Eagles Mere. We were fortunate to stay in one of its houses built by my Great Great Grandfather. It opened as an Inn in 1890.

In the colour photo my mother sits in the same place as her Great Grandmother from the older photo.

For me there’s a lot of history in the USA! Eagles Mere has gone through several changes. In the first half of the 19th century its lake was used to make glass, due to the sand it produced. The glass factory at Eagles Mere failed partly because it was cheaper for the USA to import glass from England. While in Britain we don’t make new glass for export any more (we don’t make much!) I like that, in a way, I am carrying on the tradition of exporting British made window glass.

I won’t go into detail about where else we stayed in Pennsylvania but it was very nice. We made some planned stops to antique vendors and some impromptu. You can’t miss some of these places on main routes which have huge signs saying “ANTIQUES”. Just like in England, people have varied ideas of what defines antique but half the fun is finding out!

The final two days were spent in New Jersey. Here’s me at one of my customer’s shops.

All the white framed windows the customer bought from my trade category. Those on the top row are from a house around the corner to where I live in Harrow!

I get such pleasure from seeing this in person – to know I have rescued what many British people would regard as junk and sent it across the world to people who care. I took with me some samples to show potential customers and on the last day sold everything – needless to say my suitcase for the return flight was a lot lighter.

We spent some time in Cape May which is on the southern most tip of New Jersey and claims to be the country’s first seaside holiday resort. In the UK the “plain” glass in our old houses was never completely plain. If you can still find any, look carefully and you can see the ripples created from the handblown formation but this doesn’t capture on camera. In Cape May this feature is more noticeable…

The Victorian architecture, intricately carved wooden detail and bright colours are worth a visit for.

Nothing felt more American than sitting on the porch and watching the world go by! My theory for this phenomenon is that traditionally there isn’t much space in the “back yard” or as we would say, the garden.

I know some Americans reading this will think I’m a bit eccentric to be so enthusiastic about their country but “the grass is greener always on the other side”. Thank goodness at least half of my sales are to the USA which is partly what stirs my interest. (Since Britain left the world’s biggest free trade market, which was on our doorstep, surprisingly few people in the European Union want to pay 20% import VAT to receive my goods but the USA has a reasonable import policy.)

I have to say a big thank you to Devyn who showed us around Philadelphia including the Happy Birthday Bar (a great place to talk to people or just watch Jeopardy!). He is an artist who knows everything about Philadelphia and more! The visit wouldn’t have been as fun without him. He knows where there are only two establishments that serve genuine philly cheesesteaks which are certainly not on the tourist trail. Devyn was one of the co-hosts who interviewed me for the American podcast, True Tales from Old Houses*.

Elfreth’s Alley, Old City, Philadephia dating to 1703

Already I’m thinking about the next trip somewhere else in the USA! Let me know if you’re interested in a meeting? Perhaps you have already bought from me but are thinking of buying in bulk or perhaps you have not bought anything (yet!). Whatever you are looking for, sometimes its good to meet in person, as I appreciate ordering valuable glass from across the Atlantic is not something you consider lightly!

*I explain the difference between American and British stained glass when I was interviewed by the podcast True Tales From Old Houses, I appear 13 minutes in to the episode.

** As it was out of season the queues for both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell were short, otherwise I would only recommend Independence Hall.

*** Actually it’s difficult to store church glass either way, if you don’t dismantle then where can you safely store for a long period of time, given how large they are? This is the reality of architectural salvage dealing in modern London.

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A librarian on a glass trip (guest post)

When Richard has been on his many trips around the country over the years, collecting and delivering, and meeting with fellow stained glass enthusiasts, he has occasionally been asked whether his wife ever comes with him on these trips (or at least that’s what he tells me – maybe to keep me involved!). There is good reason why I haven’t taken up this opportunity:

  • We have two children who, while they’re getting older, do need a parent to cook them meals and keep them company
  • Though I support Richard in his business, especially with holding windows for photography, and creating Excel formulas, I do have my own job to be getting on with, as an academic librarian (and emerging researcher – which is the theme of my own blog)


But at long last, in early April this year, I have been with my husband on a business trip, one which took us from London to Edinburgh and back again, with many places in between. He’s taken one or other of our children on some of these trips in the past, but only for a night or two – I had a whole five nights away! We are very lucky to have wonderful parents to look after our children while we took this ‘Busman’s holiday’.

My ‘work’ during the trip

I wasn’t only along for the ride – Richard did find me things to do:

  • I did some deliveries (from van to door!) and took some part in carrying the windows we collected to our van.
  • I sent all the text messages letting people know that we’d be with them in half an hour – a very important task this, as they’ve usually been given a wider time slot, and occasionally we’ve been delayed due to traffic.
  • I researched alternative accommodation when our planned hotel fell through (a broken boiler!) Richard spends a huge amount of time planning all the logistics in advance of a trip. My usual research is using the likes of Bloomberg, and academic journal databases, but I can switch to on request!
  • I offered my opinion on whether we (and it does feel like we) should buy certain pieces, sometimes during a ‘board meeting’ over dinner! Though as a business librarian, I must make clear this is a joke – there is no board of directors as the business is a small concern that doesn’t require them…
  • I guarded purchased stock (with book in hand), from the wind and from interested passers by, while Richard rearranged glass in the van. Working out where to safely put all the treasure acquired – which will gradually be added to the website in the coming weeks and months – was a regular issue throughout the trip.
  • I got to visit some interesting businesses, and unique and beautiful houses. I regularly get to see what some of Richard’s customers do with the glass they purchase from him, in the images he posts on his Customer reuse ideas page, but have only now had the opportunity to be shown round a customer’s home – one of the aspects of these trips that I always enjoy hearing about. [Note – I distracted myself for a good ten minutes looking again through the reuse ideas page, when I had intend to just get the URL to provide a link!]

Delivery in Birmingham

Guarding treasure in Grantham which will eventually appear in the Victorian category.

What I’ve learnt from the trip

  • Travelling around the country in a van is very tiring, both for the driver (Richard) and for the person along for the ride (me). We did manage a bit of exploring in the cities and towns we stayed in (and even had a night staying and socialising with family – we brought a stained glass suncatcher as a gift, as well as a bottle of wine!), but on several evenings were too tired for tourism beyond a meal.
  • Where we did venture out to our surroundings, we spotted glass in all sorts of places – in a fascinating grade 2 listed pub in Liverpool, and in the Adelphi hotel in the same city. Our history and research interests led to us reading up about the background of this hotel. My librarian tendency to read critically and look at multiple sources meant that I got the more positive perspective from the hotel’s website, and some more shocking details from Wikipedia (I won’t go off on more of a tangent by listing my further research on this topic!)
  • There are many skilled people who work with stained glass. Seeing some locations where the ‘magic’ happens was fascinating.
  • There’s only so much you can fit in a medium-sized van. And quite a bit of this will need to be stored in near vicinity to me, until it can be photographed and eventually sold. As Richard has been unpacking the van and putting glass in temporary locations before photography and proper storage, I’ve enjoyed surprises seeing them displayed around the house. But I must not get too attached!

The Vines (The Big House, Lime Street, Liverpool – Grade 2 listed

The Grand Lounge of the Adelphi hotel, Liverpool – the ceiling consists of Victorian rolled glass panes!


We have stacks of small framed windows (toplights) waiting to be listed in the trade category.

Most people prioritise putting washing in the machine when they get back from a holiday…

This scenic pattern is from a set of doubleglazed units which will soon be listed in the scenic category.

Merging a glass trip with a holiday

While this was a business trip for Richard, it was definitely also a holiday for us both. It may not surprise you to learn that my husband finds it hard to stop working at times, and it is the same for me. Turning off from work is very hard when you’re running your own business from home, and it’s almost as challenging as a subject librarian who’s the library liaison for thousands of people (to say nothing of my current research obsession!). Therefore days off work when at home are never fully days off – work is always on your mind. For me, being on this trip, getting more involved in sourcing salvaged window glass, I was able to properly take a break from my usual preoccupations. Though I admit that I have referred to my job multiple times in this post!

When not eating or socialising, as described above, I got lots of opportunity to read (I collect books at the rate Richard collects windows, though am less keen to let go of them than Richard is willing to part from the glass – necessary when running a business!). For a librarian, I’m not very strong at ‘weeding’ (aka withdrawing books from) my collection, and have many shelves of books waiting to be read.

We listened, while driving, to multiple podcasts. So the time on the road didn’t feel wasted, and was enjoyable. While our listening was more of the comedy and true crime variety, I’ll take this moment to highlight the time Richard was on a podcast, True Tales from Old Houses, talking about his glass business…

We even played a game, despite being away without our children! Proper evidence that my husband did take me on a holiday, not just a business trip!

Alice Cann is an academic librarian, who blogs at She is also Richard’s wife.

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Antique glass surprises

I recently put this bullion pane on top of my bookshelf so that it was out of the way as they don’t stack easily! I thought it would look good as an ornament due to the distinctive “bulge”. But in the evening I noticed the reflection of the glass ripples on the wall!

One of the reasons I like working with old glass is that I’m still surprised by the distortions, and by other features resulting from the light.

It’s not just the centre “bulge” that makes these panes interesting. It’s rare that old “plain” glass is completely plain. The ripples can be very subtle and not caught on camera. Unfortunately when I go to collect my purchases of toplight windows, the home owners have long since thrown away the lower larger windows which they thought were worthless “plain” glass. (Old British houses typically have bay windows divided into several sections.)

You don’t get this look with mass produced, modern, machine made glass. To view my full collection of bullion panes please click here.

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Shipment to Canada

Here’s a crate that safely arrived this week in Edmonton, AB (Canada).

Sometimes when I’ve finished packaging an order for shipment I think to myself, this packaging is as much a work of art as the stained glass! But here’s some of the treasure Natasha received:

Natasha says “The windows have arrived and are in perfect shape!  I think the deliveryman thinks I’m nuts!  I’m just as excited about the crate with all the activities I can do with it! Thank you so much …You made this little Canadian girl very happy!

The tracking for this is a typical example of how long delivery to North America takes via air freight. It doesn’t seem to make any difference how large the package is.

From receiving a customer’s payment it takes me a few days to package before the crate will be collected.

Combined shipping
Please always ask me for a combined shipping price, regardless of what total the cart shows. This is because the cart:

  • is not capable of computing a discount for combined shipping
  • has a quirk where if you select a listing that offers shipping but also select another which does not, it will still process your order, not making it clear that one is not eligible for shipping!
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A seasonal delivery

Here’s what Kathy did with a pair she received from me yesterday. I sent them to her home in Philadelphia. These were only despatched with DHL on 28th November*

Kathy says “Wow!! I can’t believe they are here already! This set fits even more perfectly in our space than I had pictured. Wish I had gotten home before the sun went behind the trees but I couldn’t wait to send these pics. My husband and I can’t stop smiling at them.” Actually, I think Kathy took these photos at a perfect time as she has caught the “glow” of the room which complements the surrounding seasonal decorations.

I rescued these from a house in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear (North East England)…

There are only three remaining for sale which are larger…

Click here to view the remaining A1226 windows for sale.

*For international orders I can’t guarantee a five-day arrival from despatch(!) and sometimes my packaging process takes up to three days.

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My latest paint job

I admit maintaining traditional windows and other wooden features on even a modest 1920s three-bed semi is hard work.

Ideally a new layer of paint should be applied every 5 – 10 years.

But I think it’s worth it.

Each time I’ve done this some passer-by feels it necessary to make the useful suggestion that they would do it just using a ladder. I’m of the old-fashioned opinion that if a job’s not going to be done properly then there’s no point doing it at all!

I love my traditional windows and door.


For further inspiration please visit my website

Related articles by me:

Wood paintwork – no licking
Flemish delight
New frames

The front exterior of my house is available for film/photo shoot location hire. It is now very difficult to find ordinary 1920s properties like this, complete with original features which have been maintained. I suggest it could be used for any period from 1920s – 1990s. Please contact me for further information.

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My mobile workshop

I cherish my Led-mobile.

When on tour collecting treasure, I sometimes work from my vehicle measuring and cleaning the stock. This saves me time so I don’t have to process when I return to headquarters. My 25 year old Toyota Estima import is just as reliable today as it was when I bought it in 2015. It’s true that “they don’t make ’em like they used to”. The seat configurations of this MPV allows me to use it as a workbench, fill the whole car with windows or accommodate children.

Incidentally the window featured in the above photo is for sale as a pair:

Pair A1460. Click here for more information.

Past adventures in the Led Mobile

Getting around London

(sv1ambo 1971 Reliant Regal Supervan III – Trotter’s car / CC BY 2.0)

Like all London based wheeler-dealers one must have an iconic form of transport. I think mine is starting to look sufficiently dated and scruffy.

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Flemish delight

Once a year I try to find time to do something related to the windows in my own house. This year I rejuvenated my front door and side window.

It was not just new paint. Look closely at the glass in the “before” photo. Three of the panes in the door and one in the side window were modern versions of flemish but I was able to have those replaced with original large flemish – it’s handy when you have your own supply! To me this was the most satisfying part of the project. Some people might refer to this glass as “deep flemish” and it can be identified by a characteristic “two finger” partial imprint.

Two fingers

As always I was meticulous with my paintwork method but preparation for glazing is important as well. I got a professional glazier to replace the glass. He spent at least an hour properly hacking/grinding out the old putty. This enables an easier fit. You might be surprised to know I’ve rarely done any of my own glazing. I like everything to be done properly which means if I start learning the associated techniques of a craft I start obsessing and spend far too long on the job – so I have stayed well clear of glazing!

I very much appreciate interesting textured glass regardless of whether it is stained – partly because I know how difficult it is to source the original in a decent cut size!

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This is what Jody did with a pair of sunbursts I sent to her in Lake Bruin, Louisiana. What I like about her photo is the “round” theme. Jody has changed the orientation from their original horizontal in situ…

Rescued from a house in Epsom, Surrey.

It never ceases to amaze me what ideas customers will come up with and is one of the reasons why I trade in this “junk”. These sunrays were very popular. You might want to look in my art deco category for more sunrays.

Here’s how I sent Jody’s pair…