St Leonard’s Church, Hythe
St Leonard’s Church, Hythe in conjunction with Robert George Architects
A structural glass lobby, comprising double glass doors and five fixed glass panels, creating a wind-and-weatherproof screen set just inside the main entrance combined with a pair of internal glass doors to the church itself.
St Leonard’s enjoys an imposing position overlooking the seaside town of Hythe, with distant views to the French coast. Built over 900 years ago the church is renowned for its astonishing crypt, one of only two ossuaries in England, with the largest and best preserved collection of ancient human bones and skulls in Britain.
Dating back to Norman times, the first church was built on this site c.1080 with many changes and improvements made over the centuries, including work commissioned in 1120 to make the church more in keeping with Canterbury Cathedral. The church boasts some very beautiful stained glass windows.
Reached via steep steps at the top of a hill, the entrance is particularly susceptible to the strong winds coming in directly from the English Channel and recent improvements were designed to create a wind and weather-proof glass draught lobby with external and internal glass doors.
The church welcomes many visitors and its impressive position above the town makes it the subject of many photographs, a factor accounted for with the specification of anti-reflective glass as a key element of the glass installation.
The structural glass draught screen comprises of a pair of external glass doors and five fixed glass panels to create a full height and width screen set inside the main entrance to the church, with a top head frame manufactured in mild steel. Ion Glass technical experts designed the head frame with baffles and vents to release the pressure of the wind, ensuring that the bespoke glass doors don’t blow open despite the on-shore winds.
The glass screen is manufactured in 12mm toughened safety glass fixed into a stainless steel floor channel and bolted where required with stainless steel point fixings. Stainless steel handrails are fixed across the width of the glass screens and into concealed fixings on the walls.
Both glass doors are fitted with ergonomically designed push/pull handles and open smoothly on hydraulic floor springs cut into the existing flagstones, with a hold option function and adjustable closing speed.
It was a stipulation by the Heritage Committee that anti-reflective glass should be specified for the external glass doors and over-panel to avoid reflections in photos of the church entrance.
The internal glass doors are at the top of a second set of steps inside the church, replacing the existing wooden doors which are now held permanently open. An arched glass overpanel was designed to fit over the original arch with minimal impact to the stone architecture.
Years of wear on the stone steps created different levels in the surface of the floor but detailed measurements by Ion technicians and the production of full templates prior to glass manufacture has created an excellent result that takes all the nuances of the stone into account.
The resulting glass lobby is stylish, contemporary and functional, fully protecting the church from the on-shore wind gusts that used to plague both parishioners and the church services. The new glass lobby has greatly improved the entrance without detracting from the imposing architecture of this landmark building.