Andrew Seddon’s working life is devoted to brightening the lives of others, so you might think he lives in a house that’s a riot of colour.

You’d be wrong. He runs one of the north’s most successful stained glass businesses, yet his home has just one example of this ancient art. But, as you’d expect, it is a special one.

Andrew’s twin daughters, Katie and Beth, secretly created a stained glass door panel for their mum, Corina, as a reminder of all their happy family holidays in Cornwall. When the sunlight hits the glass, a glorious west country seascape is reflected on the wall of the family’s home in Bolton.

Andrew with restored glass at St Mary's Church, CrosbyAndrew with restored glass at St Mary's Church, Crosby (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

Like many examples of stained glass, it’s designed to raise the spirits, and it does the job admirably.

Andrew, now a softly-spoken 60-year-old, left school when he was 16 and gained an apprenticeship with British Aerospace at Lostock Hall. He would have risen through the engineering ranks and might now be looking forward to a comfortable retirement. ‘The trouble was, I felt like a very small cog in a very big wheel,’ he said.

He started making stained glass as a hobby and then saw it as a new career path. ‘I was always constructing things. I could plan and draw and I was quite good at art,’ he said. ‘I also enjoyed visiting historic buildings, mainly to look at the ornate glass. So, I took an evening class to learn more.’

Katie soldering glass from St John Fisher, KearsleyKatie soldering glass from St John Fisher, Kearsley (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

A motorbike accident resulted in broken bones and everything was put on hold but he was still determined to go it alone. ‘I was really just starting my career with British Aerospace and, at 25, I’d qualified as a chartered engineer. It was a very big decision to leave it all behind. I had a good salary, I’d just got married and we were buying a house.’

Fortunately, his wife Corina, a full-time teacher, supported his plans so he took his chance. ‘I didn’t earn much for quite a long time and Corina was pregnant… then we had the twins and, in the end, we had four children in four years. That took some managing.’

Frantically juggling childcare duties meant Andrew and Corina rarely saw each other. While they managed to cope with those challenges, a major downturn in the economy was beyond their control, and he was forced to close his business and part company with half a dozen staff. ‘We had been doing a lot of church restoration jobs but even those dried up,’ he said.

Benj re-leading and restoringBenj re-leading and restoring (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

He regrouped to a studio at his home. ‘I slowly rebuilt the business by which time the children were grown up enough to start working for us,’ he said. Based in a modern studio in Bolton for the last seven years, The Leaded Stained Glass Company wins awards for the quality of its work, and plaudits from satisfied customers.

Its reputation has resulted in some unusual jobs such as the creation of a substantial stained glass window for a new Harry Potter store in New York and a contract with the National Trust to restore and preserve the stained glass windows at John Lennon’s modest childhood home in Liverpool.

‘For the Harry Potter job, we just managed to get the glass before Covid struck so that became a family lockdown project,’ he said.

Andrew at John Lennon's childhood homeAndrew at John Lennon's childhood home (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

‘The John Lennon house was bought by Yoko Ono and given to the National Trust who restored it to what it was like when some great music was being written there. We were needed because rain was penetrating the stained glass and we had to make it water-tight,’ said Andrew.

Particularly satisfying was a strikingly colourful window designed by Beth and made by Katie for the Chorley children’s hospice, Derian House. They wanted something that would be contemplative but also uplifting.

The strength of their reputation has also resulted in commissions such as a church restoration in the far away Shetlands – that involved some stomach-churning rough water crossings – and a rather less arduous project to gradually restore the glass in 20 apartments in an art deco block in London.

Details of the Derian House windowDetails of the Derian House window (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

While they specialise in delicate restoration of ancient church glass as well as working for newly-built schools, such as Newman College in Oldham, they also restore and create stained glass on a domestic scale.

‘We restore, encapsulate and seal stained-glass in people’s homes because many recognise that keeping those original features can be a real selling point,’ said Andrew. ‘We also work with people who want us to create new features such as the lady whose home was attached to a windmill. She asked for us to incorporate that into some glass.’

Katie, Beth and Andrew with a feature made for Bury Grammar SchoolKatie, Beth and Andrew with a feature made for Bury Grammar School (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)

As well as twins Katie Briars and Beth Cann, the business also employs several other family members including nephew Benj Jenkins, son Adam and eldest son Jack’s wife, Tamsin. Wife Corina is also very hands-on doing the book-keeping among many other things.

Andrew speaks with pride when he discusses windows created at Newman College. ‘The head teacher said it really lifts the building from what is basically a box into a work of art.’

It is obvious Andrew has no regrets about following his dream. ‘I wanted to do something that would give me more satisfaction and bring some personal joy,’ he said. It’s also given joy to many others.

Tamsin with an abstract designTamsin with an abstract design (Image: Courtesy of The Leaded Stained Glass Company)