WORK is underway to restore some of the finest medieval stained glass in England, one fragment showing a kneeling knight in full armour.

The restoration work at the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury at Birtsmorton, near Malvern has begun in earnest as experts battle to save the rare and precious glass from the lichens attacking it and restore it to its former glory.

In June 2015 church leaders launched an urgent appeal to raise £27,000 to restore and conserve the glass, eager to preserve it for posterity.

Money for the work was raised through donations and grants, both from parishioners and people from some distance away who had heard about the plight of the glass and wanted to do what they could to help the campaign.

The 14th and 15th century fragments, which show St Christopher and a medieval knight in full armour kneeling in prayer, have been damaged by acid secretions from lichens which have colonised the glass over the centuries. The glass is linked to the International Style, examples of which survive in Malvern Priory, Oxford and Gloucester.

Rev Anthea Elston said: "Birtsmorton Church held its first ever Heritage Open Day on Sunday (September 16), to celebrate the start of work to restore its medieval stained glass fragments.

"Jack Clare of Holy Well Glass, the company who will be doing the work, was there to give a talk on the process and to answer questions from visitors.

"He began work by scaling a ladder to take a rubbing of one of the quatrefoils then cut clear glass, which will form the secondary glazing, to fit it."

Meanwhile, the local history society, the BCH Archive, mounted an exhibition focused on the history of the church.

Church warden Rosemarie Bolton baked cakes for visitors, assisted by treasurer Shirley Williams.

Visitors were a mixture of local people, historians, architects and stained glass enthusiasts, coming from as far afield as Hayes in Middlesex.

Rev Anthea Elston, who has been heading up the project to restore the glass said: "Its fantastic to have Jack here and see work start in earnest to restore the glass. We are all so looking forward to seeing it cleaned up and restored to its former glory."

As previously reported, some of the work will be done on site and some of it will involve the removal of some of the glass to be taken back to Holy Well Glass workshop in Bath to be conserved there.

The widow of a prominent Worcestershire lawyer, Richard Ruyhale, was believed to have donated the glass.

The lawyer served Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and held the Manor of Birtsmorton until he died in 1408.

Before his death it seems he fell out of favour with the Crown, possibly due to his association with Despenser who rebelled against Henry IV.