Stained-glass windows from a now-demolished Ardrossan church have been restored and displayed in the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre.

A phone call from a local man, Andrew Russell, concerning stained-glass windows his ancestor donated to St John’s Church - that he believed were in the heritage centre - uncovered the impressive artworks.

The windows from the church, which was demolished in 1999, depict the saint in shades of blue, red, and yellow and were created by prolific Scottish artist Robert Anning Bell.

Andrew said: “I first became involved in this project seven years ago when one of my relatives gave me Joeseph Russell’s bible – and his bible was a wedding present from Glass Renfrew.

“The memorial window was actually a gift from Joeseph Russell to St John’s church in Ardrossan – he was my great great grandfather.

“It was designed by Robert Anning Bell – he was at the peak of his career when he created this. He was a professor of design at the Glasgow School of Art at that point as well.

“Joeseph Russell was a shipbuilder, and he had his career in Renfrew around about 1850.

“He went on to have his first shipyard in his own right in Ardrossan.”

Joeseph was originally from London but moved to Ardrossan to work – spending most of his working life in the area and settling there after retirement.

With the windows made in the late 1800s, the art had suffered due to aging and damage leading to the need for restoration work performed by South Ayrshire-based stained glass expert Susan Bradbury.

Susan said: “There were quite a few holes from stone throwers and it’s always controversial – if you have a medieval window or a special window for some special historic reason you save every scrap and if you’ve got half a face, you don’t make a new face, you put a piece of blank glass next to the face.

“But we wanted to make the window look good so we have tended more towards restoration than conservation so there are several new pieces of glass in that window that we made a couple of years ago.

“We saved all the original [glass] but we made more using the original techniques in our workshop in Kilmore.”

While Susan and her team’s choice to restore rather than conserve the work, all of the original scraps of glass have been saved and stored in case better restoration techniques become available.

Additionally, the original glass can be used to determine chemical makeup which can then be used to determine where the glass was made – which Susan believes could be in Sunderland or Belgium.

Staff from the heritage centre were delighted to have the important pieces of history showcased in their building, but also to have helped in the process from the beginning.

A spokesperson said: “The windows had been in the collection since the 80s and there was nobody left here who was working there at that point, so we hadn’t seen them.

“When I was researching our records about it I found a letter from the 1980s which mentioned a stained glass expert.

“I spoke to Susan and she remembered the windows and asked if we could send them over to her.

“This is a real success for us.”

Robert Anning Bell also designed the war memorial for St John’s Church which is on display in the Kirkgate in Irvine.