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Yorkshire churches' artworks benefit from an expert touch

Based in Harrogate, Everingham Conservation provides a high-quality service for the conservation and restoration of fine art and decorative surfaces. David Everingham trained at the University of Northumbria, where he gained an MA in the conservation of fine art.

David worked at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and several galleries in Britain before setting up his own studio. He currently divides his time between studio-based conservation work and freelance conservation work in historic buildings throughout Britain. He has considerable experience of large-scale conservation projects in historic buildings and churches. Two of his recent projects were carried out in churches in Yorkshire.

David was commissioned to restore a number of wall paintings at the Parish Church of St Mary at Bolton-on-Swale in North Yorkshire.

The wall paintings are attributed to Miss Florence Burnett and are thought to have been executed around 1902. They depict adoring angels and are after the renaissance masters Filippino Lippi, Matteo de Giovanni and Sandro Botticelli.

They were in very poor overall condition, with widespread loss and delamination of plaster support, extensive loss of primed and painted surface and delamination and flaking of paint layers. Moisture ingress and salt migration had led to micro-loss of paint and blanching of the painted surface. They were also covered with loose deposits such as dust and cobwebs.

A comprehensive treatment proposal included pre-consolidation of the painted surface, removal of surface dust and consolidation of delaminating mortar prior to the repair of water-damaged mortar and consolidation of painted surfaces with aqueous and solvent-based adhesives.

Surface cleaning of the painted surface could then proceed, with distilled water adjusted to the equivalent ionic concentration of the surface. Fine surface filling of paint losses was followed by the reconstruction of elements where there was sufficient existing form and finally tonal inpainting to large areas of loss to harmonise with existing form.

At the Church of All Souls in Leeds the font cover consists of four fixed and four folding wooden panels. Each has paintings by Emily Ford on the interior faces, surmounted by an elaborate, carved wooden architectural canopy with finials, tracery, flying buttresses, statues of saints and other decorative features. The canopy is widely enhanced with golf leaf.

All the surfaces and decorative elements were profoundly discoloured by over a century of accretion of dust and atmospheric pollutants.

The conservation process began with the panels being photographed and assessed for flaking and other structural instability. The flaking paint was consolidated and the loose surface dirt and dust removed from all surfaces.

In-depth testing was carried out to determine safe and effective cleaning strategies before surface dirt and loose deposits of dust were removed, as was the heavily discoloured varnish.

The gilded surfaces and timber were surface-cleaned before the gilded surfaces were re-integrated and the timber surfaces wax polished.

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