Conservation of Lydiard House Church Model
Just behind the Lydiard house in Swindon, you will find the small parish church of St. Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze, which dates back to the 12th century. In the 1840s a model of the church was commissioned perfectly depicting the architecture, interior and grounds.
In the 1970s a large amount of restoration was carried out on the model, predominately on the graveyard area, removing a lot of original details.
Having been in storage for a long time, the model came to the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) to have conservation treatment undertaken before going back on display. Large cracks had appeared in the base of the model and some of the 1970s additions had deteriorated badly. Some of the architectural details were also missing with a general layer of dust on the surface.
The main challenges carrying out treatment on this object were:
Mix of different materials used: This included the plaster base, wood structure of the building, painted interior features and paper and card railings and details.
Ethical considerations: The client was keen to remove the 1970s trees that had badly deteriorated in the graveyard area and replace missing wood features on the building. Generally in conservation, we try to preserve as much historical information on an object as we can. We justified the removal of the trees as these were not original to the 1840s model and were so badly deteriorated they were unsalvageable. The addition of the wooden components was to improve the aesthetic appearance of the model and detailed records will help distinguish between what is old and new.
Condition: The model was very delicate so extreme patience and dexterity would be needed.
Image: Cleaning of the Church Model using a soft brush and Museum vacuum
Conservation treatment began in earnest with removal of the 1970s trees and infilling of the cracks and holes that were present in the base. All surfaces were cleaned and missing architectural features were made from Balsa wood, toned in with acrylic paints. The biggest challenge was repairing the damaged paper railing around the crypt. It is believed this is the last remaining part of original 1840s railing so was very important to repair and support them.
Advice was gained from CMAS’ paper conservator Sophie Coles before proceeding, and Japanese tissue toned with acrylic paints was produced to fill areas of loss and support fragile creases and joins. A number of adhesives were looked into to find a suitable option that was strong enough to support the paper, and that were clear, matt in appearance and reversible. Wheat Starch paste was chosen as it is used regularly in paper conservation with the desired properties.
Image: St Mary’s Church Model After Conservation treatment
With the object completed we all look forward to seeing it back on display at Lydiard where a custom case will help protect it for future generations.
Kayleigh Spring, Object Conservator