Congratulations to the conservation team on the Europa Nostra Award. The paint research was only a very modest element of this project, but enabled us to connect the social history of the tower to the physical archaeology.
Historic metalwork poses many difficult issues for conservation professionals. The treatment required for the long term preservation of the substrate often appears at odds with the preservation of the paint archaeology. In addition, the choice of materials to protect and decorate historic metalwork, whether it retains earlier coatings or not, is difficult and fraught with the risk of failure and further deterioration of the metal substrate.
This complex and difficult subject will be the focus of this year’s Traditional Paint Forum conference. Using the prism of transport and industrial heritage, a range of specialist will consider the analysis, use of colour, ethics and choice of materials and techniques.
During December and January, we were busy working with the National Trust to assess and record the decorative history of the door joinery of the Gothic Folly at the Wimpole Estate. The aim of the assessment was to establish how the external joinery of the main tower had been painted from its construction in 1772 to the present day.
The work was challenging; not only was the site bitterly cold, but the main door is missing, and paint research revealed that the lower door has been stripped of early finishes.
Through assessment of archival documentation and technical assessment of the paints, we were able to establish 13 decorative schemes on the main door frame. The paints were very degraded, but careful analysis of pigments, cross section assessment of the paint samples and painstaking uncovering tests, layer by layer, allowed us to chart all of the remaining schemes.
You can read more about the results on the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate blog here.
2014 was a very busy year, with many interesting and diverse projects. Here’s a quick review:
Heritage Cottage, Glamorgan
‘Heritage Cottage’, Cwmdare, is a typical 19th century miner’s cottage of the south Wales valleys. The cottage, which was built c.1854, was purchased by Cadw in 2012, and is a rare surviving example of an unmodernised terraced house. The cottage is to be used to identify cost-effective, energy-efficient measures that can be undertaken to promote sustainability and retain essential character of traditional buildings.
KMPR undertook architectural paint research, recording and paint consultancy to the interiors and exterior of Heritage Cottage. Architectural paint research focused not only on the physical decorative history of the cottage, but also contributed to the understanding of the social history of the 19th century miner’s home. Reporting included recommendations for conservation and restoration, as well as a review of environmental credentials of paint systems and implications for use in traditional buildings. Find out more about this complex project here http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/about/partnershipsandprojects/projectsfundedcadw/Heritage-Cottage/?lang=en
Audley End House, Essex
We have been on site throughout the year at this magnificent Jacobean Mansion. Our work for English Heritage has included analysis of coatings applied to external masonry in order to information conservation treatments, and pigment analysis and colour matching for decorative wallpapers from the interiors.
The Malt Cross, Nottingham
The Malt Cross, Nottingham, is one of the few surviving music halls in the UK. The gluelam roof of the Malt Cross makes this a unique building among music halls.
A detailed programme of research revealed that the interiors of the music hall were originally painted to resemble marble. This technique, which requires the finish to be built up over a series of washes and glazes, was applied extensively throughout the building. We worked with the client to devise an appropriate scheme of redecoration, inspired by the paint research findings, for this working live music venue and community hub. Find out more about this amazing building here http://heritage.maltcross.com/timeline
Tamworth Assembly Rooms
Tamworth Assembly Room was built by public subscription in the 19th century, and remains a key venue within the town of Tamworth today.
KMPR undertook architectural paint research to Assembly Rooms to inform a restoration/ redecoration strategy. Research included:
- Archive research
- Cross section analysis of samples to provide a detailed insight into the decorative history of the site
- In situ layering tests to reveal 19th century decoration
- Photographic and diagrammatic (to scale) Recording of historic decoration
Detailed assessment and recording of accumulated layers of paint allows us to interpret changing use of colour and materials, enhancing our understanding of how our architectural heritage looked, how it was used and how shifting fashions, ownership and financial means contributed to the narrative of a site. Our choice in decoration, like those of our ancestors, tells a great deal about function, taste, personality, fashion, social standing and wealth.
Architectural paint research involves meticulous analysis of archival documentation, building pathology and paint archaeology to create a detailed history of more than just colour.
The scope of a research project is dictated by the project requirements, but generally includes:
Archive information can provide significant insight to the paint researcher and should not be overlooked; understanding the development of the site can reduce the time required in understanding the paint archaeology, and allows a more thorough and detailed interpretation of the decorative history.
Samples are generally taken from each profile element of the architecture. The reason for this is to establish the presence of any picking out to various elements. If the schemes are to be accurately investigated, understood, recorded and recreated then this is essential.
It requires experience and skill to identify the best locations for samples. The samples are collected and recorded.
Samples are embedded in clear casting resin and polished to provide a cross-section through the paint strata. The samples are assessed under visible-range and UV light illumination.
The paint archaeology is plotted in a matrix to illustrate the chronology of decoration. The resulting table provides an easily accessible reference and is a useful project tool.
Knowledge of pigment types can play an important role in dating paint schemes. For example, the presence of white pigments lead carbonate, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide allow paint films to be considered within certain periods of time.
Understanding the type of paint binder is also important, especially where failure or incompatibility issues may arise.
In situ recording and investigation, referred to as uncovering or layering tests, will involve the photographic recording of extant finishes, as well as careful removal of overpaint, scheme by scheme, to allow colour matching to be undertaken.
The concluding documentation should consider the significance of the paint schemes and appropriate treatment options.
Historic paint films are often discoloured through deterioration of the pigments and binder, as well as through environmental factors and historic cleaning regimes. Therefore, colour matching is based not only on site evidence but also on the understanding of the materials gained during the investigation.
Benefits of undertaking a considered and well planned campaign of architectural paint research include:
- By providing clarity at the beginning of a project, architectural paint research can allow planning and budgeting of conservation and restoration work
- Identification of technical issues with paint, such as latent incompatibility, performance and toxicity
- Contribution to long-term conservation management plan
- Underpinning options for conservation/ restoration
Enriching the interpretation of your site
- Enhancement of the recorded archaeology of a site
- Establishment of the chronology of decorative schemes
- Creation of a narrative of changes to the structure and related decorative schemes
- Evaluation of how changing fashion, economy and use of a heritage asset has impacted on the choice, quality and condition of decoration
- Interpretation of the significance of the schemes identified
- Dating of both paint schemes and architectural changes