Lakenheath
Wall Paintings Project

The actual conservation of the wall paintings will be undertaken by experienced conservation specialists, Perry Lithgow Partnership. The company, based in Oxfordshire, was established in 1983 and have undertaken work for a large number of organisations including English Heritage and the National Trust.

 

The condition of the wall paintings

 

There are at least 5 different decorative layers, dating from the 13th to the 17th centuries.  Previous interventions have partly-exposed areas of each scheme, creating a visually confusing appearance.  These earlier treatments have caused significant damage to all the different periods of painting, principally in weakening the adhesion of the various layers, which has lead to extensive losses and increased fragility of the remaining decoration.  There are now numerous unstable areas that require treatment to avoid further losses.  In addition, the lower sections of painting are easily accessible and therefore vulnerable to accidental mechanical abrasion.

 

The main factors to be treated are as follows:

 

 The discolouration and damage associated with the application of a wax-based coating applied to the figure of Christ on the east wall, intended as a preservative measure in the 1950’s.

 Powdering pigment and delamination/detachment of the various paint layers.

 Deterioration and loss of the plaster support.

 Inappropriate previous repairs.

 Surface accumulations of dirt and dust, insect debris and bat droppings.

Paint loss and staining caused by historic water infiltration.

 

Conservation treatments will consist of:

 

 Removal of surface accretions using soft brushes, scalpels and dry cleaning methods.  More ingrained dirt and staining may require the use of non-aggressive solvents applied on small swabs.

 The reduction/removal of the discoloured coating on the figure of Christ, using appropriate solvents.

 Re-attachment of detaching paint layers and consolidation of unstable pigments.

 Re-adhesion of deteriorated plaster substrate by injecting with a lime-based grout.

 Removal and replacement of inappropriate repairs and infilling of plaster losses using lime/sand mortars.

 Reintegration of visually distracting losses and new repairs, using suitably-coloured limewashes.  There will be no restoration of missing areas as this can only be considered conjectural and would compromise the historical integrity of the wall paintings.

Treatment documentation.  A vital part of any conservation project is the recording of all aspects of any treatment interventions.  A photographic record will be made before, during and after the work and will be included in the final Conservation Record supplied to the PCC.

 

The on-site conservation work is expected to take 5 weeks to complete.

RIGHT: A raking light image of one of the figures from the Carrying of the Cross scene. The ‘delamination’ of the layers is clearly visible. If urgent conservation work is not undertaken this face will simply fall away from the wall—and be lost forever.

© Tobit Curteis Associates