Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
This website is under development

Decoration & gilding



Decorative Surfaces

Hirst Conservation specialises in the surveying and treatment of decorative and figurative gilded and painted surfaces found, for example, in historic homes and churches.

The stability and survival of the paint layer and substrate can be detrimentally affected by numerous factors such as deficiencies in the building envelope (leading to water ingress, the formation of salts, and cracking), the presence of inappropriate non-original materials, fluctuations in the environment, pollution, vandalism, accidental abrasion or even an inherent flaw in the original techniques used by the artist.

Approach to conservation treatment:

A visual examination of the decorative surface, as well as trials to formulate an appropriate methodology for treatment, are combined with a technical inspection using UV and raking light. Historic paint research may sometimes be necessary.

The services offered for the treatment of decorative surfaces include:

  • Consolidation of flaking paint
  • Removal of surface dirt and debris using dry, solvent or aqueous methods
  • Removal of inappropriate coatings such as over-paint and discoloured varnish
  • Stabilisation and filling of cracks and losses in the substrate
  • Filling of losses in the paint/ground layer
  • Re-carving or re-modelling of missing elements of decoration such as bosses, ribs etc.
  • Retouching of areas of paint loss or abrasion
  • The application of isolating and final varnishes


Hirst Conservation specialises in the conservation of oil and water gilded surfaces on objects ranging from frames and furniture to historic decorative interiors and architectural features.

The services offered for the treatment of gilded objects include:

  • Assessment of condition and examination to determine type of gilding and causal factors of deterioration
  • Surface cleaning
  • Consolidation of areas of flaking
  • Filling and preparation of substrate (gesso or plaster), including the application of bole or appropriately-coloured base coat
  • Removal of bronze paint and inappropriate layers
  • Re-gilding, where appropriate, using silver or gold leaf (22 carat or higher and colour matched to surviving), applied either as loose or transfer leaf
  • Oil or water gilding techniques, used as appropriate
  • Complementary techniques such as burnishing, stamping and scraffito
  • Distressing and/or toning down of new gold to match existing

Some of our projects include:

  • St George’s Chapel, Windsor – Oliver King and Urswick Chantries. Conservation of panel paintings on timber of royal personages and wallpaintings. Restoration of painted sundial.
  • Uppark House, West Sussex (National Trust) – Redecoration & conservation of the Saloon & Dining Room following extensive fire damage.
  • Keble College Great Hall, Oxford – Conservation of the 19th century painted ceiling by William Butterfield.
  • Ely Cathedral – Conservation of painted nave ceiling. Conservation of Prior Crawden’s chapel.
  • Clifton Hall, Nottingham – Conservation of painted timber panelling.
  • Knebworth House, Hertforshire – Conservation of painted ceiling and plastered decoration to State Drawing Room.
  • All Saints Church, Leek – Conservation of 19th century painted chancel.
  • St Alban’s Church, Macclesfield – Condition survey, investigation, research and conservation of the 19th century interior polychrome.