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05 Oct


A Little Gem – Wall Painting Fragment at Choir House 12, College Cloisters, Hereford Cathedral

October 5, 2020 | By |

Although fragmented and faded, the remains of a wall painting within the Choir House no. 12 provide a glimpse into the past and let us imagine the splendour once hidden behind the doors of this building.

The College Cloister Building formally known as College of Vicars Choral is Grade I listed and was built between 1472-1475. The building complex initially provided logging for 27 vicars but the decreasing number in resident vicars led to remodelling of the building in the 16th and 19th century.

The Eastern Cloisters Project is kindly supported by the generosity of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The wall painting is located on the north wall of building no.12 onto a close studded timber frame construction with narrow plaster panels set between the vertical timber beams. The timber frame is believed to date from the original construction phase, but the wall painting is assumed to be mid-16th century.

The expressive floral and foliage design extends continuously onto plaster and timber elements and is executed onto a dark red background in beautiful soft hues of orange-red, cream/buff yellow, white and light blue-grey with a black outline.

Hirst Conservation were initially commissioned to undertake a condition survey of the wall painting to assist with the redevelopment project of the College Cloister Building, which was awarded the Heritage Lottery Fund. This led to further research with conservation treatments and preventive measures being implemented between February and October 2020.

Conservation treatments included surface cleaning, reduction of staining, removal of wallpaper residuals from the painted decoration, paint consolidation and securing of friable plaster.  Particularly challenging was the development of suitable cleaning methods to avoid formation of water marks. Following extensive testing this was achieved by a combination of prewetting the surface with a 1:1 solution of IDA and deionised water and the application of the cleaning reagent as a gel or poultice through the interface of a tissue layer. To secure isolated areas of delaminating plaster, nano-lime based grouts and repair mortars with reduced water content were used. Once the fabric of the wall painting was conserved, temporary securing measures were implemented to protect the wall painting fragment during construction. After completion of the building works our conservator returned to site to remove the temporary protection and inspected the painting to ensure its stability.

Following the redevelopment, no. 12 houses several offices – what a privilege to have a 16th century wall painting in your office!

To learn more about the exciting work undertaken as part of the Eastern Cloisters Project, please click here ‘Hereford Cathedral, Easter Cloisters Project Wall Painting‘.