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Decoration & gilding



Hirst Conservation specialises in the surveying and treatment of decorative and figurative gilded and painted surfaces found in historic buildings. The stability and survival of the decoration can be detrimentally affected by numerous factors such as deficiencies in the building envelope, 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.  A visual examination and trials to formulate an appropriate methodology for treatment, are combined with a technical inspection using UV and raking light and historic paint analysis as appropriate.

The services offered for the treatment of decorative surfaces include:

  • Condition assessment ranging from brief appraisal to full technical inspection, as appropriate;
  • Consolidation of flaking paint and gilding;
  • Removal of surface dirt and debris using dry, solvent or aqueous methods;
  • Removal of inappropriate coatings such as non-original over-paint and discoloured varnish;
  • Stabilisation and filling of cracks and losses;
  • Re-carving or re-modelling of missing elements of decoration such as bosses, ribs etc.;
  • Retouching of areas of paint loss or abrasion;
  • Reconstruction of missing decorative schemes;
  • Re-gilding using oil or water gilding techniques as appropriate.

Some of our projects include:

  • Church of the Sacred Heart, Caterham: Reconstruction of Joseph Pippett painted and gilded scheme to the Lady Chapel and Sanctuary following research and uncovering;
  • Strangers’ Dining Room, Palace of Westminster: Recreation of original Pugin stencilled scheme to the ceiling following research and trials;
  • 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.
  • All Saints’ Church, Barton-upon-Irwell: Condition survey and extensive conservation of the original polychrome and gilded plaster ceiling;
  • Ely Cathedral: Conservation of painted nave ceiling and conservation of Prior Crawden’s Chapel;
  • St Pancras Chambers, London: Reconstruction of original decorative stencilling, cleaning of stonework, gilding, consultancy and surveys of Gilbert Scott’s Grade 1 listed masterpiece.