Mount Stewart, which is cared for by the National Trust, is one of Ireland’s most treasured tourist attractions. This precious house has recently undergone a major three-year restoration project – during this time the Central Hall was used to house the collection. With this programme of works complete, restoration of the Central Hall floor could commence. The National Trust appointed Cliveden Conservation (Main Contractor) to carry out this specialist conservation project.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Cliveden Conservation had previously contributed to the three-year restoration project carrying out repairs to stone and plasterwork. In 2014, the conservation team had also carried out initial investigations of the Central Hall floor with subsequent trials in 2016. The main objective was to restore the original sandstone floor which had been covered with black and white linoleum, over a levelling layer of thick bitumen. This was carried out during the 1960’ to resolve the maintenance issues.
It was discovered that the original underlying sandstone ‘appeared’ to be in a reasonable condition below the bitumen, which was brittle and could be cleaved cleanly from the stone. However, residue and staining from the adhesive existed. Conservators carried out the painstaking task of cutting away the overlying materials. Fine sharp chisels and hand tools were used to minimise the impact on the original underlying sandstone – Scrabo a fine-grained local stone also used for the construction of the house.
With all the bitumen and tiles removed conservators could then clean the surface. In order to retain the character of the floor Cliveden Conservation aimed not to ‘over-restore’ the surface but employed localised abrasion with hand pads and small water fed orbital sanders.
As Scrabo stone is no longer available sandstone from the Scottish borders was sourced by the project team and used to replace the irreparably damaged stones. Wherever possible stones with minor damage were ‘mortar repaired’ and loose stones re-bedded. In addition to the works being undertaken by Cliveden Conservation, specialist fine joinery repairs together with conservation of the decorated woodwork were carried out by a team of specialists.
Cliveden Conservation has helped return the Central Hall back to its former glory by revealing the original sandstone floor which dates to the creation of this area of the house in the 1840s. This outstanding conservation work has been ‘commended’ by the Heritage Angel Awards Northern Ireland 2018 and the Natural Stone Awards 2018 in the Repair and Restoration Interiors award category.
Mount Stewart National Trust
Principal Conservation Contractor:
Advisory and material analysis | Stonework
Awards & recognition
Stone Federation Natural Stone Awards 2018
Mount Stewart House: Commended (Repair and Restoration Interiors)
Heritage Angel Awards Northern Ireland 2018
Mount Stewart House: Commended
What we did
“The Judges were impressed with the scrupulously undertaken, detailed and highly sensitive conservation work which has produced a highly accomplished result.”
Natural Stone Awards 2018 Souvenir Programme.