One of the finest surviving Robert Adam ceilings and an important English carpet can be found in the neo-classical Saloon at Saltram House. The 46-foot-long Axminster carpet was created by Robert Adam to mirror his design for the ceiling: together they form an impressive duo and are a significant part of the estate’s history. However, over time both the ceiling and carpet had become fragile due to wear and tear and required urgent conservation treatment.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Cliveden Conservation were commissioned to undertake the conservation of the ceiling. Works included cleaning all the painted decoration, fixing any lifting paint, securing loose finish coat plaster and the ornamental plaster decoration.
Cliveden Conservation had already carried out inspections and a condition survey of the ceiling. Therefore, the schedule of works incorporated materials and methodologies established during these trials. These were reviewed and further trials took place before deciding on the best cleaning method. In this instance a dry clean with Rubgum erasers followed by a wet clean using deionised water and sponge erasers proved to be an effective solution.
Areas of decoration which had become detached along with loose finish coat plaster were carefully re-fixed. Stainless steel wire armatures were used to re-secure some of the smaller areas of the ornamental plasterwork.
During work, boards were lifted to give access to almost all of the back of the ceiling so it could be cleaned and the condition of the supporting lathwork tested. Although the surface of the laths generally appeared sound, the timber was found to be undermined by Deathwatch Beetle attack.
It was decided to use the hanger system to support the plaster. Where the plaster could not be secured from above, the team countersunk face fixings into the plaster from below, securing them to the superstructure above.
Throughout the project visitors were able to see the conservation works being carried out. All the plasterwork has been cleaned and repaired, the ceiling is as vibrant as when it was first created.
Saltram House National Trust
Principal Conservation Contractor:
Cliveden Conservation (Plaster Section)
Advisory and material analysis | Plaster
“To restore one of the finest surviving Robert Adam Ceilings and arguably the most important English carpet in the National Trust’s care to their former glory has been great to share with our visitors over the past year. Its thanks to the Wolfson Foundation’s generosity and funding from our supporters that we have been able to do this essential conservation work and help to save the Saloon and this expert craftsmanship for future generations.”
Jez McDermott, General Manager at Saltram
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