The St Mary Magdalene development combines a restored Grade 1 Listed heritage jewel with a modern purpose-built Living Heritage Centre – London’s newest community and cultural venue. St Mary Magdalene Church and the Paddington Development Trust joint initiative, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, included conservation as an integral part of the project. This involved the cleaning and repair of both decorative and architectural features, internal and external.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Cliveden Conservation were appointed as specialist conservation subcontractor by the principal contractor, Lengard Ltd, to carry out the restoration and specialist cleaning of the internal and external decoration of the church. The architectural features, designed by the acclaimed English architect G.E Street in the 1860s-70s and executed by some of the leading ecclesiastical artists of that time, are of hugely important historic value.
The project required Cliveden Conservation to work in collaboration with all parties involved with the development including Caroe Architecture Ltd and Dow Jones Architects. A large team was also essential to carry out internal and external work at the same time, whilst also training and managing groups of volunteers, a key aspect of community involvement in the Project.
Cliveden Conservation were involved with the initial cleaning trials and methodology which informed the works. The conservators cleaned and restored the large painted timber nave ceiling which features marouflage images of 72 saints, and the frescoed brick and plaster chancel ceiling with images of Christ in majesty with saints and angels.
This was achieved using various conservation techniques to carefully remove the dirt and discoloured varnish to reveal the full splendour of the remarkable ceilings. The chancel ceiling was so badly obscured that unknown colour schemes came to light as a result of conservation cleaning.
The conservation team also cleaned and repointed the walls and vaults of the undercroft as part of its transformation into a performance area. Multiple layers of old paint were removed, exposing the architecturally impressive brick structure and historic cement finish of the vaulting.
External brick and stonework were cleaned and restored. Stone indents and a scheme of repointing and brick replacements was carefully considered and undertaken. External sculpture was conserved and restored. Cliveden Conservation also worked with Lincolnshire Stained Glass to restore and clean the ornate stained-glass windows designed by Henry Holiday.
Through excellent project management Cliveden Conservation were able to complete each task within a tight programme whilst working alongside other trades in a busy site environment. The team also contributed to the community focus by teaching the volunteers practical conservation skills. The exceptional level of conservation and restoration of St Mary Magdalene church has been since been recognised by the Ecclesiastical Architects and the Surveyors Association and the National Churches Trust in the award of the 2018 King of Prussia Gold Medal. Cliveden Conservation accompanied Caroe Architecture to the awards where they received the Gold Medal from Prince Nicholas von Preussen.
St Mary Magdalene Church and the Paddington Development Trust
Conservation Sub Contractor:
Advisory and material analysis | Decorative arts | Stonework
“This was a major piece of work, and such was the commitment from the Cliveden team that it felt like they pretty much lived in the church, all through the winter months. What is remarkable is the range of what was achieved, and how every complicated problem was solved with a beautiful result.”
Toby Gale, Paddington Development Trust
“The conservation project had various issues to overcome which were dealt with quickly and professionally by all involved. It was a pleasure to work alongside Caroe Architecture and Cliveden Conservation from inception to completion.”
David Benson, Contract Manager, Lengard Ltd