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20th March 2014, 3:19pm
Conservators begin work at historic site of King Charles I arrest
Students work at Southwell Minster A team of student conservators from the University of Lincoln, UK, has been commissioned to restore a historic ceiling in the Archbishop of York’s former Palace at Southwell Minster, the famous setting for the capture of King Charles I more than 350 years ago.

The State Chamber in the Palace’s Great Hall was where the monarch spent his initial moments of captivity after being arrested by the Scottish army in 1646, prior to his trial and subsequent execution in London.

The Hall’s stairwell boasts an ornate Victorian polychrome ceiling, but this has suffered significant water damage and deterioration over recent years. An intensive four-week programme of restoration will now take place to stabilise the elaborate decoration.

The work will be undertaken by a team of staff and students from the University of Lincoln and its renowned conservation consultancy division, Crick Smith.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Paul Croft, Research Fellow at the University of Lincoln and Crick Smith, the team will repair the decorated wall plate which runs around the border of the ceiling, the ‘ribs’ which act as decorative beams and the individual panel beds on which intricate stencil designs are painted.

They will also carry out dry cleaning techniques, reinstate the decorative paintwork and recreate and attach the decorative estoilles (gilded stars), which ornament the ceiling. The estoilles will be produced using state-of-the-art 3D laser scanning and printing technology housed within the University’s School of Art and Design.

Paul said: “This student-centred project will provide the team with an invaluable opportunity to work on a site of real English heritage. It is a research-active project and the findings that our students have uncovered to date could prove to be extremely important in informing the history of the Minster and its architecture.”

Research conducted by the Lincoln students suggests that the current ceiling designs may have been created by George Frederick Bodley, a well-known Victorian architect and a close contemporary of the famous English artist, William Morris. Recent examinations have uncovered references to Bodley’s designs in historical accounts describing other areas of the Minster, and the team’s research also points to a number of similarities with Bodley’s work in the Church of St Martin, Womersley, on which Crick Smith was commissioned to carry out a condition assessment in November 2013.  

Paul added: “We suspect that the current ceiling design was instated by Bodley back in the late 19th century, when he was renowned for the restoration of a number of churches. If our suspicions are correct, this would certainly raise the profile of the architecture even further, as Bodley is recognised as one of the greatest design influences in the Church of England of that period, and indeed one of Britain’s greatest architects.”

Alongside Paul, the team working at Southwell Minster include Lead Site Conservator and Lincoln graduate Debs Russell, ‘Science Without Borders’ Brazilian exchange student Suelen Hamm and four postgraduate Conservation students from the University of Lincoln.

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