In 1992 I completed a post graduate diploma in the conservation of architectural stonework, Bournemouth University. My first position as a conservator was at Salisbury Cathedral. I worked as part of the conservation team for 12 months on the spire and tower restoration programme with Nick Durnham as consultant conservator. My work involved cleaning stonework, carrying out assessments and recording the condition of the stonework, mortar repairs, replacing cement pointing with lime mortar pointing and shelter coating.
Following my return to Wales, I worked as an assistant to Michael Eastham, sculpture conservator on a number of projects, perhaps the most prestigious being the restoration of medieval monuments in St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny for 5 years. In my time with Michael Eastham I also worked on monuments in Sheffield Cathedral, various churches, 2 C18th period plaster ceilings in Ditchley House Oxfordshire and sculpture in the workshop from private collections and museums such as Reading and Shrewsbury museums.
I have built up a wealth of experience in the field of sculpture conservation, working on limestone, sandstone, marble, alabaster, coadestone and plaster. Following a detailed assessment of an object’s condition and its setting, advice on a recommended course of action can be given. If cleaning is to be carried out, trials as to the best method to be used are undertaken; the guiding principle being one of caution. The stabilisation of material and added decoration may be required, which I have experience in. I am experienced in different cleaning techniques such as steam cleaning, micro air abrasion and poultices. I underwent training at Liverpool Conservation Centre in the use of a laser cleaning system. I am experienced in carrying out repairs using the most appropriate materials whilst at all times adhering to the ethics of conservation.
Dr. David Lewis : C16th : Limestone : St. Marys Priory, Abergavenny : After preliminary cleaning trials, it was decided the most appropriate cleaning method for this monument would be laser cleaning. The laser cleaning system was developed by the Liverpool Conservation Centre by a team headed by John Larson. Laser cleaning is an extremely controllable and precise method of cleaning; removing unsightly and damaging layers from the sculpture whilst preserving patina, fine surface detail and important surface coatings.
A Hastings Lady : C14th : Limestone : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : This small effigy has been carved from a fine grained limestone, with much attention to detail. The most effective and suitable cleaning method for this effigy was steam cleaning. The surface was cleaned in a careful and controlled manner, without allowing too much moisture to stay on the surface of the stone. The effigy once cleaned was repositioned on a base which was rebuilt incorporating original limestone panels on the south side and new limestone, plain panels, on the north.
Detail of panel, tomb chest : C15th : Alabaster : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : Many of the panels forming the tomb chest had been damaged and in order to make up the larger areas of missing material, Sue Nelson, mason and sculptor was commissioned to carve new pieces from English alabaster. These were fixed to the original material using stainless steel dowels, set in polyester embedding resin. By fixing the new material in this way, the panels were given additional strength and support. The gap between the original material and the new alabaster was built up using acrylic resin and ground alabaster powder. Once the repair had set, it was lightly abraded until level with adjacent surfaces and toned to match the original and new alabaster using acrylic paint.
Gladys, wife of Sir William Ap Thomas : C15th : Alabaster : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : This tomb effigy and that of her husband, Sir William Ap Thomas retain a remarkable amount of original polychromy. Up until the beginning of the eighteenth century, alabaster monuments were usually painted. Before any cleaning was undertaken, careful examination of the obvious polychromy and the traces of polychromy was carried out ; paint layers were tested for stability and any flaking areas consolidated with a solution of Paraloid B72 in acetone. Once the polychromy was stabilised, cleaning and repairs were carried out. As alabaster is water soluble, the cleaning methods used need to be appropriate. Alabaster is a fine-grained form of gypsum. The purest form of alabaster is white and translucent. However traces of iron oxide produce veins and patches of browns and reds, giving it its characteristic appearance. Because the material the material was soft and easy to carve and found in large quantities beneath the soil of the English Midlands, medieval sculptors worked this mineral resource extensively from the late C14th until the Reformation in the 1530s.
William de Hastings : C14th : Limestone : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : Set in a window recess, the figure lies upon a plain limestone base. As with all the monuments conserved during the 1990s conservation programme, this monument was dismantled in order to put in a lead damp proof membrane between the effigy and the wall. The dismantling of this monument led to a fortunate discovery ; a section of moulding from the tomb chest of Lawrence de Hastings was found amongst the rubble in the base. We were able to incorporate it during the rebuilding of the tomb chest of Lawrence de Hastings. The stonework of the window recess above William de Hastings had been limewashed a great many times and consequently all detail was obscured. However after the painstaking manual removal of this, some very fine carving was revealed, particularly on the corbels. The render on the back wall was removed as it was cracked and unstable.
William de Hastings : C14th : Limestone : Detail of the head. The most effective and suitable method for cleaning this effigy was a steam cleaner. The surface was cleaned in a careful and controlled manner. Before the effigy was repositioned in the recess and following the removal of limewash from the carved stonework above the effigy, a lime render was applied to the prepared wall. A coarse scratch coat was applied, followed by a fine aggregate, sand and lime mix which was a superb match to the stone used in this monument. These lime renders were produced by Ty Mawr Lime, Llangasty, Brecon.
Richard Herbert of Ewyas : C16th : Alabaster : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : This alabaster effigy lies within an elaborate limestone arch and there are three alabaster panels on the wall behind the effigy representing the Virgin Mary with the children of Richard Herbert either side of her. This monument has fine detail on it and traces of original polychrome are clearly visible on the effigy and panels. The lime render within the arch is painted, a deep blue to represent the sky and at intervals on the surface one can see motifs, most probably stars. This render was cleaned and conserved by a wall paintings conservator. The effigy and panels were removed from their positions in order to put in lead damp proof membranes. The limestone arch was dismantled as there were ferrous fixings which had deteriorated so compromising the safety of the structure. Each section was cleaned, polychromy consolidated and ferrous fixings removed. Suitable stainless steel fixings were incorporated as the arch was rebuilt in order to make it structurally sound. Lead damp proof membranes were also incorporated in order to protect the stone and alabaster from moisture.
Wall monument : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : White Carrara marble mounted on a black carboniferous limestone. After preliminary cleaning trials, this wall monument was cleaned in situ, using a micro air abrasion system. This required scaffolding and sheeting around the monument to contain all the material whist the cleaning was undertaken. Following cleaning the inscription was relettered using acrylic paints in the most appropriate tone. A fine layer of micro crystalline wax was then applied : this offers some protection for the surface.
Sir William Ap Thomas : C15th : St. Marys Priory, Abergavenny : Alabaster tomb effigy. Following cleaning trials, the most effective and suitable method was to use an emulsion containing white spirit, deionised water and a small quantity of non-ionic detergent. The cleaning was carried out using cotton wool swabs dampened by the solvent. Cotton wool swabs dampened in white spirit were then used over the same area, removing traces of the emulsion and any remaining dirt. In order to offer the surface protection, a fine layer of micro crystalline wax was applied.
Judge Andrew Powell and his wife : C17th : Alabaster : St Marys Priory, Abergavenny : The dramatic appearance of these two effigies has been caused by water; a leaking roof led to rainwater settling on the two figures whilst in their original position in the Herbert Chapel prior to the 1990s conservation programme. As alabaster is water soluble one can see how the two effigies were damaged by the water penetration. The tomb monument was rebuilt in the southwest corner of the Herbert Chapel. It was built on a concrete raft, and a damp proof membrane was put in place in order to isolate the effigies from the penetration of moisture. A dry core was built using thermolite blocks ( dried out completely ) and a resin mortar. New limestone plinths and mouldings were commissioned, with a fine lime render within these. Again this was from Ty Mawr Lime, Llangasty, Brecon. Remaining fragments of the original tomb and a lettered panel were incorporated within the base.