Conservation projects

across the palaces

Arms and armour

Project focus: We carried out a programme of treatment conservation for the 2,845 pieces of arms and armour currently on display in the King’s Guard Chamber at Hampton Court Palace. The display includes muskets, pistols, bayonets and sword blades in trophies, pikes, drums and bandoliers arrayed in impressive repeat patterns high on the walls of the chamber. At junctures there are wood carved centrepieces by Grinling Gibbons. A specialist arms and armour metals conservator and a collections assistant put inventory tags on each item before removing them from the wall. The work plan proceeded around the King’s Guard Chamber panel by panel. Each panel contains anywhere from 350 to 500 pieces of armour. The pieces were removed from the King’s Guard Chamber to the conservation laboratory. Here they were photographed; condition-audited and underwent conservation treatment. The basic treatment was to remove old surface coatings and rust. A new coating was then added to protect the pieces from environmental changes.

Chapel Royal

Project focus: We carried out repairs to the historic timber structure supporting the Royal Pew balcony. The principal structural timbers supporting the Royal Pew are a significant survival of the King’s and Queen’s Holy Day Closets constructed by Cardinal Wolsey (1514-1528) and substantially re-modelled by Henry VIII in 1535-6. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Tudor Royal Pew was extensively altered and refurbished for James I, William III and Mary II, and later for Queen Anne to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren and Grinling Gibbons, leaving the Chapel much as it appears today. Due to extensive alterations, past insect infestation, decay of timbers in masonry walls and unacceptable live loading of the balcony structure, there was structural movement in the underlying timber structure. Repairing the principal structure, using a combination of traditional timber repairs and contemporary interventions, included the installation of new steel supports hidden behind the panelling.

Visit Hampton Court Palace
The Chapel Royal.  Detail showing a carved and gilded console bracket with cherubs' heads.
ASK the conservator logo for use with CCC-CM explaining activity programme

Ask the conservators

Look for our conservators around the palaces wearing this ‘Ask the Conservators’ badge. They’ll be happy to tell you about what they’re doing to conserve the palaces’ collections and to answer your questions.

Banqueting House

We have started an exciting new project at the Banqueting House, Whitehall. Originally built by Inigo Jones in 1619-22, we will over the next few years, restore the building to its former glory. Banqueting House is the only surviving part of the magnificent Whitehall Palace which was destroyed by fire in 1698, when a careless maidservant dried clothes on a charcoal brazier. The Portland stone facades have been gently cleaned to remove accumulated dirt and pollution. The lead work on the roof and the rainwater disposal pipework also needed attention. We inspected and conserved the wrought iron 17th century weather vane that James II used to watch to see if the wind was fair for William of Orange’s sea journey to British shores. A carefully chosen team of architects and structural engineers specified the work required to restore the building to its former glory using conservation contractors with masonry, leadwork, glazing, joinery, and painting and decorating skills. Museum of London Archaeology service are also part of the team of specialists involved in the project. We worked behind vast sheeting which showed the building façade with a glimpse of Sir Peter Paul Rubens's magnificent ceiling glimpsed from the street. It will be interesting to see if we can find evidence of Inigo Jones's primary building; as much of what you can see now was re-facing stonework carried out by John Soane in the early 19th century. Sometimes, tiny scraps of paint or render, hidden away in high inaccessible nooks and crannies can tell us lots about previous colour treatments. Even mortar analysis can help date areas of masonry. We've often found coins, shoes or other talismans for good luck that help date the work too.

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Banqueting House

Project diary

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Palace upkeep is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors to help us.

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Chapel Royal

Project profile

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Visit Hampton Court Palace

Project focus: A mirror salvaged from the 1986 Hampton Court fire was examined, surface cleaned and re-packed to stabilise its condition. This mirror is described as a ‘pier glass’ and prior to the fire, it was located in the Small Oak Room at Hampton Court Palace, now known as the King’s Private Drawing Room. After the fire, the glass was repaired, re-silvered and copied where necessary, and then it was put into storage in its constituent parts. An inspection in 2005 raised concerns about corrosion and it was decided that a specialist conservator would be called in to examine the mirror and re-pack it until it could be displayed again.

Visit Kew Palace

Project focus: We have been conserving this 18th century Doll’s House and its contents. This 1780s doll’s house is believed to have been made for the daughters of George III who may have played with it at Kew Palace, where it now resides. Conservators repaired structural elements of the house, surface cleaned it and reattached some of the wallpaper and paint finishes. At the same time, our textile conservators carried out conservation of the contents including beds, dolls and chairs.

Visit Kew Palace

Project focus: This incredible, historic chest was conserved by furniture and textile conservators. This medicine chest was acquired by curators at Historic Royal Palaces to display at Kew as a reminder of the basic medical treatments available in the 18th century. Conservators had to be careful when examining the substances inside the case, particularly those labelled ‘poison’ and ‘tincture of rhubarb’, the latter of which can cause vomiting
when it has been standing for long periods. The chest itself was conserved by the Furniture Department at West Dean College and then textile conservators at Hampton Court surface cleaned the green velvet lining.