Brighton War Memorial

April 19th, 2018

The Brighton War Old Steine Memorial by John W Simpson is composed of Portland stone and bronze, and commemorates the 2,597 local men and women who fell in the First World War.

The classically styled memorial is in the form of a Roman water garden with three elements: a shallow pool and fountain, a screen of columns with a small shrine, and two bronze pylons standing at the northwest and northeast corners listing the names of the fallen. 
The domed centre piece carries the inscription:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In 2017, DBR Southern carried out a comprehensive cleaning programme of the memorial as well as masonry repairs in preparation for Armistice Day celebrations.
DBR Conservation contributed to the project by cleaning the thick greasy soiling from bronze work with warm water and non-ionic surfactant, wood tools and soft brushes. All ‘weep’ holes were cleared to allow drainage, and the final treatment was the application and buffing of microcrystalline wax.

In contrast with the rich ornamentation of the National Gallery’s main building, the Sainsbury Wing is noted for its austere, limpid, light-drenched rooms.

It is dressed with pietra serena, a grey sandstone local to Florence, which clearly links it to one of the main architectural inspirations for the Wing: the Tuscan church interiors of Filippo Brunelleschi. Unfortunately, the pietra serena elements is extremely porous and appears not to have been properly sealed, and now each pilaster sufferings from greasy dark marks, most likely caused by the public and security staff touching or leaning up against the stone.


DBR Conservation is currently performing a series of cleaning trials with different detergents and poultices to draw out the greasy soiling and discolouration. The success of these trials will inform the cleaning treatments and sealing of the stone in a comprehensive programme when the galleries are next closed this year.


The Wardrobe

April 7th, 2018

The Grade I listed ‘Wardrobe’ was once part of Richmond Palace, demolished by the order of Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

The building is one of only a handful of surviving structures connected to the Palace, and as its name suggests it was where the Royals stored their fine jewellery and dresses. It was refurbished during the reign of Queen Anne, by an architect thought to be Sir Christopher Wren. The building was subsequently divided into three apartments of historic interest, one of them recently purchased by a new owner who embarked upon a sensitive programme of repair.


DBR Conservation worked with the architects and new owners in this process. Conservators took several paint samples from the Tudor timber and panelling for analysis of historic paint and treatments. It was discovered that the timbers were painted black 2 times at some point in the twentieth century, the first coat with alkyd paints, and the second was laid over a dark grey undercoat containing some titanium dioxide white, a pigment first widely used for house paints after the Second World War.  This information allowed for the conservators to safely remove the thick black coatings to reveal the original surface of the oak.

Original early 16th century brickwork bedding mortar samples were also taken for chemical and microscopic analysis to find the composition of the original binders and aggregates, such as yellow quartz, fine angular flint particles, brown clay/silt and charcoal kiln-fuel particles. This information was used for suitable like-for-like mortar matches in structural repairs to the Wardrobe’s parapet.

Victorian Tiles

April 7th, 2018

From the mid 1800s, geometric and encaustic tiled floors started to appear in public buildings, churches and the more expensive Victorian residences.

Their popularity was assured by their use in such prestigious buildings as the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as their remarkable practicality, and by the 1890s they were an essential feature in the most ordinary terraced houses.


In the autumn of 2017, DBR Conservation inspected the damaged Victorian tiles within a private front hall in northeast London, which were dulled by inappropriate cleaning products as well loosened from their bedding mortar. In addition, some tiles were missing, chipped or cracked.

The treatments included: taking moulds of missing tiles and making resin replacements colour matched to the originals with in stone dusts and pigments, recording and lifting all loose tiles and re-bedding with a lime mortar of NHL, Portland stone dust, washed sand, Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA), cleaning tiles with warm water and non-ionic surfactant to remove surface grim, and ‘touching-in’ any small areas of loss with a colour matched palette of  potassium silicate paints. Finally the rich patina of the tiles was partially returned to the dulled surface with difference combinations of microcrystalline, carnauba and bee waxes.


Greenwich Palace

February 9th, 2018

In the summer of 2017, there was a remarkable find at the Old Royal Naval College. During the ground preparation for the new visitor centre– the construction team unexpectedly discovered the remains of two rooms of Greenwich Palace, or The Palace of Placentia – the birthplace of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. 

Today nothing of the once magnificent Greenwich Palace, which was at the very heart of Tudor cultural life and intrigue, survives above ground. It fell into disrepair during the civil war years and was eventually replaced by the buildings that today make up the Old Royal Naval College.


DBR Conservation is currently working with Historic England and Greenwich Foundation to stabilise the two rooms. Due to their position away from the river, they were most like service areas but they do contain interesting features: a floor of lead-glazed Flemish tiles, and a series of unusual niches that archaeologists believe may be ‘bee boles’ for the keeping of hive baskets, or ‘skeps’. The conservation work includes the removal of all loose friable materials, cleaning and protection of the decorative tiles, re-setting of loose stones, re-pointing of friable mortar in the brickwork, consolidation of the remaining delicate plaster, some minor excavation, and the introduction of invisible supports to the unusual “floating” partition wall in the arches.

The Calvary

February 9th, 2018

The “Calvary, Golgotha” was a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus was crucified, and is a term now used to describe sculptured representations of the event, usually erected in open air.

While more popular in continental Europe, and there is a marvellous example of a ‘calvary’ carved of Sussex oak and sandstone at the parish church of Saint Augustine in the village of Saynes Hill. It is dedicated to sixteen local men who died in World War I.


In 2016, DBR Conservation was asked to investigate monument’s condition after severe storms and high winds had loosened its fittings to the base, and the heavy cross began to lean forward. Funds were granted by the Memorials Grant Scheme and a programme of conservation was designed which included completely dismantling the upper section of the monument from the base, designing a new securing system, removing all decayed wood, and replacing it with new oak, and consolidating the remaining with epoxy resins introduced with appropriate concentrations. Additional work included:

  • Installing a new lead roof
  • Removing all rusty metal where possible and replacing with stainless steel
  • Cleaning all lichen and moss
  • Treated wood with microcrystalline wax
  • Steam cleaning the stone base
  • Removing all cement repairs and replacing with lime mortars


Room 32 of the National Gallery, or the north room of the ‘Barry block,’ was part of a once sumptuously decorated suite of rooms opened at the National Gallery in 1876.

An oil painting of the room from that time by Giuseppe Gabrielli depicts how the gallery’s walls were deep red, and the plasterwork richly gilded and elaborately stencilled. Today, it displays large-scale Italian Baroque paintings within a plainer space – all of the original decorative work has been painted over in white.


In May 2017, DBR Conservation took approximately 180 paint samples from the architectural elements to find evidence of earlier decorative schemes. The samples were examined under low magnification and the fragments were mounted in polyester resin to be viewed as cross sections at high magnification. Material from the key layers was dispersed on glass slides, and the pigments were identified using a polarising light microscope.  Lead tests were carried out on representative sections.

DBR Conservation is currently working with the National Gallery to interpret the results of this paint investigation to create a variety of redecoration proposals.

The Charnel House

February 9th, 2018

The Charnel House is a fourteenth century stone building, and part of the Scheduled Monument of The Priory of St Mary Spital.

It survived the Suppression of the Monasteries in 1538-9 by becoming a domestic house but was demolished around 1700. Much of the fallen stone was deposited within the structure, along with a great deal of rubble from the Great Fire. This rapid infilling and complete burial secured its survival, as the Charnel House

has not been modified, bombed or badly restored, like so many other medieval buildings in London. It is a remarkably authentic medieval ruin.

It was discovered and excavated in 1999 and has since been preserved in a dedicated space within a Norman Foster designed sunken courtyard in Bishops Square. Although it is protected from the outside elements, there are substantial RH fluctuations inside its enclosure, and consequently there has been some deterioration over the last decade, primarily to the pointing and the softer stone.


In September of 2017, DBR Conservation carried out the conservation treatments recommended by Odgers Conservation Ltd. During the programme, allowance was made for public and private tours for interested parties such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and Historic England.

In summary, the work consisted of the removal of all loose friable materials, re-setting of loose stones, which were a mix of Reigate and Kentish Ragstone, decorative flint and later brick additions, re-pointing of friable mortar, grouting and consolidation of friable stone and plasterwork with nanolime, and the introduction of supports to precarious stone structures. One exciting discovery during the consolidation works was decorative polychromy on the Romanesque spolia: a scheme of four distinct colours black, white, dark red, and a light pink.


The Covent Garden ‘Group,’ an ensemble of delicate sculptures featuring the goddess Flora, is by the famous sculptor, R.W. Sievier who lived between 1794 and 1865.

It was erected in about 1830 as part of Charles Fowler’s design for the square’s Market Building, and was placed on the east pediment of the central range, above the Opera Terrace and overlooking the Royal Opera House. The Group is made of Coade stone, a fired clay which appears like carved stone, invented by a Mr Coade in 1769 and produced in a factory in north Lambeth.


In early 2017, DBR Conservation was responsible to the conservation of Sievier’s Coade stone sculptures, which were accessible due to ongoing extensive building works. The project included cleaning accumulated pollution and dirt from the fired surface with stiff brushes, and the removal of biological growth with a combination of steam and biocides.  The open fractures and the failing repairs were replaced and filled with matching lime mortars. Loose and detached elements, such as the goddess’ arm raising a halo of flowers, was doweled with carbon fibre rods and fixed in place with resin. The final treatment was to protect the surface with a shelter coat that brought out the lovely pinkish hue of the Coade stone.

The LookOut, Hyde Park

May 31st, 2017

Hidden in a copse of trees in Hyde Park, The LookOut was built over an old Victorian reservoir, and is now a tranquil haven in the heart of London.

During the day, the wooden terraces, sculptures, and ecological ponds are used as an Environmental Education Centre for urban city children to discover the natural world, and by night The LookOut becomes a magical secluded pop-up venue – an oasis in the heart of busy London.


In the spring of 2017, DBR Conservation was called in to investigate the state of The LookOut’s decorative cladding, which was marred by patches of deterioration and mould. After looking at a variety of solutions, the final recommendation was the complete removal of the lower bay of panels, and the installation of new boards of the highest quality birch plywood, which were discretely installed with birch plugs.

The artwork on the original panels was copied and faithfully transferred onto the new panels, and then matched with loose brush strokes using a variety of earth pigments such as raw umber, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. Once the painting cured, the wood was treated with over 10 coats of marine grade exterior varnishes with UV protection.

We are delighted with the results – huge thanks to you and the team for completing the works to such a high standard. It was a pleasure working with you all.”

–  Claire Ashfield from the Royal Parks Foundation