Older Conferences

Past conferences of the Traditional Paint Forum from 2012-1995

2012: Mixing for the Masses: Paint from an Art to a Science
Freemasons’ Hall, London

2011: Pigmented Perceptions: Historic Colours in Practice
Strawberry Hill, Richmond

2009: From ‘Gilding the lily’ to ‘Any Old Iron’
Geffrye Museum, London

2008: ‘Soane; Colour and Light’
Sir John Soane Museum, London

2007: ‘Setting the Scene’
Normansfield Theatre, Teddington

2005: ‘Ten Years On: What Lessons have we learnt and What have we achieved’
The Brompton Oratory and Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2004: ‘Influences of the Oriental’
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

2002: ‘Faking It’; The History, Techniques, Conservation & Recreation of Graining and Marbling
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

2001: ‘Coming out in their true colours’ 19th Century Polychrome Decoration
The BP Lecture Theatre, The British Museum, London

2001: Inspired by the Past; John Fowler’s Approach to Decoration and Restoration in a Changing World
London Scientific Studies Lecture Theatre, London

1999: Kelmarsh Hall 1926-1954; The Presentation of Historic Houses before and after the Second World War
Kelmarsh Hall, Northampton

1998: ‘Paint in the Jazz Age’ Tradition and Change in the Early 20th Century
Eltham Palace, Eltham, London

1997: ‘The Redecoration of Adam Interiors’
Syon House, London

1996: ‘The Victorian Dwelling’
The Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, University of York, York

1995: ‘What is Traditional Paint ?’ An Examination of the History and Development of House Paints
The Georgian Group, London


2012: Mixing for the Masses: Paint from an Art to a Science

Freemasons’ Hall, London

The subject for the 2012 Traditional Paint Forum Conference: “MIXING FOR THE MASSES: PAINT FROM AN ART TO A SCIENCE 1850 – 1950” inspired a diverse collection of talks from a range of different professionals including paint consultants, architects, curators, conservators and artists. The beautiful and imposing building of the Freemason’s Grand Lodge, Queen Street provided the setting for the Conference on Friday 28th October 2012.
I applied for the Free Student position to gain more knowledge in areas directly related to my interests such as the manufacture of paints, the modern history of colour and how conservators have solved problems that dealt with colour and paint. I also wanted to learn more about areas that I have not previously considered, such as wallpaper, interior décor and masonic architecture.
The TPF Chair, Cathy Littlejohn, opened the meeting by addressing why a forum focused on traditional paint was hosting a series of lectures on paint in the 20th century. Cathy highlighted how much manufacturing techniques and fashions evolved in such a small period of time due to the revolution of technology, the beginning of mass production in different industries and the two World Wars. She provided a brief overview of the Freemason’s Hall and went on to introduce each speaker with their professional achievements. The speeches overlapped wonderfully and the other delegates and I received a rounded view of the topics of the day.
Patrick Baty began the talks with the development of colour standardisation in modern Britain. This was an excellent topic to begin the day, as it introduced Britain’s pioneering role in technology in this era and the effects of the World Wars on the evolution of interior decorating, which were both inevitable features in many of the other presentations. Patrick delivered a straightforward talk on a subject that seemed difficult to research and compile. While he highlighted how great the efforts were to standardise colours, one is left with the impression that the amount of colour charts and standards available has left the issue more bewildering than ever.
Colin Mitchell-Rose and Barbara Diethelm’s speeches contrasted pleasantly as both speakers referred to their own paint manufacturing companies’ involvement in the history of their respective paints. However, while the former concentrated on how the manufacture of household paints developed over the last two centuries, the latter gave the shorter history of the production of artist’s acrylic paints and how they can be used.
Colin is the fifth generation of his family to join the company, “Craig and Rose”, founded in 1829 and it was fascinating to see how it has progressed from using hand operated machinery and archaic materials, to mass producing colours, including a range, “1829”, which is inspired by historic colours. Colin’s speech raised queries about how conservators could recreate the colours and textures of paints produced in the 1800s with paints produced today, as many of the pigments, binders and manufacturing methods used before are now unavailable, unsuitable, dangerous to use or possibly detrimental to the original material.
In her perspective on the evolution of artist’s paint in the twentieth century, Barbara Diethelm described how Lascaux, founded by her father Alois in 1963, developed the acrylic paint company in an effort to meet the needs of artists who were unsatisfied with the paints available to them. She delivered a useful introduction to acrylic paint, from the development of acrylic materials in the 1930s to the drying process and advantages of it being water based. As a student of conservation, it was interesting to see that Lascaux’s paints are not exclusively used by artists but have also been used in conservation projects, including the retouching of a weathered sculpture by Picasso, “Tête de Femme”. Barbara provided inspiring examples of how both colours and acrylic paints can be used imaginatively in a variety of situations and in the case of the latter, a surprising range of climates.
Allyson McDermott described how the Victorian wall paper consumer had an unbelievably wide range of techniques and effects to choose from. She recounted a variety of conservation situations, including the innovative fabric wallpaper in Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house and how she had to recreate the meticulous detail of the mould-damaged Frieze of Quadrant 3, Regent Palace Hotel, by hand. She concluded with a thought provoking prediction for the next trends in wallpaper conservation, foreseeing revivals for 1960s psychedelia and wallpaper from the digital age.
Alexandra Goddard’s insight into wallpapers conveyed how the Victorian love affair with designs of elaborate, realistic portrayals of nature was disrupted by a large scale moral protest that vilified the designs as vulgar and dishonest and instead called for simple, schematic designs. Alexandra’s speech conveyed other examples of how interior décor can provide a fascinating record of changes in the history of a society, such as the decline in popularity of oak panelling when wood became subject to tax and the move towards simpler household decoration in the early twentieth century when people could no longer afford servants.
Tanvir Hasan and Rosalind Robinson both produced detailed examples into how they resolved two very different complicated, large scale conservation problems. In the restoration of The Regent’s Palace Hotel to its 1930’s decoration, Tanvir had to balance a variety of considerations: her team had to pay painstaking attention to details of the original design, while maintaining eco-friendly ambitions and taking into account the needs of the building’s new owners. The restoration team aspired to as close a replication of the original as possible, while achieving environmentally conscious ambitions by introducing new features such as double glazing and avoiding materials such as the endangered exotic woods that were originally used. It seemed unfortunate but humorous that the owners compromised the original design as the proposed green ceiling in the Titanic Restaurant resulted in an unappetizing reflection in customers’ steaks.
Rosalind Robinson faced several different dilemmas when she recreated an enormous false proscenium and scenery at Normansfield. These included the issue that the owners did not want the original to be removed yet it had to be recreated precisely. Also there was the scale of the project, which she solved by working in a large but poorly insulated barn, a considerable distance from the theatre. It was fascinating to see how Rosalind managed to reproduce the design so well, relying solely on colour studies, photographs, grids and memory. She achieved a balance between recreating the original style, colours, proportions and deterioration of the design authentically while giving it a vibrancy that would have been familiar to the Victorian audience.
We ended the lectures with a talk on the history of Masonic architecture by Mark Dennis, Curator of the Freemason’s hall, followed by a tour of the Freemason’s Hall Museum and library. Mark highlighted how many Masonic rooms were designed specifically for Masonic rituals the importance of the choice of colours and symbols used. It seemed interesting that the room that we were in could be converted to suit various needs of conferences to fashion shows, premieres and film settings despite being designed for the very specific requirements of the Free Masons.
I felt privileged to attend the 2012 Traditional Paint Forum Conference. The theme “MIXING FOR THE MASSES: PAINT FROM AN ART TO A SCIENCE 1850 – 1950” inspired papers that complimented one another, while covering different aspects of the evolution of paint and decorating in this epoch. The audience was provided with a sense of how rapidly art and design changed in this era and how conservators and restorers are responding to it today. Several delegates spoke favourably about the increase of students at this year’s meeting and the other students who attended and I were grateful for the warm reception we received. Also from a student’s perspective- particularly in an era where students are constantly reminded of how arduous a mission it will be to find a job after University- it was exciting and inspiring to hear from such a diverse array of passionate and hardworking professionals. As Colin Mitchell-Rose phrased it, one “gets swept up in their enthusiasm” and this atmosphere combined with the topic of how rapidly manufacturing and creative skills developed over the past two centuries left me excited to be a part of the future of the conservation of paint and to see what the next century holds for the technology and fashions of paint, wall paper and conservation.

Written by Grace Osbourne

Strawberry hill

2011: Pigmented Perceptions: Historic Colours in Practice

Strawberry Hill, Richmond

Following the papers the delegates took tea and were thensplit into three groups for the demonstrations and tour. Our group’s demos and tour, went something like this. I cannot speak for the other groups. We began with the traditional lighting and paint. It had always been realised, by your committee, that this would, of necessity, be an extremely limited experiment but we thought it worth a try. We were given a delightful underground room which we could darken – not completely as the little illuminated running man indicating Exit out-shone all but a forest of lighted candles! – which was used for school visits and contained all manner of costumes, china and looking glasses.

Hare and Humphreys had prepared a selection of panels with traditional whites ranging from a simple distemper through to an enamel and some
painted with various whites mixed with ultramarine. Also there were some modern whites. We also had a selection of traditionally dyed fabrics as these dyes had featured heavily in the given papers. The fabrics ranged from woven patterned silk, silk and wool, and plain taffeta to embroider silk.

When the room was first darkened it was difficult to make anything out much (except for the light-up man) but quite soon our eyes began to clear and the whole room became easily visible with just two tallow candles. Our colours registered reasonably well, no great differences were perceivable. The most noticeable thing was the greasy smell of the tallow and the coils of black smoke given off. A room lighted by tallow would soon become dingy and unsavoury. Not a great difference using the bees-wax candles except less smoke and virtually no smell – thankfully! It was understood that the only way of increasing the amount of light was to burn more candles but even the few we were using soon heated up the room. At no point was there an effective difference in our colour perception of the paint samples but the fabrics, because of their texture and lustre, absorbed and reflected very differently than when seen in daylight. In particular a very pale yellow and grey shot silk reacted well to both candle and lamp light. An essential difference, well understood in the past, between painted and dyed materials. Not so clear today with our increased light levels.

The oil lamps gave out a much more intense light which could be increased or dimmed by the twist of the wick ratchet. There was again a scent, this time of paraffin and a soft blueish smoke haze. At this stage it was, surprisingly, bright enough to read fairly easily. Either because the oil-lamp-light was so much more powerful or because our eyes had become accustomed to the lower light levels of candle and oil-lamp flames.

We then went on to early electric light and a truly dazzling display given by Ray Tye. With the modern energy saving bulbs there was an immediate reaction from the group to the paint samples! The modern whites literally glowed.

As usual there was no time to play and we were hastened on to our next demonstration. This was given by Philip Seymour and Rebecca Wallace-Jones who were placed in another grotto looked over by a rather severe white marble female carved in bas relief. Here were tables heaped with a tempting display of dry pigments, paint samples, tubes of artists’ colour and gorgeous pattern books. The range of colours, although naturally limited to the earths available, was mouth-watering. From rich red and yellow ochres to pale creams and delicate pinks; cloudy blues, lavenders and greys. The pinks and lavenders had no cloying qualities but were remarkably fresh and clear. The demonstration of transforming a lump of dry yellow clay into a usable paint as we watched was fascinating. One of our party was put in charge of turning the handle of what looked suspiciously like a meat mincer to begin the process of reducing the formless clay lump into a powder which Philip and Rebecca then sifted and ground with oil. This of necessity was a small demonstration but their photographs showed the process at industrial levels with people working in previously abandoned workshops. By resurrecting the manufacture of both household and artists’ paint Philip and Rebeccas’ plan is to bring neglected and abandoned communities back into work and a restored pride. None of us dared to touch the beautiful pattern books displaying the finished paints which were works of art. Once again we had no time to spare and were hastily herded onto the next stage of our tour. We were all loath to leave but have been promised the opportunity to visit Yorkshire and see the whole of this inspiring enterprise.

Next we were assembled on the lawns of Strawberry Hill to begin our tour of the house proper. For me there has always been an almost insurmountable barrier regarding the exterior of Strawberry Hill: St Mary’s University College. Horace Walpole’s villa is light-hearted, gay (in every sense), witty and welcoming, not so the cuckoo-in-the-nest college cemented to its west end. Walpole’s Gothic is totally decorative, a theatrical construction, the college, although equally decorative, is serious Victorian stuff. Solid, brooding stone, it prevents the eighteenth century building from breathing and denies it prominence.
Our group, Group C, was fortunate to have Stephen Gee of the architects Inskip and Jenkins with it. He began by displaying the samples of paints matched to those found during research in the house. There were well over a hundred samples! Mostly variants of white, grey and stone-colour with the occasional blue. The exterior of the house is very white! This is a surprise at first but is due partly to next-door’s heavy stone-work and to an expectation that Gothic castles will be grey. Johann Muntz’s painting shows a very white fairy-tale castle without the customary ivy, sited serenely on a verdant green lawn gently shadowed by feathery trees. Mouldings are simply planted on and the whole building coated with rough-cast which has then all been painted over to hide the joins. Stephen pointed out the intricate replaced pinnacles decorating the roof which were also of painted wood. We then walked round to the entrance front green and horse-shoe drive. Across the busy A309, once a dusty track, is the cottage where Walpole is believed to have sought refuge from the visitors coming to marvel at his eccentric villa. The imagination has to work hard but it is possible to imagine approaching visitors glimpsing the castle gleaming white through trees and being totally amazed while the owner, unknown to them, looked on. The white lime-wash has dried unevenly on the various substrates which, at first, is rather noticeable but in time, and with weathering, this will mellow. We are so used to the flatness of modern coatings.
The true tour of this extraordinary house began when we stepped out of the sunlight, through the Gothic porch and into the first of Walpole’s shadowy fantasies – a miniature cloister complete with miniature oratory! Engravings show feathery Gothic-type ivy and creepers here, the main body of the house appears always to have been clean, it is probably not possible but to be hoped that they – and the cloister’s Chinese bowl of gold-fish – will be replaced. Already our eyes were becoming accustomed to gloom (Walpole coined a new word ‘gloomth’ to describe this quality of light) but the whole party grew silent once we’d passed into the actual darkness of the hall. Walpole cuts as extraordinary a figure in his portraits as his house, he wears shadowy grey-brown and it is easy, standing in the hall, to picture his “long” figure emerging from the dusk to greet his friends “…knees bent and feet on tip toe as if afraid of a wet floor” as they stumbled into the darkness. Before proceeding our guide instructed us not to lick the paint-work – and in an aside to one of our more illustrious members – or to touch. There is only space for the barest sketch of the house’s interior. I’ve simply skipped most of the best rooms. This house is rich in many things and although, sadly, almost unfurnished requires time and many visits.

The staircase rises dramatically out of the gloom into amber-coloured light shed by a sky-light of yellow glass. Walpole, like Sir John Soane who holds much in common with him, evidently loved this mysterious golden light – for us sadly redolent of the motor-way. At this time the walls of the stairwell are still partly painted with a sixties pink scheme but there is enough of the original, intricate pale stone-grey Gothic trompe l’oeil tracery still in place to act as a guide for its complete reinstatement. As well as the amber-coloured light glimpses of other coloured windows, or windows bordered with coloured glass, are caught as one moves through the building. As there is, thankfully!, little additional artificial lighting it is possible to feel the full power of these vivid colours glimmering out of the dark passages and empty rooms. Always impressive are the ingenious ways Walpole devised to exploit and control the light not only with coloured glass but by employing sliding screens or shutters. Some of these shutters slide almost imperceptibly into the thickness of a wall, or can be raised or lowered. Our group was lucky to have Stephen Gee with us who not only understood how the shutters worked but was able and allowed to operate them. The coloured and painted glass has been restored wherever possible, valuable painted antique glass is held away from the new window glass almost invisibly to allow air to pass behind it and to protect it from the elements. Either side of the heavy entrance door modern glass replaces the missing painted glass to preserve the rich gloom. The hunt is on for missing pieces.

After the Great Parlour we were whisked up the staircase with its Armoury niches to The Library. Originally these niches were furnished with swords and lances and a whole suit of armour, which Walpole believed to have belonged to Francis 1, and must have looked extremely spooky in the half-light. Mysteriously hinged tracery doors open in the library (which smells deliciously of linseed oil) to give access to the book shelves while in the Blue Room several layers of shutters slide into the specially constructed walls of the bay window. The Blue Room was the first coloured room we saw and came as a surprise after a series of cool stone-greys. A very dark passage-way, known by Walpole as ‘the dusky corridor” also painted grey with a simple but effective raised design lighted by more yellow glass leads to the state or reception rooms, private rooms and The Gallery. These are the rooms, now sadly unfurnished, where Walpole displayed his fabulous collections. Some of these rooms were public, some for his personal use and for a few privileged friends only. There is more colour in these rooms but still the predominant stone greys. One room is a misty oriental blue -almost green – there are further inventive shutters and coloured glass. Many of these rooms are of curious proportions and shapes. The Tribune is a square with four semicircular recesses which rise as a dome finishing in a star of amber glass which sends a really strange golden light across the gilded Gothic mouldings of the dome. Newly restored shutters can be lifted out of the window sills. The Round Drawing Room is hung with vivid crimson Norwich (woollen) damask and has a chimney-piece designed by Adam inspired by the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey but “much improved” by him.
The Great North Bedchamber is also hung with crimson Norwich damask. A modern panel reveals a section of the former exterior, since built over, with a trompe l’oeil Gothic window. This hints that the paint effects of the outside were at one time as theatrical as those inside. The sun was just setting while we were admiring this room and Stephen drew our attention to the light gleaming through the original painted and coloured glass and playing on the deep crimson of the walls in wonderful bands of ripply light. This is the most meagre description of these remarkable rooms and a visit by anyone interested in traditional paint is an essential.

Our tour ended in The Gallery where we’d spent most of our day. Work is still in progress here as it is in much of the house. Small fluttering piles of gold leaf in the corners of the niches. Muttering darkly of ‘health and safety’ and mercurial silvering Stephen told us that the mirror glass of these recesses was all re-used looking glass intricately cut in the eighteenth century to fit the gilt Gothic mouldings. Again there are window shutters which can be raised from the sills and proved to be very efficient when the gallery was darkened for presentations. The windows had been altered for Lady Waldegrave in the nineteenth century but are now restored as they were in Walpole’s time. Many of the Victorian alterations made no sense to us but obviously had used enormous labour to accomplish,(why reverse the contrast of gilt to stone to stone to gilt?). A sad chalked note recording the names the Victorian workmen who had rehung the damask says ‘Weather very cold, no fires allowed’. The over- elaborate parquet floor also dates from this time, totally unlike the toy theatre papier mâché vaults which dance overhead. In this house it is possible to see the transition and contrast from the playful, witty Gothic of the eighteenth century to that of the serious, ecclesiastical nineteenth century and – now – back again.

For those of us who could recall the rooms (smelling faintly of boiled cabbage and fish) when they were still part of the catholic college divided into pokey offices and hung about with dismal fluorescent tubes, it is comforting to see the sensitivity and seriousness with which Horace Walpole’s unique vision is being reborn. He had not expected the villa to survive him more than ten years, his fabulous collections were indeed dispersed, but his flimsy, little more than paste-board castle miraculously still survives.

Through the windows of The Gallery and the Blue Bedroom inviting vistas of newly planted trees and shell seats had beckoned and now our group (wilting just a little) could hear the clink of glasses and the eager chatter of Paint People released into the gardens. We hurried to join them! The rest of our time at Strawberry Hill was spent convivially together on the terrace before the Cloister – alas! the AGM was put back yet again!

Written by Ralph Adron


2009: From ‘Gilding the lily’ to ‘Any Old Iron’

Geffrye Museum, London

This focus of this year’s conference was metalwork, frompainting onto different metals to creating metal effects through the use of paint. The Geffrye Museum itself had only recently had its external paintwork analysed and renewed so it was a particularly appropriate venue for this conference.

The conference was opened by Colin Mitchell-Rose and introduced by Traditional Paint Forum (TPF) President Dr Ian Bristow, who raised the issue of the EU Directive relating to lead paint. The TPF had recently collaborated on a successful study day with the SPAB on the use of lead paints and he hoped that the TPF would continue to raise awareness on the subject. A second topic of current concern was the future of the English Heritage paint sample archive, and where it might be relocated so that it would remain available for use. Dr Bristow advised that his papers from previous TPF conferences would soon be available through the ASHBE Transactions.

Beginning the first of the morning’s sessions was Geoff Wallis from Dorothea Restorations with a presentation entitled, ‘Metals in Traditional Architecture and Sculptural Applications’. This presentation began with an overview of the uses of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Iron was the main focus of the presentation – and a piece of iron ore was passed round for the audience to handle. In a scientific introduction to iron, Geoff explained how it interacts with oxygen and water, and how a paint coating helps protect the iron and prevent corrosion. Next, various options for the cleaning of ironwork were discussed, from the use of hand tools and power tools to dry abrasive cleaning and pressure washing. Whilst there would often be a preference for the retention of historic paint, this did not always make for the best substrate for modern paints. Following on from this, Geoff discussed ‘traditional coatings’, summarising the range of different paint coatings available nowadays – of which, there is no ideal option, as each one has its positive and negative points. To finish with, methods of application were assessed – whilst brushes provide the most traditional method of paint application, giving a good surface finish, another option is spraying. Sprays provide a very modern look and can maximise on the life of the paint. A question from the audience asked, ‘why is cast iron more resistant to corrosion?’ It was thought that the reason for this might be due to it’s ‘foundry skin’ and higher carbon content, however it was suggested that wrought iron would last better in the long term than steel.

The second presentation of the day, lead by Rupert Harris, considered ‘The Painting of Non-Ferrous Metals’ through a series of case studies, beginning with a clock tower project, the dome of which featured copper tiles on an iron frame, which had been painted and gilded. These required a very careful cleaning process. Yacht enamels and leaf gilding were used over an etched primer, to recreate the original bronze effect. Corrosion issues were highlighted through a case study of the figures at Osbourne House. Here copper and zinc together had lead to a pitted surface. A water-jet with spinning nozzle was used to clean down the surfaces before they were filled and the ‘bronze’ surface was recreated with modern automotive paints used in an ‘artistic’ way. A series of other case studies were highlighted including, a project at Ham House to recreate sculptures for a 17th Century ‘garden wilderness’; and the restoration of the lead lion on top of the east façade of Syon House. Rupert admitted that he had almost ceased using lead paints in his area of work, except perhaps where a project involved retouching work to interior objects. One issue of particular concern to him was polychrome lead sculpture. Painted sculptures of this kind had originally been intended to be seen set against foliage and trees, represented in colour and not in lead grey. There are now very few examples of original painted lead decoration left. This in itself highlighted the importance of keeping paint samples in order to inform future decisions.

Following on from Rupert Harris, Patrick Baty gave a presentation on ‘The Colours and Treatment of Historic Woodwork’. It appears that early ironwork tended to have been painted a ‘lead’ or ‘iron grey’ colour often using lamp black as a pigment. Later on indigo was sometimes used to create an alternative lead colour, although it is not clear how frequently this was used, particularly as the use of it began to decline after the introduction of Prussian blue. ‘Smalt’ a pigment of finely ground cobalt glass, created another fashionable but expensive blue paint. Later on, ‘Invisible Green’ was a popular choice for painted railings. However, with the introduction of chrome yellow and blending it with Prussian blue came the possibility of making brighter Brunswick greens. A ‘bronze green’ colour was used extensive throughout the 19th Century. It appears that the popular theory that ironwork was painted black following the death of Prince Albert is not based on fact. It seems more likely that as black slowed the drying of linseed oil paints badly, it was not until the introduction of the faster drying alkyd paints in the 20thcentury that it became practical to use black paints outside.

In ‘Painting the Forth Bridge – A Never Ending Job?’ Colin Mitchell-Rose outlined the history behind both the Tay Bridge and the Forth Bridge. The Tay Bridge had been built in 1878 of cast iron, but following its collapse in 1879, the design for the Forth Bridge was reconsidered. It was eventually built from 52,000 tonnes of steel and opened in 1890. Every piece of this steel needed a protective coating of paint. A paint consisting of 85% red oxide and 15% linseed oil was selected. For many years a team of painters was employed as part of the bridge maintenance team. Midway through the 20th Century, the paint for the bridge was changed to an alkyd paint and it was suggested that this may have lead to the eventual delamination of the layers of paint. In the late 1990s the owners of the bridge were forced to review the paint system. The new approach involved using three coats of a two pack epoxy blast primer, a two pack epoxy gloss flake barrier coat and a two pack acrylic urethane top coat – all of which was to be applied by spray. Unfortunately, this system required the stripping of all previous layers of paint, resulting in the loss of 120 years of coating history. This presentation highlighted the need for understanding what is being painted over.

In her presentation on the Clock and Tijou Screen at Hampton Court, Suzanne Groom began by providing an overview of the complex history of Hampton Court’s ironwork; she then described its current state and highlighted some of the issues they are currently facing. It has proved very difficult to find any historic paint remaining on the railings, although one cross-section had been found to reveal many layers of paint. Historic Royal Palaces are now currently facing the dilemma of which modern paint to use. They need one that will protect against decay, whilst also providing a finish similar to an old lead paint, whilst being low maintenance at the same time. No decisions had been made as yet.

The clock on the Gate Tower had originally been made for Henry VIII in 1540. It had undergone many decorative schemes and repairs over the years; the 1960s redecoration had used an alkyd-based paint. The dilemma with this was whether to preserve or completely strip this scheme. A lead-based oil paint was chosen, as it was hoped that it would degrade in a more sympathetic manner than a modern paint system. To finish with, Suzanne Groom referred back to the topic of painting lead sculpture. Hampton Court has a lot of early 18th Century lead statuary, and are currently facing the decision of whether to return it to polychrome or not.

Just ahead of the lunch-break, Christine Lalumia, Deputy Director of the Geffrye Museum gave a short introduction to the museum and some of the recent project-work. The Geffrye Museum depicts English interiors of the urban middle classes from 1600 to the present day. It was founded in 1914 at the heart of the East End furniture trade, to inspire better and more sophisticated work. Originally, the almshouse contained displays of furniture and woodworking, but after the trades dispersed the idea of presenting period rooms was put forward. Most recently the museum has undertaken a project to recreate the appearance of the original paintwork. Bright white paint has been replaced by a cream colour on the windows, reflecting a scheme typical of the 18th Century. The railings, previously painted black have been painted grey, whilst the doors have gone from a dark Brunswick green to a duller shade; all of which combines to make a subtle, but significant difference in appearance. Another recent project was the redecoration of one of the almshouses in an early 18thCentury scheme and another in a 19thCentury scheme. One floor of the house was painted with a putty coloured white lead and linseed oil paint, and distemper, whilst the other floor used a buff oil paint typical of the 19th Century. The rooms are lit and furnished with items from each period. A tour of these rooms was featured in the afternoon session of the conference.

In the first presentation following the lunch-break, Laura Stevens discussed ‘Sign Writing on Metal’. She reflected on her career in this subject, showing examples of sign writing that she had enjoyed over the years. The images illustrated how traditional sign writers used personality, proportion, balance and elegance which contrasted most favourably with the present rather uninspiring technology using vinyl letter cutting. This also served to highlight the problem of a loss of traditional sign writing skills. Examples of generic pub signs and temporary banners illustrated the loss of the human elements of personality, design and patience. Laura concluded her presentation with some examples of war shields from Papua New Guinea, which can be seen on display at the British Museum.

Paint Consultant, Peter Rumley led the final presentation on ‘The Conservation of Decorated Lead’. Peter also identified a growing skills shortage, this time in terms of the skill to produce and repair traditional decorative lead-work. He showed examples such as the decorative rainheads at Knole and pieces from Ightham Mote where he is Consultant Archaeologist. Peter explained the process of ‘tinning’, which was used to provide the first colour decoration in lead-work. ‘Plumbers black’ was an agent that stopped the tin from sticking to other parts of the object. Lead could also be gilded or painted – St Johns College in Oxford was shown to have perhaps the finest examples of decorative lead-work in Britain.

The next session of the conference had a more practical focus. The delegates having divided up into four smaller groups were treated to demonstrations of oil gilding with Paul Humphreys of Hare & Humphreys and Bronzing with Joy Huning and Saskia Patterson of Huning Decorators. There was also a tour of the repainted alms house projects as well as free time to look at the museum and its display of period interiors.

During the gilding session, Paul Humphreys explained that oil gilding is mostly used for architectural work, whilst water gilding tends to be used on furniture and smaller objects. He passed round examples of different grades and colours of gold leaf – the main colours used in this country tend to be medium deep, red and lemon gold, whilst in France a citron colour is more popular. ‘Dutch metal’ is an imitation gold leaf, which needs to be lacquered to stop it from tarnishing. Aluminium leaf was shown to be a popular choice for theatres, where a coloured varnish is often applied over the top. A gold leaf does not tend to need a varnish, being inert, it is unaffected by weather. A traditional application demonstration followed – where Paul used a brush to pick up a sheet of gold leaf from a cushion and lay it onto a thin layer of adhesive. The gold was then tamped down with a soft brush called a ‘gilders mop’ once it was on the surface – this also functioned to lightly burnish it.

In the bronzing session, Joy and Saskia described a project at Kenwood where they had worked on the balusters of the deal staircase. Here a linseed oil paint was made up and a scumble graze of linseed oil and aluminium hydroxide applied over the top. 176 balusters were painted at roughly 7 minutes per baluster. Three coats of the base colour was required, then the scumble glaze followed by a modern varnish for maintenance purposes. The green colour chosen for this had to match the doors and the stair runner. As Saskia described the project, Joy demonstrated the painting techniques involved on a sample board. A second bronzing project was the lions on the gateposts at Victoria Park in Bath. These had required a red lead primer, a black linseed oil paint and a pigment varnish to create the bronze effect.

Finally, the almshouse project was based in House 14, which had previously been occupied by museum staff until the mid-1990s when the opportunity to restore them came up. The modern additions were stripped out, and following paint analysis, one floor of the house was redecorated in 18thCentury paints and the other in 19th Century paints. The aim was to show what life might have been like for an elderly couple living in the house at these two points in time. The rooms were furnished in the style of 1780 and 1880 with objects from the museum collection. These three practical sessions, plus the chance to explore the period rooms of the museum, were a fantastic way to round off the 2009 TPF conference.

Written by Ingrid Chesher



2008: ‘Soane; Colour and Light’

Sir John Soane Museum, London

In April 2008 we held our very successful Conference entitled “Soane; colour and Light”. Thanks to the generous support of Tim Knox Director of the Sir John Soane Museum and his staff, we were able to use their newly refurbished building at 14 Lincolns Inn Fields as our venue. This building, adjacent to the existing Museum had only recently come back into the care of the Museum Trustees and required extensive repairs and reinstatement and was only just ready in time for our Conference; in fact there was, most appropriately, still a strong smell of paint in the building.
We had been very fortunate to attract a most impressive line-up of speakers for our day and this and the sadly limited space meant we sold out almost as fast as a Michael Jackson Concert! Indeed we could have happily filled the room three times over had space allowed and I am sorry that we could not accommodate so many of our members and supporters. However many of our speakers have kindly allowed us to reprint their papers in the next edition of Traditional Paint News so they have not lost out completely. The day ended up with a private guided tour around the Museum enabling us to see so many of the details that we had heard about during the day and was rounded off with a drink by candle light – a very special, informative and privileged day
The following morning we had arranged a trip to Pitzhanger in one of Soane’s few remaining buildings. But first we forgathered at Old St Pancras Church to pay our respects at the Soane family mausoleum. For those who have never been there I strongly recommend a quick visit. It is only five minutes walk from the newly refurbished St Pancras International Station and the mausoleum with its characteristic Soane “floating” ceiling is delightful and said to be the inspiration for Sir George Gilbert Scott’s famous red GPO telephone box. As an added bonus, also in the churchyard there is an extremely old tree whose roots have grown over and around the tombstones that were stacked around it when part of the church yard was cleared to accommodate the railway lines into the new St Pancras station. This rather grisly work was one of the first and last jobs of a young aspiring architect called Thomas Hardy, who shortly after decided his talents lay elsewhere.
We then visited St Pancras Station where Helen Hughes of English Heritage told the story behind the wonderful sky blue colour that has been used to decorate the roof. Articles by Helen about the blue and also about the Soane family mausoleum will be included in the 2009 issue of Traditional Paint News. The trip to Pitzhanger, tucked away in the depths of suburban Ealing, was very interesting and enabled us to see many of Soane’s characteristic touches at first hand. We were also able to shed some light on some of the wallpapers used in the house as they had been supplied by one of our members. A very interesting finish to our two day conference.


2007: ‘Setting the Scene’

Normansfield Theatre, Teddington

Finding the right venue for any conference can often be extremely challenging but the Normansfield Theatre proved to be an ideal location for the first day of the conference. For those of you who have never visited Normansfield Theatre, I highly recommend a visit as it as an absolute delight retaining all its original Victorian splendour. What makes it even more remarkable is that it was built by Dr. Langdon Down to encourage his patients, children and adults suffering from Down’s syndrome (at the time referred to as Mongolism), to learn music and drama as part of their education. In 1858 Dr. Downs was appointed Physician Superintendent for the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots but ten years later opened a private home, Langdon Park, for children and adults with learning difficulties; a remarkable accomplishment in a time when they would have been condemned to spend their life in an asylum. Dr. Langdon’s study of Mongolism led to a greater understanding of the condition and more sympathetic approach to its treatment. He became known internationally as the “Father of Down’s syndrome”.
The history, design and importance of Normansfield Theatre was explained by Peter Longham (a Trustee of the Langdon Down Centre Trust). As one of the few extant theatres of that date, most having been burnt down, it typifies a theatre layout which had a limited stage thus requiring theatre sets of painted flats and drop cloths to create the illusion of space and setting. Gas lamps at the front of the stage illuminated the actors while candles attached to the back of the flats provided light for the back areas of the stage. The original Victorian flats and drop cloths which were in poor condition with tears, missing sections and paint losses have been conserved by textile conservators at the Textile Conservation Centre in Winchester. During the conference, delegates had the opportunity to wander onto the stage to view the flats and drops and the array of ropes, pulleys and floor channels which enabled the sets to be changed.
To understand the development of the theatre, Dr. James Fowler traced its origins from the Greek amphitheatre cut into the hillside with its circular stage through to open theatres with surrounding wooden palisades (to keep the audience within and exclude those who could not pay) to the emergence of the Elizabethan theatre. Sets very limited and the atmosphere and setting were created by the actor’s dialogue. He also discussed the use of elaborate floats which filled medieval town squares with costumed actors often balancing precariously from the intricate framework.
Timothy Easton continued the history theme discussing the close association of theatres and pubs in the 16th and 17th centuries, one that encouraged enjoyment and drink. Pubs were constructed with a first floor viewing gallery overlooking the courtyard which served as the actors’ stage. Hunting lodges also served as theatre sites. The first and second floors had open windows and painted striped cloths hung from their sides to provide decoration. Temporary tournament stands with hanging painted cloths provided an additional venue. The development of highly decorative schemes is best exemplified by the Globe Theatre. Whilst there was no attempt to create stage settings other than as an architectural structure through which the actors could enter and exit, this area and the fronts of the tiered seating would have been decorated but little evidence survived to inform the decorative scheme. Therefore, two schemes for the Globe were considered, one having marbled balustrades and columns, panelled painted fronts and elaborate plaster coving; the other incorporating black and red painted stripes on the rear walls of the tiers, black and white lozenge and diamond shaped designs to the fronts and striped columns. Easton’s extensive research into contemporary examples from theatres in London and East Anglia provided the evidence for the selection of the latter scheme.
In Tony Banfield’s presentation, the history of scene painting was revealed. In later Greek and Roman theatres, painted panels denoting Tragedy, Comedy and Pastoral were inserted in the structure. By the mid 16th century, books on stage designs began to appear. Figures were painted onto the scenery to give a sense of perspective and by 1618 the first proscenium arch appears which separates the audience from the stage. During the Restoration period, the fore stage appears and there is further development of the use of flats and back cloths to create the illusion of space. In the 18th century, Garrick introduces two point perspective and the craft of the scene painter begins as fine art painters are unable to produce work on such a large scale. By the 1870’s a more realistic approach to set designs appears as real objects are incorporated into the set.
Hilary Vernon Smith, Head Scenic Artist at the Royal National Theatre, provided a fascinating insight into the work of the scene painter both in terms of the history of this craft and also the physical side of creating sets. One has no idea of the shear scale of the operation unless you have had a chance to see the images which accompanied her talk showing the variety of methods which enabled the painters to work their way up and down the huge back drops on either movable or static platforms. Her description of the preparation of the hot size, its smell and the burns sustained by the painter during its application created immense admiration amongst the delegates. After the 1970’s scene painters began to use acrylics and PVA emulsions and employed techniques such as spray painting. In the modern theatre a variety of paint techniques, canvases (including gauze for its transparent effect) and other supports can be used to create fantastic sets but it became readily apparent that that it is the skill and imagination of the scene painter which is the crucial ingredient.
For pure visual pleasure, the restoration of the Apollo Victoria in London presented by John Earl, John Muir and Kathy Littlejohn is unbeatable. This amazing Art Deco ciné theatre opened in 1930 and is overwhelming in terms of colour, architectural detail and extraordinary alabaster light fixtures. Prior to the recent restoration, many of these features had been removed, painted over or hidden behind later alterations to the theatre in order to accommodate the long running performance of Star Light Express. Through paint analysis and archival research, the original paint scheme and decorative fixtures and fittings have been recreated to return the theatre to its original appearance. It is worth buying a ticket to The Witches just to see the interior.
On a more restrained note, the recent redecoration of the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds provides a unique opportunity to view one of the few late Georgian theatres in England. Anna Forrest and Christine Sitwell of the National Trust described the extensive archival and analytical investigations involved in the recreation of the theatre and its decorative scheme. The theatre was designed in 1819 by the architect, William Wilkins, and decorated by the scene painter, George Thorne. It has had an unhappy history of use and neglect, serving at one time as a barrel store for the King Green Brewery, the owners of the theatre. In the 1960’s the Brewery kept its promise to the local council and restored it employing the services of John Fowler. Using the scraps of evidence which remained he devised a decorative scheme for the interior. Recently the Trust has undertaken a major restoration project to return the theatre to its original appearance which has included major alterations to re-instate the fore stage (cleverly designed to be lowered when not in use), the pit area, the lower and upper boxed dress circles and the decorative scheme. The theatre now reflects the social division for the audience seating which includes a separate entrance for the pit area and individual boxes for the more affluent theatre goer. Extensive archival research, paint analysis and infra-red reflectography on the scraps of evidence from the fronts of the dress circles and the proscenium arch as well as all the paint surfaces provided information for the recreation of the decorative interior.
David Harrison of Hayles and Howe presented an amusing insight into the materials used to create the decorative plasterwork in theatres as well as the disasters which occur when the structure of the building fails. He described the use of lime plasters and fibrous plasters to create ceilings, covings and decorative sculptures and the systems which held them in place. His images of the hidden spaces above the ceiling and the intricate framework required to support the ceiling as well as the subsequent haphazard repairs were an eye opener. More appalling were the disasters which occur when water infiltrates the building causing entire ceilings to collapse and the daring exploits required by the specialists to assess the damage.
The Royal Festival Hall in London is a well known feature for most Londoners but many would be surprised to realise that hidden under the uniform white decorative scheme is a more subtle use of colour. Patrick Baty of Papers and Paint undertook extensive paint analysis which revealed localised use of colour in different areas of the Hall to create a more complex colour scheme. Having identified the colours as being based on the 1931 British Standard colour range 381C, he provided further information on contemporary thoughts on paint colours in building, citing in particular the Hertfordshire Schools Project which specified the colours to be use on the interiors of schools. His research into colour and the development of the British Standard range of paint colours of 1995 and the Archrome paint range provided the audience with a greater understanding of mid 20th century paint colours and helped to place the Royal Festival Hall within that context.
The first day of the conference ended with a delightful talk on Vermont Painted Theatre Curtains by Christine Hadsel. She has been involved in a large project to document and conserve about 175 historic painted theatre curtains dating between 1885 and 1940. These curtains were the primary artistic feature of every town hall, grange hall, opera house and community centres in small towns and villages throughout Vermont. They served as the backdrop to a variety of activities including travelling theatre troupes, local variety shows, choral groups, speakers and local school productions. The curtains were painted with colourful, romantic images of British and European landscapes and even the occasional majestic landscape of America. Conservators undertook remedial treatments to clean, stabilise and repair damages to the cotton muslin fabric and retouch paint losses. Once conserved the curtains were re-introduced to their original setting as they were to be used and enjoyed.

An impressive party gathered on Saturday morning outside Elms Lester Paint Frame. Most of us confessed that although we all knew this part of London, just off Centre Point well, we had never spotted this hidden gem, and we all agreed that one of the joys of London is discovering such treasures like this which have been hiding in full view. The small building has an odd almost triangular elongated plan. The previous day’s lectures had provided a steep learning curve in the art of scenery design and manufacture which most of us had never really considered. The creation of large canvas backdrops – or cloths – combined the skills of an artist with a scale more commonly tackled by house-painters.
We were shown around by Fiona Mackinnon who explained the mechanism of the actual paint frame – basically an enormous stretcher which could move up in the light well and down into the cellar, allowing the painters to remain in a fixed position at ground level. The cloth being prepared during our visit was for yet another production of Mama Mia (apparently there are over twenty versions of this musical being performed all over the world). The novel space provided a wonderful continuous link with nineteenth-century practise – we could smell the paint. The edges of the floor and the walls were thick with paint splatters. I do intend to return and take some samples to mount in cross-sections – they will be visually stunning. The traditional distemper used to paint backcloths and flats has largely been replaced by modern PVA purpose made paints such as ‘Rosco’ and spray paints.
The survival of this paint frame is due to the owners, who resisted offers from property developers and actually invited English Heritage to consider the building for listing. This instigated a review of ancillary theatre buildings. Sadly other paint frames in the West End were destroyed before they could be listed. The building is maintained by income from film shoots and exhibitions, but priority is given to keeping the paint frame in use and accessible for professional scene painters.
The next hidden discovery was Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End of London. Another inspiring project which is keeping history alive. We were greeted by Francis Mayhew and were completely entranced by her enthusiasm and story telling skills. Outside the building she recreated a vivid picture of the nineteenth-century scene, a thriving pub on the corner which serviced the locals and the sailors from the nearby docks had been extended in 1858 by the entrepreneur John Wilton to create a Music Hall (and brothel). The main purpose of the entertainments was to keep the customers spending money on food and drink. Wilton had bought up the adjacent buildings and created a theatre in the area formerly occupied by the gardens. The works were completed within months using a range of odd fittings Wilton could acquire, flagstones stolen from the nearby Georgian square, strange spiral columns ( which were probably destined for a more exotic location but never made it onto the ship).
The interior resembles a building site, indeed only 40% of the building is structurally sound: but it is a working theatre. Exposed lathes, bare bricks, wallpaper fragments, junk furniture all contribute in creating a stimulating space which invites further investigation. The gerry-built nature of its construction has left a legacy of structural problems but the actual design of the theatre hall is very good, and today it offers an atmospheric and intimate space for a variety of events. Wilton’s heyday was in the late nineteenth century the famous song ‘Champagne Charlie’ had its premier performance here. When the Music Halls declined in popularity it was used as a Methodist church but then fell into disuse and was only saved from demolition by the intervention of Sir John Betchaman. Wilton’s is currently staging and I took up the kind offer of a discounted ticket and returned in the evening to see a wonderful production of the Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. The venue and the performance are receiving great reviews. The music hall itself has provided the location for several movies and television and dramas. The existing scheme which appears to the be ‘as found’ natural decay and the accumulation was is in fact recently created by scene painters who were asked to obliterate the lurid paint effects applied by the last film company. This ‘faked’ distress caused some discussion over lunch.
We then crossed the Thames to lawless Southwark: and the Globe Theatre. We were given yet another entertaining tour by a member of the Globe staff. He was recovering from guiding groups of ‘French teenagers – do not get me started’and so was delighted to meet such an enlightened group. Timothy Easton’s lecture on the Globe and his involvement into the research behind its current presentation meant we arrived well armed to make a critical assessment of the decorative scheme. It was evident that there had been ‘a love affair’ with the timber beam construction of the building which perhaps should be hidden behind plaster – but the Globe is clearly attempting to move towards a more exuberant less sanitised atmosphere. To accurately recreate Shakespeare’s Globe would mean flouting all Health & Safety regulations, blocking up fire exits, encouraging urination at the side of the stage and allowing prostitutes to ply their trade in the stairwells – so it would seem churlish to get pedantic over paint issues. We stopped to watch student actors, wrapped in over coats, deliver their lines on the open air stage – and remembered what theatre is all about.
It was a wonderful day which complimented the previous days papers. Special thanks are due to Saskia Paterson for her meticulous planning.
Written by Christine Sitwell and Helen Hughes


2005: ‘Ten Years On: What Lessons have we learnt and What have we achieved’

The Brompton Oratory and Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This conference reviewed some of the changes that have taken place since the Traditional Paint Forum was founded in October 1994 and discussed what the Forum should seek to achieve in the next decade. Many of the papers also looked at different approaches to using information from traditional paints to help informed conservation.

Friday 7th October:
-Academic studies of painted finishes – are they being used effectively?: Dr Ian Bristow, President, Traditional Paint Forum.
-An historical introduction to the V&A: Christopher Marsden, Senior Archivist, V&A Museum.
-Colour at the V&A: Gwyn Miles, Director of Projects, V&A Museum.
-Applying the lessons of Newhailes: Ian Gow, Curator, National Trust for Scotland.
-The Red House – A novel collaborative approach: Christine Sitwell, Conservation Adviser, National Trust.

After lunch, delegates had a private tour of the V&A Museum visiting some of the areas highlighted in the previous papers.

Saturday 8th October:
– Traditional Paint Forum AGM.
– Danson House – Solving the mystery and recreating the glory: Helen Hughes, Senior Architectural Paint Researcher, English Heritage.
– Rediscovering Phoebe Anna Traquair’s murals at Mansfield Church, Edinburgh: Ailsa Murray, Wall Painting Conservator, Historic Scotland.
– The restoration of the Royal Pavilion at the railway station in The Hague: Roos Keppler, SRAL, Maastricht.
– Smaller projects – Can I afford APR and what will it contribute?: Alan Gardner, Alan Gardner Associates.
– Smarter Strippers – Advances in paint removal techniques and materials: Clara Willett, Building Conservation & Research Team, English Heritage.
– The new Institute of Conservation – What will it do for you: Alastair McCapra, Chief Executive ICON.
– Report on the Copenhagen Conference – The search for a European Code of Practice: Colin Mitchell-Rose, Chairman, Traditional Paint Forum.

After lunch, there was a wide ranging discussion by delegates on the future direction of the Forum. In particular, concern was raised that the lack of understanding about what traditional paint was and could contribute, together with reluctance to use it for financial or safety reasons might lead to those few remaining manufacturers deciding that continuing to supply these paints was not worth while. The discussion concluded with the strong message that the founding purpose of the Forum “Towards the better understanding and appreciation of traditional paint” was even more important today.


2004: ‘Influences of the Oriental’

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

This two-day conference was kindly hosted and supported by the Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums of Brighton and Hove City Council.

The TPF are particularly grateful to the Royal Pavilion staff whose help in organising the co nference and willingness to take tours and be involved in practical sessions greatly contributed to the success of the event.

Thursday 26th February:
-Welcome from the TPF: Ian Bristow, Chairman for the Conference
-The Brighton Pavilion: An Overview of the Architecture and Designs: Andrew Barlow
-Orientally Influenced Decorative Effects and Techniques: Margaret Ballardie
-English and Chinese Pigments Used in the Royal Pavilion: Janet Brough

After lunch the delegates split into three groups and, in turn, saw the following:

– Tour of the Royal Pavilion Decorative Effects (including graining and marbling): Jon Latham
– Examined Cross-section Samples, from the Royal Pavilion, under the microscope Janet Brough
– Practical Demonstration of the Stalker and Parker Recipes: Margaret Ballardie
Friday 27th February:
-Chairman’s Introduction: Ian Bristow
-Orientalism: ideas and practices – an overview: Patrick Conner
-Hand Painted Chinese Wallpaper and its Conservation: Alyson McDermott
-The Redecoration of the Chinese Pavilion at Stowe: Jonathon Berry & Emile Debruijn
-Redecoration of the Liberty Cinema, Southwell (London): Louise Henderson

The delegates were then split into three groups and, in turn, saw the following:

– Practical Demonstration of the Royal Pavilion Graining and Marbling: Jon Latham
– Tour of the Painted Glass at the Royal Pavilion: Anne Sowden
– Examination of the Historic Wallpaper Collection at the Royal Pavilion: Heather Wood
Background on The Brighton Pavilion:
The complex development of the Royal Pavilion can be split three principal phases: the Marine Pavilion extension of an existing more modest house by Henry Holland in 1787; enlargement from 1801 with the building of the stables and other alterations with the involvement of Porden, Holland and Repton and, finally, with the engagement of the Architect John Nash in 1815, further extension and transformation until 1823.

A brief outline of just one room will give an indication of the splendour of the venue and its suitability for a conference on Orientalism. John Morley describes the building of the Royal Pavilion under George III in the guide book and, in particular, describes the Music Room as:

“… perhaps the most remarkable of all the rooms in the Royal Pavilion. The prose of a less abashed age does it full justice: “No verbal description, however elaborate, can convey to the mind or imagination of the reader an appropriate idea of the magnificence of this apartment; and even with the creative delineations of the pencil, combined with all the illusions of colour, would scarcely be adequate to such an undertaking. Yet luxuriously resplendent and costly as the adornments are, they are so intimately blended with the refinements of an elegant taste that everything appears in keeping and in harmony.” These decorations, as elsewhere in the building, are in materials that admitted no compromise. All are of the highest quality; the details of carving and painting are superb. The cockleshells of the dome, decreasing in size as they approach its apex, give an impression of loftiness that belies actual dimensions. The wall paintings, said to have been done by Lambelet, are elaborate chinoiserie confections in red, yellow and gold; many details originate from Alexander’s Costumes of China.
Frederick Crace and his firm, who controlled the work done in the Music Room, accomplished the task in a remarkably short time, often working throughout the night. The total effect is somewhat like that of a great lacquer box; some details, especially those of the upper part of the central gasolier, approach in refinement the spirit of contemporary French decoration despite their exotic elaboration. The room is as a whole more “Chinese” than perhaps any other apartment in the Pavilion.
… the total cost of the room was £45,125.15.10 (sums such as these should be seen in their context; the net produce of the whole Kingdom, in the year of the King’s accession, amounted to £74,769,196.4s.3.75d.)”

hampton court

2002: ‘Faking It’; The History, Techniques, Conservation & Recreation of Graining and Marbling

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

This two-day conference was kindly hosted and supported by Historic Royal Palaces.

It reviewed the long history of the use of paint to imitate wood and marble. A wide range of papers discussed the history, aesthetics, materials and techniques of the painted imitations of these more exotic and expensive materials. The second day of the conference provided demonstrations of marbling and graining techniques and allowed delegates to try their own skills imitating several different styles of wood graining. Specialist guided tours led by palace curators and decorative finishes experts focussed on the wide range of extant examples of graining and marbling which can be seen within Hampton Court Palace.

7 November 2002
-Welcome and Announcements, Una Richards
-Faking It at Hampton Court: ‘Why we are here’, Jonathan Foyle
-‘The Lure of a Fine Figure’, Dr Ian Bristow
-Marbling in Medieval Wall Paintings, David Park
-Graining and Marbling in Renaissance England, Anthony Wells-Cole
-The Use of Graining and Marbling (and other imitative effects) in the Seventeenth Century, Helen Hughes
-The Investigation and Recreation of the Marbling in the Wren Library, Lincoln, Nigel Leaney
-The Late-eighteenth and Early-nineteenth Century – Changes in Materials and Techniques, Ian Bristow
-The Nineteenth Century – The Kershaw Panels at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Alan Gardner
-Grained and Marbled Wallpapers and Other Illusions, Allyson McDermott
-The Training of Grainers and Marblers in the Twentieth and Twenty first Centuries, Charles Hesp

8 November 2002
-Welcome and Announcements, Una Richards
-Practical Demonstrations, Frank Garbutt, Tom Greening, John Nevin
-Palace Tours, Jonathon Foyle, Susanne Groome, Richard Roberts



2001: ‘Coming out in their true colours’ 19th Century Polychrome Decoration

The BP Lecture Theatre, The British Museum, London

The springboard for the conference was the recent restoration of the original 1840’s scheme of the polychrome decoration in the Entrance Hall of the British Museum together with the 1850’s colouring and gilding of the Reading Room in the Great Court. The conference also considered other important large-scale nineteenth-century polychromatic schemes in publicly accessible buildings in the UK, which have been restored or were in the course of investigation or conservation.

-Welcome and Introductions, Una Richards
-Building the British Museum, Marjorie Caygill
-The Restoration of the Entrance Hall of The British Museum, Dr Ian Bristow
-Investigation and Redecoration of the Reading Room in the British Museum,
Richard Ireland
-Revival of Polychromy at the British Museum, Chris Terrey
-Redecorating Knightshayes, the First Thirty Years, Hugh Meller
-Recent Investigation of the Entrance Hall of the National Gallery, London
Ian Crick & Michael Smith
-Burgess at Cardiff Castle, John Edwards
-Holmwood House, Glasgow, Una Richards and Patrick Baty
-The Cast Courts at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Jo Darrah
-Royal Holloway College, Peter Riddington
-Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Kate Crowe



2001: Inspired by the Past; John Fowler’s Approach to Decoration and Restoration in a Changing World

London Scientific Studies Lecture Theatre, London

English Heritage and the T raditional Paint Forum collaborated to host a one-day conference to discuss the work of John Fowler (1906-1997), the eminent interior decorator. He is remembered as one of the founder members of the influential firm Colefax & Fowler. In the course of his career Fowler had a dramatic impact on contemporary styles and the presentation of historic buildings. His interpretation of interiors has become a recognised period style in its own right and it is in this context that a range of speakers discussed his career, methods and lasting legacy.

-Welcome and Announcements, Helen Hughes
-Opening Address: The legacy of John Fowler, Sir Neil Cossons
-Working with John Fowler, Peter Inskip
-English Country House Style, Louise Ward
-Fowler and the National Trust, Tim Knox
-Recent Investigations of Fowler’s Schemes, Tina Sitwell
-‘Inspired by the Past’, Patrick Baty
-Colour in Historic Houses in Public Ownership, Dr Ian Bristow
-Fowler’s Work at Kelmarsh Hall, Marianne Suhr
-Conversation with the Painter: Recreating a Fowler Scheme (video footage)
Ken Cowens, Frank Garbutt & Tom Greening
-The Hall at Kelmarsh, Dr Ian Bristow
-Presenting the Historic Interior, Julian Harrap



1999: Kelmarsh Hall 1926-1954; The Presentation of Historic Houses before and after the Second World War

Kelmarsh Hall, Northampton

The conference and workshop was organised in collaboration with the Kelmarsh Hall Preservation Trust.

The house and grounds of Kelmarsh Hall provided a beautiful location for the Forum’s Fifth Annual Conference. The interiors of the Hall, last decorated by Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler, served as a focus point for a wider discussion of the presentation of historic houses before and after the Second World War. The two-day conference discussed decorative painting techniques and the materials used and the legacy of the period on today’s historic interiors.

-Introduction to Kelmarsh Hall, Phillip Hartley & Peter Scott
-The Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler Objective, Peter Hood
-‘As it might have been but never was’ – English Country House Style, Louise Ward
-The Kelmarsh Craftsmen of the 1950’s, Marienne Suhr
-The Kelmarsh Conservation Plan, George Feruson
-An Investigation of the Painted Decoration at Kelmarsh, Ian Bristow
-Conservation Legislation, Ian Bristow
-The Signifigance of John Fowler – Discussion
-Practical Demonstrations: Jim Smart and Owen Turville
-Video – ‘Nancy Lancaster’

20 November 1999
-The Recreation of the Plasterwork , Jeff Orton
-Materials of the Period – Today’s Options, Patrick Baty
-An Introduction to the Practical Sessions, Alan Gardner
-Practial Sessions
-Materials and Techniques used by John Fowler Greenings of Donaster
-Concluding discussion led by Ian Bristow


1998: ‘Paint in the Jazz Age’ Tradition and Change in the Early 20th Century

Eltham Palace, Eltham, London

The one day conference was organised with the kind collaboration of English Heritage.

The recently-restored interiors of Eltham Palace provided the venue for the Forum’s Fourth Annual Conference. The subject this year was a consideration of the ‘traditional paints’ and tastes of the early twentieth century.

-Building in the ‘Jazz Age’, Alan Powers
-The Courtaulds and Eltham Palace, Dr Michael Turner
-Eltham Palace: the 1930’s Restoration, Iain McLaren
-Paint in the 1930’s with Reference to Eltham Palace, Patrick Baty
-A Comparative Study of White Pigments used in the ‘Jazz Age’, Peter Hood
-Tour of the Palace
-The Manufacturing Process in the 1930’s, Colin Mitchell Rose
-The Art and Craft of the Painter: Developments, Memories and Anecdotes,
Mike Pryor
-Pavilion and Pullman Court, Helen Hughes
-Lutyens: the Lighter Side, 13 Mansfield Street, London, Dr Ian Bristow



1997: ‘The Redecoration of Adam Interiors’

Syon House, London

The two-day conference was organised in collaboration with the Georgian Group.

This examined Robert Adam painted interiors and how they are presented. It took place in the magnificent Syon House, the London home of the Dukes of Northumberland famous for its Adam interiors.

7 November 1997
Paint Materials & Technology
-Plaster Substrates in the Eighteenth Century, Richard Ireland
-Eighteenth-century Distempers and Oilpaints, Peter Hood
-Eighteenth-century Pigments, Patrick Baty
-A Practical Demonstration of the Manufacture and Application of Paint,
John Nevin & Paul Humphreys
-Recent Use of Tradtional Distempers and Lead-based Oilpaints, Dr Ian Bristow

8 November 1997
The Redecoration of Adam Interiors
-Historical Background, Prof. Alistair Rowan
-Syon House, Richard Pailthorpe
-Adam Revivals, Ian Gow
-Robert Adam in the Hands of John Fowler, Peter Hood
-Historical Research on Adam Interiors, Eileen Harris
-Osterley House, Anthea Palmer &Tina Sitwell
(Guided tour of Syon House)
-The Lansdowne House Drawing Room in
the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marigene Butler
-The Drum, No.8 Queen Street, Edinburgh, James Simpson
-The Entrance Hall, Kenwood House, Helen Hughes
-The Worth of Robert Adam’s Drawings, Dr Ian Bristow


1996: ‘The Victorian Dwelling’

The Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, University of York, York

The Traditional Paint Forum is indebted to the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at the University of York who provided the venue of the Forum’s second conference.

Many of us live in Victorian houses and may wish to establish how they were originally decorated. The conference considered all aspects of the decoration of the ordinary house during the nineteenth century and asked how we should be decorating them today.

1 November 1996
-Welcome and Announcements, Richard Ireland
-The Victorian Dwelling, Peter Hood
-The Needs of the Building Fabric, Alan Gardner
-Victorian Traditions and Available Materials, Patrick Baty
-Painters and Tradesmen, Patrick Baty
-David Ramsey Hay, Ian Gow
-The Investigation of Victorian Decorative Schemes: Illustrated Case Studies,
Helen Hughes
-A Victorian House in America, Jack Braunlein
-‘Compositions’, Ivan Hall

2 November 1996
-Paint Manufacture and Processes, Peter Hood
-Paint Application, Kevin Howell
-The Housepainter and Decorative Painting, Paul Humphries and John Nevin
-Restoration or Replication, Kevin McCloud
-Statutory Considerations, Giles Proctor
-Practical Experience of Recreating Victorian Schemes, Dr Ian Bristow
-Open Forum Discussion


1995: ‘What is Traditional Paint ?’ An Examination of the History and Development of House Paints

The Georgian Group, 6 Fitzroy Square, London

The first conference of the recently established Traditional Paint Forum was held at the new headquarters of the Georgian Group in a fine Adam terrace in London.

‘What is traditional paint?’ was the questioned raised at the conference. A variety of speakers ranging from curators, analysts, paint manufacturers, housepainters and conservators explored this theme and the history and development of house paints. A range of practical demonstrations, including analytical techniques and painting techniques and materials was also provided.

A highly entertaining after-dinner lecture was provided by Jocasta Innes