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Investigation and assessment of decorative plaster ceilings
Plaster ceilings are an intrinsic feature of historic buildings, from high-status palaces and public buildings with elaborate decorative ceilings to vernacular domestic interiors with plain flatwork. An appreciation of the stylistic development is the first visual evidence for assessing their cultural significance and intrinsic value. Periodic campaigns of decoration coupled with repair and restoration often serve to mask original materials, methods and condition, misleading the unwary and inexperienced observer. A comprehensive understanding of the materials and methods used for fabrication is essential in helping to form an appropriate conservation approach to minimise intervention and loss of original fabric in remedial works that may be necessitated by decay and deterioration, or even loss. The partial collapse of the Apollo Theatre auditorium ceiling in London in 2013 particularly highlighted and focused attention on the inspection and certification of historic plaster ceilings throughout the UK. This paper outlines some of the key materials, fabrication methods, agents of decay, investigation, and approaches to repair and conservation of historic plaster ceilings.
The full article is available to institutions that have subscribed to the journal.
Richard Ireland is the UK’s leading conservator of historic plaster and paint. He operates as an independent consultant for Historic England Building Conservation and Geospatial Survey Team, English Heritage, Westminster City Council, Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Household Property Services, Office of Public Works Ireland, National Trust, Historic Scotland and ecclesiastical organisations. Specialising in plain and decorative lime plaster, fibrous plasterwork, internal and external finishes, paint analysis, and the reinstatement of historic schemes, Richard’s projects typically involve a combination of archaeological investigation, scientific analysis and contextual historic research. He also teaches and lectures in his subject and is widely published. Richard’s role in the guardianship of important buildings has received considerable recognition. Having worked at the forefront of the ground-breaking restoration of Uppark House in the 1990s, Richard became chairman of the Traditional Paint Forum, received the Honorary Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers, and was awarded the Freedom of the City of London. His projects encompass a diverse spectrum of historically significant buildings, from small farmhouse interiors, to major works such as the British Museum and the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem. He was the lead investigator for the 2013 Apollo Theatre auditorium ceiling failure.
CitationIreland, Richard (2021, December 1). Investigation and assessment of decorative plaster ceilings. In the Journal of Building Survey, Appraisal & Valuation, Volume 9, Issue 3.