Conservators Rise to the Challenge of Restoring St Marie’s Historic Tiling The team, from KL Conservation, led by Katie Langridge, has been working late into the night on occasion to restore the Victorian tiling in the Mortuary and Norfolk Chapels and the Cathedral’s South Transept. Their work is being carried out with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. There are no records of who made or paid for the tiles, but the style, techniques and the materials used indicate they come from the late 1880s, were made by several artists and were probably supplied by a local company specialising in church decoration. “There are a lot of unknowns but, hopefully, research we are currently doing may bring us some more information,” says Laura Claveria, St Marie’s Heritage Engagement and Learning Officer, speaking at an event where parishioners and visitors got a chance to see the conservation work up close. “We know they are hand painted and we can tell from the quality that whoever painted them was very, very skilled. The style is influenced by the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, harking back to the Medieval and Gothic, which is important to Catholics because that was a time when Catholicism was the universal faith.” When conservators started to examine the tiles they found they had been covered with a deep layer of varnish during an earlier restoration of the Cathedral. Once the varnish had been removed the tiles appeared a lot brighter, but it became clear that some had been damaged and some colours had faded significantly. “The enamelling was added colour by colour,” explained lead conservator, Katie Langridge, who gained an MA in Conservation and Restoration at the University of Lincoln and has worked, among other institutions, for English Heritage, the National Trust, the museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau and at Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. “The artists would paint on a colour and fire it, each additional colour had to be fired at a lower temperature because, if you fired at the same temperature the enamel would bleed and you wouldn’t have the clear lines. The light green background was put on first and is pretty stable, but the later colours were fired at a lower temperature.” The key principle of modern day conservation is ‘retreatability’ so the conservators working on St Marie’s tiles have had to ensure they do not change the physical composition of the tiles and that anything they do can be removed and re-done at a later date. They have carefully filled areas where tiles were knocked off during past work and are using high quality acrylics that don’t fade in light and will not stain the tiles to restore lettering and imagery. “The most difficult part, in terms of time and getting it right, is retouching. It’s a real skill. If you do it badly, it is obvious,” says Katie. That said, modern principles of conservation mean that it should be possible to detect restoration work up close, so they work to a “six inch/six foot” rule which means their work should be undetectable from six feet, but visible at six inches. And, if they can’t be sure of details in the original image, they leave it as it is. “If we are not 100 per cent sure, we don’t put it in. You don’t make anything up,” says Katie. In addition to restoring the imagery and the names of deceased priests from St Marie’s on the tiling in the Mortuary Chapel, conservators have been asked to add the names of a further 17 former priests. They also received permission to remove layers of paint on the tiles around the shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. They have repaired tiles and refreshed the lettering on the memorial to the communal life of all parishioners who contributed to the church in the South Transept and the tiles around the shrine to St Patrick, which features the Saint’s initials and the shamrock. Novel Solution to Prevent Rising Damp Causing Further Damage to Norfolk Chapel Tiles Conservators restoring Victorian tiling at St Marie’s faced arguably their toughest challenges in the Norfolk Chapel – also known as the St Joseph Chapel. Rising damp had caused cracking and other damage to a memorial commemorating children who had died in the days when child mortality rates in Sheffield were high, and the prospects were it would do the same once repairs had been completed. “The North side of the Chapel has been the most challenging,” said lead conservator Katie Langridge. “The area has suffered badly from soluble salts. Water drawn up from the ground evaporates, the salts crystallise and that pushes the tiles up, which is why they were so cracked and uneven. We had to take them all up and get rid of the salts. If we had put them straight back again, the same thing would have happened, so we have laid them on board made from calcium silicate which is water and fire resistant. “We have put spacers between the shelf and the board, leaving a gap for airflow so that when the salts come up they can crystallise without affecting the tiles. The board can also be slid out so that you can clean the salts away, if necessary.” The wall above the memorial to the children commemorates Sisters of Notre Dame, who were very active in Sheffield and one of the first groups to found schools for girls in Sheffield, back in the days when it was difficult to get an education in Sheffield, especially if you were a girl. On the other side of the Chapel are tiles depicting six virgin Saints also influenced by the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, with symbolic fruits and flowers. Once again the tiles have been cleaned, damaged has been filled and the images have been retouched. Conservators found the […]
Archives for January 2017
Saint Patrick’s Catholic Academy formally opened a new eco-friendly Nursery on Monday, 5 September. Bishop Ralph and Fr Martin Trask attended and blessed the provision. The school is extremely fortunate to have a magnificent learning arena for the children to experience. The heating, lighting and water are based on an eco-friendly vision. The children have access to the allotment and on a daily basis take care of the chickens.
The Holy Door at the Cathedral Church of St Marie has been officially closed by Bishop Ralph to mark the completion of the Year of Mercy. The Cathedral’s South Door was designated the Holy Door after Pope Francis announced an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and broke with tradition by allowing bishops throughout the world to designate their own Holy Doors, instead of having only one Holy Door at St Peter’s in Rome. Announcing the Year of Mercy last year, Pope Francis said, “The Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.” As part of the Jubilee, the Cathedral created its own pilgrimage route, starting at the Holy Door on Norfolk Row and visiting the Cathedral’s Lady, St Joseph’s, Blessed Sacrament and Mortuary Chapels, as well as the Shrines of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Pilgrims also prayed before the Rood Cross, added their names to the Pilgrimage Wall and blessed themselves with holy water taken from St Marie’s baptismal font as part of their personal pilgrimage. Members of St Marie’s congregation and visitors had the opportunity to join communal pilgrimages before the Holy Door was closed on Sunday, 13 November. The Holy Door of St Peter’s is normally sealed by mortar and cement from the inside so that it cannot be opened. The door is ceremoniously opened for pilgrims during Jubilee years designated by the Pope. Holy Years or Jubilees normally occur every 25 years, but a Pope can declare an extraordinary Jubilee when he deems it necessary.
Two of our youngest contributors, Marcus Ndlovu (Year 6) and Jovan Joseph (Year 5) tell us about their work for others. When St Patrick’s Voluntary Academy, Sheffield had its annual Harvest Assembly, it was packed with pupils, staff and parents. Every class had their own bit and this year we had two special visitors; Sr Clare from CAFOD and Fr Martin Trask, our parish priest. The focus of the Harvest Assembly this year was Bolivia and Haiti. Hurricane Matthew has recently devastated Haiti and Bolivia suffers from drought and poor soil for farming. We all dressed up in the colours of the two countries’ flags and brought 50p in each to send to CAFOD. Each class performed well. Eccleshall Woods were the first, with Badgers, Otters, Lees Hall and our class, Wooley Woods, coming down the line. It was really good when Lee’s Hall rapped about growing crops. They also sang in harmonies. They were very enthusiastic. Cleve Brown from Lees Hall said he liked the part when “everyone showed their artwork.” Tatayana liked the part when, “Lees Hall did the rapping”. Mrs Smith, Year 4/5 Lees Hall Woods class teacher, said, “It was an uplifting experience and it was wonderful to celebrate harvest as a school community.” She really valued Mr Lochner and Mrs Farrar’s musical contribution too. Ava Pearl in Grenoside Woods liked Badger’s class the best because they sang and created a lego animation film about farmers. At the end our parish priest, Fr Martin blessed all of the food we had collected with holy water. Some of the food was sold to parents to raise money for CAFOD and the rest of it was taken by members of Beeley Woods to a nearby care home for the elderly. Finally Sr Clare from CAFOD thanked everyone for all the money we had raised for CAFOD to support people in Bolivia and Haiti.
St Wilf’s this year put together a small team to attempt the challenge of the Sheffield 10k. Josie, Director of the Centre, asked for volunteers in August and several staff members stepped forward to run with her. Terry, Finance Officer, Rachel, Creative Arts Tutor and Helen, Office Manager, decided to take on the challenge. The day finally came on Sunday, 30 October when the team, after varying amounts of training, took up their positions, all wearing the St Wilfrid’s logo. They were joined on the day by Damian and Jim who ran alongside Helen and Josie all the way. The team all completed their challenge and it was a great awareness raising event for St Wilfrid’s Centre as everyone wore the familiar logo.