Conservation of Lydiard House Church Model

on Thursday, 04 November 2021. Posted in Conservation, History Centre

Two black-and-white close-up images of a model of a church
Image: St. Mary’s Church Model Prior to Restoration in the 1970s

Just behind the Lydiard house in Swindon, you will find the small parish church of St. Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze, which dates back to the 12th century. In the 1840s a model of the church was commissioned perfectly depicting the architecture, interior and grounds.

In the 1970s a large amount of restoration was carried out on the model, predominately on the graveyard area, removing a lot of original details.

Two colour images of a small wooden model of church on a green model graveyard
Image: The Church Model before treatment at CMAS

Having been in storage for a long time, the model came to the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) to have conservation treatment undertaken before going back on display. Large cracks had appeared in the base of the model and some of the 1970s additions had deteriorated badly. Some of the architectural details were also missing with a general layer of dust on the surface.

The main challenges carrying out treatment on this object were:

Mix of different materials used: This included the plaster base, wood structure of the building, painted interior features and paper and card railings and details.

Ethical considerations: The client was keen to remove the 1970s trees that had badly deteriorated in the graveyard area and replace missing wood features on the building. Generally in conservation, we try to preserve as much historical information on an object as we can. We justified the removal of the trees as these were not original to the 1840s model and were so badly deteriorated they were unsalvageable. The addition of the wooden components was to improve the aesthetic appearance of the model and detailed records will help distinguish between what is old and new.

Condition: The model was very delicate so extreme patience and dexterity would be needed.

A conservator in a lab, peers over the model cleaning it with a hoover

Image: Cleaning of the Church Model using a soft brush and Museum vacuum

Conservation treatment began in earnest with removal of the 1970s trees and infilling of the cracks and holes that were present in the base. All surfaces were cleaned and missing architectural features were made from Balsa wood, toned in with acrylic paints. The biggest challenge was repairing the damaged paper railing around the crypt. It is believed this is the last remaining part of original 1840s railing so was very important to repair and support them.

Gloved hands holding a small paint brush and scalpel repairing model of railings

Advice was gained from CMAS’ paper conservator Sophie Coles before proceeding, and Japanese tissue toned with acrylic paints was produced to fill areas of loss and support fragile creases and joins. A number of adhesives were looked into to find a suitable option that was strong enough to support the paper, and that were clear, matt in appearance and reversible. Wheat Starch paste was chosen as it is used regularly in paper conservation with the desired properties.

Two images of different sides of cleaned and conserved wooden model in a green graveyardImage: St Mary’s Church Model After Conservation treatment

With the object completed we all look forward to seeing it back on display at Lydiard where a custom case will help protect it for future generations.

A special thanks goes to Lydiard House, Swindon, for permission to feature this lovely object. If you would like conservation advice about your own documents or objects, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kayleigh Spring, Object Conservator


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