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Samuel Barry - Fibrous Plaster Restoration - Site Manager

Samuel Barry - Fibrous Plaster Restoration - Site Manager

Samuel works for Fine Art Mouldings LTD and is responsible for the restoration of the fibrous plaster work in the rooflights.  In January Samuel and his team accessed the rooflights and have started removing the plaster from the rooflight structure. Samuel describes what they have found:

As we undertake our work to carefully remove the historic finishes to the roof lights we are gaining better understanding of their history. It’s a bit like archaeology though on a live building. The rooflights have been hidden for over 50 years and before we commenced our works there was only outline understanding on how they were constructed following the limited investigations allowed prior to the works starting on site. Finding out how they were put together, piecing together the story of their history as well as the occasional find such as a very old match is exciting.

Each rooflight is slightly different; made of different materials and in disrepair in different ways. We thought the decorative parts of the rooflights were all made of fibrous plaster work but we have discovered that the oldest panelling is made from painted cast iron and some of the arches are made of timber. The timber is much stronger than plaster and is in better condition. Whilst this isn’t what we were expecting, it is something we can deal with. It also suggests that as some point, possibly during the late 1800s there was a fire requiring extensive repairs to the roof lights, which adds to the story of the building.

Much of the plaster is held together with hessian, but over the years this delicate organic material has succumbed to damage. Unfortunately, some of the plaster has also been exposed to water at some point encouraging mould to grow and it is now disintegrating and crumbling to dust, making it even more important for us to restore it.

As we asses the condition of the various elements and materials we are taking moulds of what we call the enrichment details on the roof lights so we can remake each section if we need to. We then carefully remove them and take them back to our workshop. We will then analyse each piece on our workbenches and preserve as much as possible to replace onto the iron frameworks once they are raised to their new positions. To make sure that we know where each piece goes, everything is labelled down to the smallest piece and marked down on a plan making sure that it is very detailed in case the panels break apart.

Taking down the plaster has actually become quite a complex process. Back in the day they put it together like a puzzle, putting the mouldings to cover the joints behind them layer by layer. Our works are working in the exact reverse of this process and we are finding out exactly how they did this in a similar way to an Archaeologist. Once removed and understood, we will finalise our plan to return to site later in the year and replace them in their new position over the new floor to the building.

His favourite film, game and television programme are: 

Films: American Gangster, Casino, Goodfellas and E.T.

Favourite Game: Pictionary! Games that bring the family together!

TV Programme: Unforgotten (New series this year!)