Saving the Library Ceiling

Project
white plaster work ceiling with blue walls. The plaster work depicts angels and cherubs

What's happened?

Due to the weight of the ceiling, the joists holding the plasterwork are beginning to shift and need to be more securely fixed to the secondary beams. This has meant that the ceiling below has started to bow, causing cracks to appear on the plasterwork, especially around the heavier decorations such as the angels. 

On average 28,000 visitors walk across these floorboards each year, so it's vital that we secure and conserve this intricate ceiling to ensure that Claydon can continue to be enjoyed. 

Cracks running through the angel in the Library's plaster ceiling
white plaster ceiling depicting an angel and swirl patterns. The ceiling has cracks running through the angel
Cracks running through the angel in the Library's plaster ceiling

What will we do?

There are three important stages to the project, expected to cost £60,000 in total. The first stage of this project starts November 2019. In preparation, the furniture from these two spaces, situated above the library, have been moved into other rooms on this floor.

This makes space for the biggest element of the work, allowing the contractors to access the ceiling beams and joists under the floorboards. They'll be adding metal fixings between the joists and the secondary beams to make sure that they can't move any further. The work is anticipated to take ten weeks to complete. The ceiling will then be left to settle for two years before the cracks on the front of the plaster can be repaired.

Whilst most of the works will be taking place on the first floor, it's important to protect the library as well. All of the furniture will be spread across the downstairs rooms at the end of October 2019. Special protection will also be made for the bookcases in the library below, helping to shield the books from any dust that might be dislodged during the wor and allowing the books to stay in-situ.

Claydon's Library
Seating area with brown piano infront of a white fireplace with a large portrait painting hanging over it. Blue walls and white ceiling with a red carpet and two large brown full book cases either side of the fireplace
Claydon's Library

After the Library is clear of furniture, it'll be the perfect time to give the carpet, bought in 1851 at the Great Exhibition, a clean. The carpet will be moved into the Saloon and cleaned in two phases. The first stage will be a dry clean which involves the carpet being marked into meter-by-meter squares. A carpet specialist has suggested that each square should be hoovered for 50 minutes to clear the majority of the surface dirt. The second stage is a wet clean, where a specialist will use minimal amount of water and conservation-grade detergent to dislodge the last of the dirt. 

How will this help?

This work will stop the ceiling from bowing any further and protect the delicate plasterwork from moving any further. Unfortunately we'll not be able to raise the ceiling back up to its original position as this would put too much pressure on the plasterwork and cause more damage.

Once the ceiling has been stabilised and allowed to settle for a period of two years, repairs to the plasterwork will be able to take place.  

This will allow the ceiling to survive for years to come to be enjoyed by future generations as well as the current day. 

Damage to Claydon's Library ceiling
white plaster ceiling, depicting angels and cherubs. There is a blue wall and cracks running up the wall and through the ceiling.
Damage to Claydon's Library ceiling

How can you help?

The total cost of this project is expected to be £60,000. Every time you buy a membership, a gift from the shop or come and visit you're helping us to preserve irreplaceable things like this ornate ceiling. Thank you for supporting us. 

To help raise the funds needed, all proceeds raised from our Special places raffle will go towards the library ceiling. Tickets are available from the Paper Room and reception, purchase a ticket and join in.

Under the floor boards

All sorts of exciting things have fallen through the gaps in the floorboards across Claydon's 200 years. In 1993 work was undertaken, which involved taking up the floorboards across the upstairs of the house. During this project the objects found under the floors were collected and catalogued. These artefacts help us to understand the crafts and techniques used to build Claydon and also shed some light onto the lives of the people that have walked these floors over two centuries. 

Floorboards in the Gothick room that will be taken up
shiney brown floorvoards close up to the camera and slowly going out fo focus as they get further away
Floorboards in the Gothick room that will be taken up

The Library ceiling itself

The plasterwork of the Library ceiling at Claydon was designed and crafted by Joseph Rose (1745 – 1799). Rose had been educated in Rome, before joining his father and uncle to form ‘Joseph Rose & Co.’. It was through his work at this company that Sir Thomas Robinson hired him to work on Claydon. For a time he worked alongside Luke Lightfoot, complementing his extravagant wooden carvings, but completed the decoration of Claydon after Lightfoot was dismissed in 1769. Rose’s work can be seen in the plasterwork on the walls of the Grand Stairs and in the Saloon and Library ceilings. It's believed that the work on the Library ceiling plasterwork was completed in 1768. 

Plaster ceilings are created using layers. Initially a rough coat of plaster is applied to the wooden lathes in place across the ceiling and more layers are then added on top to create a finer finish. Moulds made from metal or boxwood were used to create the elaborate decoration and would be left to harden for days before being applied to the ceiling. Some of the moulds would have been very large; the angels on the ceiling are approximately 150cm tall.