You may have read our blog of May last 2013, about the rehanging of a large tapestry in the Long Gallery of Hardwick Hall. Since then, National Trust central funding has been secured to conserve the eleventh tapestry of this set of thirteen. This tapestry is very fragile and the largest of the set, being a whopping 6m high by 9m wide.
Although we have successfully used tower scaffolds to take down and put up the other ten tapestries already conserved, we wanted to revisit the method due to the increased size (and weight! ) of this one. An earlier site meeting between textile conservators, the stonemasons and the direct labour team at Hardwick got everyone thinking of a new approach. It was decided that the same vertical roller method of removal would be used but importantly with staff working from a fixed scaffold. Additional adaptations include the construction of a ‘railway track’ between the wall and the scaffold in order to level the floor, with a trolley to support the roller tapestry that ran along the track.
The final adaptations were made to the roller itself with the addition of turning handles and a plug and loop for final lowering.
The tapestry was originally woven in three pieces so, as with the previous tapestries in the set, the lower border was removed first from the mainfield. By doing this not only is the weight reduced but the handling of the larger pieces on the trolley mounted roller is much safer and easier.
With the lower border removed it was time for a full team briefing and health and safety run down before everyone got themselves into position on the scaffold. There were a number of photographers and two staff filmed the whole procedure. No pressure then!
Velcro was pinned down one side of the tapestry lining and the 6m roller, with a corresponding strip of Velcro attached was raised to meet it.
Extra rows of Velcro were added to the top of the roller to correspond with pinned tabs at the top of the tapestry to help prevent the tapestry from slumping down the roller while being removed from the wall.
Once attached to the roller at the side, the top edge of the tapestry was carefully released from the old popper tape fixing and the roller turned and moved on the track on its trolley. Slowly but surely the tapestry was released. Once it was entirely on the roller, long Velcro ties were attached around it. A long length of upholstery webbing tape was then tied to the loop at the top of the roller before it was lowered to the floor.
The tapestry was then moved to a clear space where it could be unrolled face down and the outer rotten hessian lining removed. Finally the tapestry was rerolled, interleaved with acid free tissue before covering the whole roller with bubblewrap outer layer ready for transport to the studio.
Later that week the the two tapestry rollers were picked up from Hardwick and we can now report they have arrived at the Studio. The next job will be to document and prepare it for wet cleaning before it is off on its travels again to Belgium where it will be washed. We’ll keep you posted as work progresses.