Wednesday 17th October: plaster, paper and a hidden doorway………

This week we reached a dramatic stage in the Breakfast Room Project at Osterley.  The post 1950 paper and Hessian lining were removed and the walls were taken back to the eighteenth century plaster.

All of this work was done in front of visitors who shared in the excitement.

Detailed analysis of the findings will be undertaken over the next few weeks but highlights include: 

  • The discovery of a door frame – remnants of a door which once connected the Breakfast Room with the Library Passage behind.

  • Holes made by the fixings for a picture rail which once ran around the outside of this room.

  • ‘Graffiti’ on the south wall.

NEXT STEPS:  The room will be entirely cleared of its furniture and a group of experts will be invited to examine the evidence.  This will consist of architectural historians, Robert Adam specialists, furniture conservators, curators and the NT advisors on Plaster and on Historic Interior Decoration – amongst others.


Undressing the walls…

This week the paintings in the Breakfast Room were transported to the Upper Store and attached to giant plywood supports.


This is in preparation for work being undertaken next Wednesday.  The paper lining the walls will be removed to reveal the original plaster beneath.  We are hoping to find evidence of earlier decorative schemes – and perhaps a door which once led from the Breakfast Room to the Library Passage!

Unpicking the past 50 years of wallpaper.

The National Trust’s Paper Conservation Advisor, Andrew Bush, has painstakingly unpicked a sample of the paper taken from the east wall in the Breakfast Room ahead of its removal next week!  The results are below…

Two areas of the laminate were soaked and separated, one from the main area of paper and one from the edge. The latter is illustrated above.

Layers, including paint, starting from the top layer:

Main area – 7 layers     Edge area – approx 14 layers as above
grey paint                                             grey paint
yellow paint                                           yellow paint
sheets of laid paper with cut edges        sheets of laid paper with cut edges
  off white paint
  yellow paint
lining paper type 2                                 lining paper type 2
  plaster filler
  offwhite paint
grey green paint                                    grey green paint
lining paper type 1                                 lining paper type 1
lining paper type 1                                 lining paper type 1
  lining paper type 1
  •  All papers layers are from the mid to late 20C.
  • The laid paper is of good quality and may well be a mould made paper (as opposed to hand made or ‘machine made’). 
  • There are two distinct types of lining paper differing slightly in surface texture and colour, both appear to be made with a high proportion of unpurified wood pulp, typical of 20C lining papers.

Next week the remainder of the paper will be removed from the walls, uncovering the plasterwork and hopefully some additional clues as to the room’s development over the centuries…