Conserving 'the three ancient goddesses of fate, the Parcae '

Mar 12, 2018

We recently conserved this remarkable sculpted block, found in Calne, Wiltshire that may have come from a substantial and important Roman funerary monument.

It was identified by The Reverend Professor Martin Henig as depicting the three ancient goddesses of fate, the Parcae, a subject thought unique in Roman Britain and rare in Northern Europe.

When found, the face was covered in organic matter, which had been damaging the stone. By a variety of gentle means we slowly removed the moss and algae - the roots of which were tenacious and not easy to deal with. The stone substrate was quite friable in places, so the removal of too much organic material would be detrimental to the surface.

It is now on display in the Roman Gallery of Wiltshire museum. The moss removal revealed a series of drilled holes along the topmost margin where there is also the faint suggestion of a inscription.

The stone has been recorded by Tony Hack to bring out the detail in the carving and possible inscription and to further allow the interpretation of the figures shown on the stone. Some of this work in 3D is available to view here.

We wondered (incorrectly) if the figure on the left was Hercules. There may have been faded inscription along the top margin but the only letters we could make out for certain were an ‘I' and a ‘V’ slightly to the left of the central figure. The margin had been drilled at regular intervals all the way round and one of the drill holes has a small nail or what may be a broken drill bit in it. There is a small amount of lime mortar on the right cheek that suggests that it was once fixed to a neighbouring stone.

During a gathering to discuss the piece, The Reverend Professor Martin Henig concluded that the block displayed three standing female deities, mother goddesses known as the Fates, or the Parcae. Their individual names are (left to right:) Lachesis who measured the thread of life, seen with her measure over her shoulder, Klotho, who span the thread of life on her spindle, but here carries scales and holding a scroll, Atropos who cut life's thread and chose the way a person would die. The thick thread can be clearly seen to be held by the right hand figures.The Parcae controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death. Even the gods feared the Parcae. Jupiter also was subject to their power.

Above Photo courtesy of Mr Tony Hack.

The Reverend Professor Martin Henig commences the conservation of the block.

Clarendon Palace, flint walling and plaster consolidation.

Dec 13, 2017

This winter we have been working to consolidate the vulnerable ruined landscape of the Clarendon Palace, nr Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The current custodians on a visit..

The Medieval manor and hunting lodge was established during C12 as a Royal Palace and expanded during early C13. It has an irregular layout of buildings arranged around a courtyard. In 1574 it was described as a simple hunting lodge. In that year, Queen Elizabeth visited the site, but the buildings were in such poor condition that she had to dine in a temporary "banquett house" The ruination has continued ever since. Today, what survives of the royal residence used by kings and queens from Henry I to Henry VI are extensive earthworks, flint walls, and the eastern wall of the Great Hall.

We have been working under the instruction of the Architect Jo Hibbert to consolidate and rebuild the remaining flint and walls and the scraps of historic plaster that remain. The ruins will be completed with new turf cappings to the wall heads.

Wall consolidation

The hard capping (wall tops constructed from stone and mortar) had failed, so working with volunteers, SPAB Scholars and the projects funders (English heritage) a soft turf capping was introduced.

Consolidating flint walls.

Masonry repair work to Chicksgrove Bridge, Tisbury, Wiltshire.

Dec 13, 2017

Over the summer of 2017 we have been working on the early C18th quarry Bridge across the River Nadder at Chicksgrove near Tisbury.

Working with Sam Wheeler at Phillip Hughes Associates, the project combined both traditional masonry techniques as well as Lime grouting, pinning and a palette of mortar repairs to match both the colour of the stone and the lichens that cover it.

Cutting new stone to match the old.

Abutment rebuilt

With the inclusion of a large Ammonite fossil that had been originally built in.

Newly fixed Chicksgrove stone from the adjacent quarry- ready to be trimmed in, dressed and finished.

Newly fixed Chicksgrove stone from the adjacent quarry - trimmed in, dressed and finished.

Final trimming in.

Masonry conservation to the Hamstone tower of Hinton St George Church, Somerset.

Nov 17, 2017

Our big project for the first part of 2017 was one of stonework repair to the Perpendicular church tower of Hinton St George, Somerset.

This was a pure conservation project that followed all aspects of lime repair to the walling stonework, windows filled with Somerset tracery and the grotesques and gargoyles. The project was overseen by the architect, John Beauchamp. All involved were very happy with how we captured the colour and texture of the Hamstone and Yeovil stone.

Below, Nell finishing repairs to the upper window tracery.

The slow reveal as the scaffolding was dropped in stages.

Hinton St George scaffolding.

Below, repaired quatrefoil panels to the crenulations.

Grotesques after a shower.

Pinnacles, reassembled and repaired.

More winged grotesques.

Tracery prior to the insertion of micro pins to secure delaminating Hamstone sections.

Scaffolding down, all finished.

New louvres to the bell chamber windows.

New louvres to window

One of the inhabitants - a long eared bat.

Fibonnacci sequenced spiral stair case that is no longer a watercourse in heavy weather.

Other work during 2017

Below - Before and after view of Cleaning and lime mortar repairs to a Talbot hunting dog, Mells.

Frome's new Hubnub Centre

Apr 1, 2017

It's been our pleasure to have spent the past couple of years working on and off on the old Zion Chapel in the middle of our home town of Frome. It has been converted successfully into the new Hubnub community centre, by Ed and Io - (the most perfect clients imaginable).

Our Frome based team of Samantha, Nell, Mike, Bryony, Orion, Seth and Peter all enjoyed the change of a walk into work.

The work comprised two parts.

1.The outer facade was coming apart due to water ingress, so after unpicking and extensive stone replacement it now has a bright future.

2. Internally we replaced many failed areas with new haired lime plaster, conserved the fine ceiling and redecorated traditionally.

The biggest challenge was to save the vaulted ceiling above the organ. Inserting stainless steel fixings from beneath into the ceiling joists was the only option. We disguised the fixings with a gilded decoration of stars - which everyone loves and has added to the success of the conversion to the galleried interior.

Bryony and Mike after Ceiling works completed. Nell, leading our team.

(Below) view of the Hubnub from the Lamb and Fountain.