Conservation and Restoration of WW1 Memorial Board

Public Notice is being posted online and on the building of All Saints Church from the 11th November to the 10th December.


The war memorial is a wood board with architectural elements mounted on the south wall. It is approximately h 195 x w 105 cm; at the top it is 17.5 cm deep. The top is now about 250 cm above floor.


History and Signficance

It lists the First World War dead from the parish. There are no known records with a specific history of the memorial, it was presumably done within a few years of the end of the war and mounted at the West end wall, by the South Door, in the church. The church had a large fire in 1940 resulting in the memorial board being moved to it’s current location in the chapel.

Original Techniques and Materials

It is unclear how the board is mounted on the wall but there is a wood framework at the back. The wood appears to be oak. The main panel is made up of four boards joined with unknown joints; no pegs or filled holes are visible on the front. A pediment at the top and two corbels at the bottom are added architectural elements. The top of the pediment is covered with a thin sheet of lead as would be done for rain protection. The text is incised and other than that the only carving is the alpha and omega letters and the cross on the pediment. The lettering is painted black or gilded. The black is very insoluble in polar solvents and is probably an oil medium. This is oil gilding and it is not glazed. The original finish is not known but may have been a resin varnish, wax or a drying oil or a mixture of these.

It is assumed the board had some smoke damage in 1940 and was cleaned and possibly refinished with the present coatings. It is possible that the colour of the lettering may have been painted over to disguise the soot though no underlying paint was seen.


The structure is overall stable with a few detached elements and one missing piece. The bracket at the lower left is out of place and one piece is detached. On the inside lower right, a decorative bracket in plane with the panel is missing (approx. 12.5 x 18 x 3 cm), and the recess that holds it is not damaged. The lead sheet has a few very small buckles on the leading edge.

The black paint in the lettering is well adhered and has no obvious losses. The gilding is in relatively good condition with a few abrasions. The black lettering is intact and, in many places, has white accretions of wax; these are soft and readily removable with white spirit and a wood tool.

The colour of the plain oak background is very dark so the contrast to the black lettering is low. The background to the panel at the bottom of the pediment that contains the text, “Greater Love Hath No Man than This,” is lighter in tone and may have different surface layers but this was not tested. The overall surface is covered first with a layer of grime soluble in dilute ammonia, a varnish layer soluble in polar solvents, and a top wax layer soluble in xylene. A test clean to remove all these layers removed much dark material – varnish and grime – to make the surface much lighter.


The goal is to preserve the existing paint and gilding and remove the discoloured layers on the wood. This will increase the contrast between the black letters and the background. Any missing paint or gilding will be replaced with the same to remove visual distractions. The detached pieces will be reattached and the missing part fabricated, fitted and coloured to match. The work will be done on site to avoid any damage caused by remounting and transport.

Preliminary to the main tasks, is to determine if the black is the original colour in the lettering. This would involve taking a paint sample for cross sectional analysis under the microscope. If another colour is found then the task of recolouring the lettering could be considered.

The main tasks are as follows:
1. Clean the surfaces three times to remove the three layers – wax then varnish then
grime; use three cleaning solutions – aromatics and aliphatics mixture, alcohol and aliphatic mixture, dilute ammonia solution. Remove the wax build-up in the lettering during the first clean.
2. Remove old adhesive from the detached pieces and reattach with hide glue. Modern PVA wood adhesives are too strong and will damage the wood if ever the pieces are hit or stressed again. (some of this will be done off site)
3. Fabricate the missing bracket from oak and attach with hide glue. (some of this will be done off site)
4. Reduce distortions in lead top.
5. Apply synthetic wax to saturate the wood and provide a protective easily removable coating.
6. Colour and tone the new wood piece to match using water-based colours coated with wax.
7. Apply Larapol A81 resin-based paint to replace any missing black paint, (none is now visible).
8. Apply gold leaf with an acrylic adhesive to replace any missing gilding.
9. Submit a brief treatment report with photographs. (off site)

Schedule. The work will require about 6 days on site. The project duration is longer as some tasks will be done off site.