Nevin of Edinburgh undertake the restoration of an important part of Glasgow’s artistic heritage at St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.
St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow is a protected, Category A listed building, built in 1871. Historic and listed buildings come with a unique set of challenges when working on their interiors. Work of this nature requires a great deal of skill and attention to detail and the ability to combine modern techniques with traditional methods.
Nevin of Edinburgh were first contacted over a year ago to do an assessment and report on the water damage caused in the cathedral chancel area of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow. The focus of the work was the hand-painted decorative scheme created by well-known American Artist Gwyneth Leech in 1990. On inspection, damp meter readings were carried out which showed a high moisture content was present in the walls due to an ongoing external issue. A year later, once the external issue had been resolved, Nevin of Edinburgh were asked to re-evaluate the areas, which were found to have dried out. The original plaster / render was in a bad state of disrepair and needed considerable work to repair the damage, which was completed using Toupret Touprelith masonry filler.
It was evident that the project of reinstating the decorative artwork while trying to maintain as much of the original would be difficult. The paint that was originally used for the decorative artwork was a handmade distemper and was extremely difficult to get exact due to its age and wear. The project is a real testament to the skills of Mark Nevin who made all the paints by hand on site, to match the original, using historical techniques rarely used in the modern era of a painter and decorator.
Firstly, dry powder pigments were ground down using a pestle and mortar into water and mixed into a casein distemper base, which is derived from milk curd. This gave a matt velvet finish that would match the original. This showcases the attention to detail demanded by a project of this nature. Several hours of samples was required to get an exact match. To achieve the desired result, the original artwork was then traced and ‘pounced’ on to the wall. What this technique involves is piercing the tracing with a series of holes and then beating it with a bag of chalk to transfer the design onto the based-out wall.
With the preparation work done, the flowing design was then traditionally hand painted using signwriting brushes, along with the aid of a ‘mahl stick’ and a steady hand. A stencil was then cut using traditional methods to match the exact design used some 28 years previously, this was then replicated and hand stencilled on to complete the works.
The project included work to many areas of the cathedral. As if this project wasn’t challenging enough, some of the areas in need of repair were at high level and access was via scaffolding up to 60 feet high. All the works had to be done working round 3 services a day and noise and disruption was to be kept to a minimum.
Mark Nevin said ‘’Work like this doesn’t come along often but when it does it allows us to showcase skills we have learned over many years and allowed us to restore an important part of Glasgow’s artistic heritage… We are very proud of the outcome and more importantly to us the client is extremely happy’’
About Nevin of Edinburgh
Nevin of Edinburgh specialise in all aspects of interior and exterior decorating for commercial and residential customers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth areas (but also undertake specialist projects from the south of England to the north of Scotland). They pride themselves in being one of the leading companies of decorators to properties ranging from substantial period properties renovations such as historic castles, churches, blocks of flats commercial offices and supermarkets – scaling down to the smallest terraced cottage.
They are active members of The Scottish Decorators’ Federation, preferred painters for many restorative charities and established bodies such as Historic Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and National Trust for Scotland.
They have won fourteen UK Painter of the Year awards along with numerous Scottish Decorators Federation awards. They are winners of several international awards including two gold medals at Worldskills Calgary, Canada 2009.
The company have decorated many of the UK’s finest buildings including Mount Stuart, Kenwood House, Hopetoun House, Traquair House, Dumfries House and The Royal Palace of Stirling castle. The specialist division does in-house Pigment Analysis and Stereo Microscopy for Cross Section Paint Analysis.
Nevin of Edinburgh is included on the Conservation Register with Historic Scotland. They have advised the Forensic Laboratory at Lothian and Borders Police Force on paint sample analysis and demonstrated at Hampton Court Palace for the Traditional Paint Forum, they have also worked for the Historic Palace Agency