13th century mural at Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury
The cleaning and conservation of the 13th century wall paintings in the Refectory at the Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury carried out by a team of conservators led by Tom Organ at the request of Jonathan Carey (Donald Insall Associates Ltd) for the Master and Trustees of Eastbridge Hospital. The Refectory mural painting depicting Christ in Majesty c. 1220 was examined on a number of occasions between 1993 and 1999 and had undergone detailed scientific examination in 1994, but with no conservation programme in hand had continued to show signs of deterioration.
On-going issues with flaking paint due to the presence of a surface coating, identified as wax, resulted in the recent programme of surface cleaning, stabilisation and conservation treatments, which included plaster repairs and redecoration of the surrounding wall. Following its discovery in 1879, the painting was first covered with a layer of shellac and later in the 1930s by a coating of beeswax, both common treatments at the time. These layers darken over time and presented serious conservation issues - the shellac discolouring badly, the wax attracted and retained dust and dirt. Humidity entering the wall cannot pass through these surface coatings with the result that the paint starts to flake away.
A programme of treatment was undertaken in order to conserve the painting and reduce the wax layer, to prevent further loss and allow improvement in legibility.