Informing the Decoration, Renovation and Understanding of Historic Buildings through Architectural Paint Research
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Lincoln
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Built Environment and Design: Architecture
History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Curatorial and Related Studies
Summary of the impact
Crick Smith Conservation conducts architectural paint research for
external clients: internationally renowned historic properties, museums
and commercial enterprises. The application of knowledge gained from this
research sustains and enriches our cultural heritage and in
turn improves the economic prosperity of the sector through improved
cultural tourism, access to investment and increased visitor numbers.
Direct beneficiaries include conservators, institutions that manage
heritage properties and visitors that benefit from good research and
well-presented sites. In supporting heritage organisations to reinstate
authentic interior schemes, our high quality research has also improved
their visibility and success in gaining grant applications.
Establishing the appearance of a historic interior decorative scheme is
often very complex due to the layers of subsequent redecoration, and other
alterations made by the owners of a property over time. Crick Smith's
central methodology is the removal of paint samples, which are then
mounted in cross section in a clear casting resin and the surfaces
polished back to reveal the stratigraphy in a cross section of the
accumulated paint layers. Samples are viewed under a high-powered
binocular microscope under various light sources, which provides data
about the physical make-up of the paint. When this data is then
cross-referenced with documented historic samples in the National Archive
for Historic Decoration, and underpinning textual data from available
literature, Crick Smith are able to arrive at an accurate assessment of
the nature of the original decorative surface and the context in which the
site was originally utilized and characterised.
The following gives an overview of four research sites in which the
methodology for mapping and cross-referencing the science, historic data
and application was utilized:
- Since 1995 Ian Crick Smith and Michael Crick Smith have acted as
consultants to English Heritage in relation to Kenwood House. The
extent of the survival of Robert Adam's original schemes, and how they
compared to the surviving original plans and proposals, was unknown. Paint
stratigraphy uncovered a far more elaborate interior decorative history
throughout the period of the house and deliberately contrasting treatments
on the exterior of the north and south facades. Research on The Great
Stair provided evidence of the extent of the survival of Robert Adam's
original scheme of 1770, the additions to this scheme in the 1790s, and
the impact of seven subsequent schemes. Research on the Service Wing
Colonnade showed that an early nineteenth- century scheme had extensively
repaired and replaced much of the original fabric, but that upper areas of
the column shafts retained areas of the original paint schemes.
- Between 2009 and 2011 Ian Crick Smith, Michael Crick Smith and Paul
Croft carried out interior and exterior architectural paint research on Elizabeth
Gaskell's House, 18 Plymouth Grove, Manchester. This research
established the exterior and interior schemes during the occupancy of the
author, and provided detailed advice on the nature of the proposed
reinstatement of the scheme.
- During 2011, Paul Croft, Ian Crick Smith and Michael Crick Smith used
paint stratigraphy to uncover physical evidence of the original decorative
scheme of a series of structures in a historically significant leisure
park: King's Gardens Southport. The research allowed Sefton
Council to construct a credible funding bid to restore and repair the
Gardens in a sensitive manner that respected the historic design while
providing facilities for today's users. The bid resulted in an award of
over £4 million from Heritage Lottery Fund.
- In 2011 Paul Croft conducted architectural paint research on the
extant decorative scheme at the Church of St. James the Less, New
Mills, Derbyshire. Paint stratigraphy showed that a decorative
scheme of c. 1880 lay under layers of modern decoration. Sections of the
earlier scheme were then revealed and subsequently the original scheme was
completely reinstated on one wall.
References to the research
1. Crick Smith Conservation, "Kenwood House, Hampstead, London. Exterior
Research All Elevations, Architectural Paint Survey — Updated Report",
Research Consultancy Report, May 2010
2. Crick Smith Conservation, "Kenwood House Hampstead London, Adam
Interiors: The Great Stair, Ante-Chamber and Library Architectural Paint
Research", Working Draft of Research Consultancy Report, November 2011.
3. Crick Smith Conservation, 'Research and Investigation and
Reinstatement of the early decorative scheme at the Church of St. James
the Less, New Mills, Derbyshire'
4. Crick Smith Conservation, `Final Report, Architectural Paint Analysis,
Kings Gardens, Southport', 2011
5. Crick Smith Conservation, National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place,
London: The Conservation of the Tiled Columns of the Smoking Room, 2008,
Details of the impact
The understanding and reinstatement of historic interiors
Reports written by Crick Smith establish a unique type of material
evidence that can be used to establish the nature of historic decorative
schemes. Without this evidence, most properties seeking to reinstate
historic interior schemes would be acting on a highly speculative basis —
too conjectural to be credible for historians or funding bodies. In
essence the material analysis allows a level of certainty about the
original scheme impossible without this analysis. Ian Crick Smith, Michael
Crick Smith and Paul Croft advise clients during the progress of a
project, often submitting interim reports and preliminary research
findings, through this process they influence the direction of the
projects as well as providing a summary of the research in a final report.
Below are some examples of how their research is undertaken and used
across the sector.
The research carried out by Ian and Michael Crick Smith at Kenwood
House was an integral part of English Heritage's decision making
process, suggested new ways of establishing reversible reinstated
decorative schemes and allowed historians to understand the external
finishes that Robert Adam applied to his buildings. They developed a
methodology for recreating the sanded exterior finish and then advised
contractors on reinstating the scheme and advised as to the success of
trial finishes. Ian and Michael Crick Smith advised English Heritage on
how to make new decorative schemes reversible. As well as producing
documentation, Ian and Michael Crick Smith were invited to attend Project
Team meetings that influenced the way that English Heritage carried out
the project. As a direct result of this research the 'Deal Staircase' and
the South Front Rooms were redecorated according to a scheme of 1815-17 by
William Atkinson, as the research demonstrated that the Robert Adam's
interiors could not be recovered due to extensive subsequent alteration.
This restoration will be the subject of a series of articles published in
the English Heritage Member's Magazine, one specificly describing Crick
Smith's contribution. The results of the research were described by Jeremy
Ashbee as 'radical and unexpected' and as such likely to influence English
Heritage's approach to future projects this is unconfirmed as yet due to
the recent completion of this project.
Research carried out by Ian and Michael Crick Smith on Elizabeth
Gaskell's House has formed the basis of a major project that aims to
recreate the appearance of the building during the author's occupancy. The
authenticity of the interior is crucial to the credibility of the scheme,
as Gaskell is celebrated for the way that she uses interiors to
characterise her fictional creations. A report in early 2009 established
the exterior colour, since reinstated. A series of reports established the
decorative finishes of the windows and joinery, interior decorative
finishes and wallpapers and the external decoration. In June 2012 the
Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Manchester Buildings Trust a grant of
£1.85 million to reinstate the interiors, an application based on this
research. In 2013 Crick Smith were further engaged as consultants to
advise on the quality of the reinstated decorative finishes and Jim
Cheshire and Michael Crick Smith co-wrote an article detailing how the
paint research could be related to literary and biographic research, thus
enhancing the ability of members of the Gaskell Society to understand the
process of restoration and its historiographical basis.
In 2012, Sefton Council was successful in its application for over £4
million from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to restore and repair the King's
Gardens Southport in 'a sensitive manner that respects their
historic design whilst providing facilities for today's users': their
ability to recreate the historic design was a direct result of this
research. A specific objective was 'to restore all the surviving heritage
buildings, ornamental features and remove inappropriate later changes to
reinstate the original design coherence': the identification of an
authentic and coherent scheme was a direct result of this research. In
both these ways Crick Smith's research added authenticity and credibility
to this major regeneration project.
The research relating to Church of St. James the Less, New Mills,
Derbyshire. This research concluded that a decorative scheme of c.
1880 lay under layers of modern decoration. Authentic paint research was a
requirement of the preliminary HLF bid, Crick Smith's research provided
this evidence and the phase 2 HLF bid was successful, resulting in a grant
of £717,000. Crick Smith were then commissioned to reveal sections of the
earlier scheme and to reinstate the original scheme in its entirety on one
wall. The church is now a successful heritage centre that exemplifies a
respect for historic fabric while enabling a contemporary role for the
building, the recovery of the original scheme by Crick Smith was a vital
part in determining the character of the new centre.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Susan Jenkins, "All Gingerbread, filigraine, and fan painting:
'Fashion and Function, the Decoration of the Library at Kenwood'"
forthcoming in Consuming the Country House [article written by
Senior Curator, English Heritage partly based on Crick Smith reports].
- Jeremy Ashbee, Head Properties Curator, English Heritage, 'Testamonial
for Crick Smith' (letter dated 25 February 2011, relating to Kenwood
- English Heritage Members Magazine, 'What Lies Beneath' — clear
description of Crick Smith role in the project: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/support-us/magazine/may-2013/what-
[HLF description of the reinstatement of Gaskell scheme].
[bbc report of HLF success in Gaskell scheme].
[description of role of Crick-Smith in St. James the Less, New Mills,
- Alan Lake, 'The Restoration of King's Gardens, Southport, How Historic
Paint Analysis was used to Inform the Heritage Lottery Funded Project' —
letter from the project manager.