In November our team of Statue Conservation Assistants covered our some of our 50 statues for winter. Our work involved wrapping the statues up in giant sleeping bags in order to protect them from frost and the colder weather – these are made of a breathable polyester with a layer of multiple strips of aluminium foil ribbons acting as an insulator. Over time, exposure to extreme changes in weather can contribute to the breakdown of their materials and surfaces. Many of our statues are in highly exposed areas and take a real battering from the wind and the rain, so it was really important to ensure that as many of them were covered as possible.
The team and I took time each week to do a walk around the gardens and check that the covers were still secure and that no damage had occurred. Most damage is likely to occur when water gets into an existing hole or crack; when the water freezes,it expands, causing the crack to open up further. This often results in sections of the statue becoming loose over time and sometimes bits can fall off completely!
This unfortunately this happened to one of our griffins this year…
As you can see from the first photograph there was already a fault in the stone. Although the statue was covered by the team, I suspect that water running off the cover from heavy rain, followed by a very hard frost in early February, was the most likely cause of this damage. The stone as you can see has deteriorated very badly as a result. I keep any pieces that fall of the statues in the hope that they can be repaired by our specialist conservators, Cliveden Conservation Ltd.
By the time Spring arrived we were looking to remove the covers ready for our visitors to see them in all their glory! The team worked tirelessly to remove all the covers over the course of a few weeks, and we are now looking at starting our cleaning routine for the spring and summer months. We’ll have this little cherub ‘scrubbed up’ in no time!