Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, The Brighton Hippodrome and the Old War Office in London are extremely well known locations. And all three have something else in common – they have all benefited from the expertise of decorative plasterwork specialists using traditional methods to conserve the historic fabric of the buildings.
All three heritage sites have had extensive renovation using lime plastering and fibrous plasterwork by specialists.
Kent-based Artisan Plastercraft first got involved at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank in 2019, carrying out an inspection on the condition and structural integrity of the lath and plaster panels inside and outside the theatre.
The ensuing work was carried out successfully and when the theatre was looking to extend its repair programme, the stage was set for Artisan Plastercraft to answer the call.
Michael Arney, Director of Artisan Plastercraft, said: “It has been a coup for Artisan to work on such an historic and well known building.
“We have worked hard to ensure we can renovate the historical site to our usual high standards. Lime render restoration work was needed to both internal and external walls, staircase and walkways, within the North and East Towers.
“It involved the removal and replacement of lime render on some panels, we were able to replace or repair the affected timber laths before applying the new lime render in a three-coat system.
“Under phase two we carried out maintenance to specific areas of the North and East Towers using the same traditional plaster techniques and three-coat lime system – enhancing the building’s durability and appearance.
“Finally, we carried out further heritage lath and plaster work to the exterior of the North Tower, involving the removal and replacement of sections of plaster. Once again we have used three coat lime plaster and riven timber laths. This will achieve a long-lasting thermally insulated authentic wall finish.”
The project was very different to work Artisan Plastercraft has carried out at the Brighton Hippodrome Theatre.
Called in to undertake the restoration of the decorative plaster ceiling at the historic venue, the traditional workmanship was once again replied upon – this time with fibrous decorative plasterwork.
With lions, intricate artistic patterns and fascinating designs throughout, the striking ceiling was crumbling and in puzzle pieces, having stood empty for 16 years, when Artisan was commissioned.
Mr Arney said: “We have been commissioned to preserve, restore and recreate the amazing plasterwork that is a feature of the ceilings and walls at this landmark venue and work is being carried out on-site and at our London workshop to achieve this.
“We have extensive experience in inspecting ceiling plasterwork such as this. Inspections are carried out from above and below and it is important to say that thorough checks should always be made on suspended fibrous plaster, lath and plaster and traditional lime plasterwork.
“The Brighton Hippodrome project is seeing us working on the suspended ceiling restoration. A barrel ceiling section is being restored in our workshop and when completed will be used to mould new fibrous plaster casts to restore the circular auditorium ceiling.
“We are replacing damaged plaster, recreating sections of the ceiling in keeping with the original look and feel of the Grade ll Listed theatre. It is an exciting project and provides us with the opportunity to display the detailed craftsmanship that goes into our work – an artistic achievement which will hopefully be enjoyed by countless people in the years to come.”
The new owners of the Hippodrome plan to reopen the venue in November 2024 after the current extensive renovation.
It was built at the end of the 19th century as an ice rink, converted in 1901 to a circus and later redesigned as a theatre. It closed in 1964, reopened as a bingo hall three years later and closed again in 2006.
And another historic building to benefit from the exceptional talents of traditional plasterers is the Old War Office site in London’s Whitehall.
Artisan, which has built up an impressive reputation over the last 25 years, has helped to restore and convert the building into a 125-room Raffles hotel, and 85 private residences ranging from studios to five-bedroom apartments.
The former Ministry of Defence building was completed in 1906, originally had 1,100 rooms and was used as a headquarters by Winston Churchill in World War ll.
The building was acquired in 2016 by the Hinduja Group and Obrascón Huarte Lain Desarrollos.
Mr Arney said: “ We are delighted to be involved, it’s a massive project which includes constructing a three-storey roof extension and developing a six-storey basement.
“We are responsible for the manufacture and installation of fibrous plaster works and are also providing surveys of the extensive areas of heritage plasterwork throughout the complex.
“Our award winning expertise in heritage plaster restoration is being called upon within the hotel development through the manufacture and installation of new-to-match existing fibrous plaster cornice. This includes mould manufacture and on-site repairs to existing cornice and ceilings.
“Our involvement also includes the manufacture and installation of new fibrous plaster lighting troughs and step profiles, fibrous plaster ceiling centre panels and providing heritage plaster restoration and lime plastering works.”
For more information about Artisan Plastercraft or to see the specialisms they cover visit their website www.artisanplastercraft.com.