Ornate decorative plaster mouldings are a common feature of theatre architecture from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Often brightly painted and sometimes gilded, fibrous plaster mouldings form a highly visible part of the intricate architecture associated with grand theatre auditoriums and public areas. We recently worked on a project that required large sections of a suspended fibrous plaster ceiling to be restored. We captured the process of how we went about recreating a large seashell style moulding as it progressed through our workshop. The images below tell the story…
These photographs show the key steps in recreating a beautiful decorative shell moulding from the ceiling of Brighton Hippodrome, a Grade II* listed building. Our work began by piecing the broken moulding together on a workbench (image 1.) to assess the task ahead. The total length of the moulding is approx. 3.5 metres. Some areas of plaster were missing, so the remaining parts were fixed together (image 2.) and missing areas crafted to match and replicate the missing material. Once the restoration was complete, the repaired plaster moulding is covered in rubber to create a mould (image 3.). This allows a replica to be cast to the exact size and quality of the original (image 4.), to be reinstated in the theatre ceiling, preserving the architecture for future generations.
1. The damaged plaster pieces fitted together on the bench.
2. All pieces fixed together and missing areas repaired.
3. Rubber mould taken from the repaired plaster.
4. Final cast recreating the original plaster moulding.
As well as restoring plaster theatre architecture, we can also provide experienced surveyors to undertake fibrous plaster ceiling surveys. Following the ceiling collapse at the Apollo Theatre, London in 2013 all theatre owners and managers of places of entertainment with suspended fibrous plaster ceilings should note the guidance from The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT Guidance Note 20) and Historic England (HEAG269). These guidance notes advise all suspended fibrous plaster ceilings should be inspected regularly by competent plaster inspectors and structural engineers to make sure premises are safe for public occupation. Artisan Plastercraft is able to provide detailed inspections and reports and is an industry supporter of the ABTT. Please contact us for more information.