Clifton College Bristol approached us to assess the banners which hang in the Chapel and, whilst other works were going on, give them a good clean and some tic. On first inspection, we found many years of hanging in bright sunlight, under candles and 100 years of teenagers. Time had taken its toll on the banners, though some were worse than others. The Bonham Carter Banner was gifted to the college by Sir Charles Bonham Carter, who was educated at the college, along with several others from the family.
The First job was to get the banner down, which involved erecting a scaffold tower and some interesting balancing from the building team. We carefully wrapped the flag in acid-free tissue paper and rolled it onto a tube for support while in transport. The images clearly show the severe nature of the damage.
We could only support this type of light of damage causing the silk to turn to paper, powdering on touch and we could only contain it between two layers of a conservation net. But in consultation with the school decided that this piece had to be wrapped for long-term storage to protect it. Packing in acid-free tissue, rolling it onto a drainpipe for support, and finally encasing the whole piece in a specialised calico wrap. We also support the college in finding a safe place for the banner, which isn’t damp and is cool but not cold.
Creating a reproduction involves a certain amount of detective work; firstly, what were the original colours? The light damage to the original had faded the reds and golds. But with some hunting, we found a piece inside the hanging sleeve, where the fabric had been protected. So we could match the royal blue and stunning gold colours.
We sourced the fringe from a passementerie firm based in Egypt. They have a great history and work for Palaces, Cathedrals, and more.
Each section of the flag had to be replicated and hand stitched. Making sure it was, of course, identical from both sides.
The original gold embroidery had also been removed and need to be recreated from the paint that had been applied to replace it, each piece was created as an applique and then applied to backing silk.
To help the poor buildings team, we added metal hoops to each end and a pole with a hook to prevent any more hanging from scaffolds.
The flag was rehung in the college chapel in time for the end-of-year commemoration services; the college and the family were delighted with the reproduction, which will hopefully hang in the Chapel for another 100 years.