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The Church of St James the Less, New Mills

This project, undertaken on behalf of Cricksmith UoL, included the conservation of four 19th century spirit fresco murals and the re-instatement of a stencilled decorative scheme located in the Church of St James The Less, New Mills, Derbyshire.

The murals were in a poor condition, suffering from surface and structural damage to the decorative surface and substrate. They required conservation treatment to stabilise their condition and restore a ‘unified and aesthetically pleasing’ appearance, in preparation for the buildings refurbishment and conversion into a community arts centre.

The murals had been overpainted in the past and this later addition had severely deteriorated and required careful removal to reveal the original surface beneath. Further treatments included cleaning of the painted surface, consolidation of blown and detatching plaster, filling of cracks and losses, retouching of fills and regilding of detail.


Mural surface before and after cleaning

Treatment of blooming

Consolidating blown plaster



At the request of the client, all original gilded detail was re-gilded using 24ct gold leaf. The painted lettering and detail on the banners were carefully worked around to preserve as much of the original painted surface as possible. Once the size had fully dried, the gilding was distressed, to prevent an overly new and ‘pristine’ appearance contrasting with the surrounding natural aged surface of the murals.

Mural detail before and after cleaning


REINSTATING THE ORIGINAL DECORATIVE SCHEME / The original stencil decoration on the west gable wall (now lost through the water damage and subsequent removal of the plaster) was identified through cross section analysis. Prior to the complete removal of the plaster, an area of the scheme was revealed and recorded. As part of the month long conservation project, this scheme was reinstated using a combination of hand painting and traditional stencilling techniques.

Completed scheme

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