Two of Plastic Surgeon’s highly trained Finishers spent a three week period during the University of Leeds’ summer vacation period, on a stone monument restoration removing the graffiti and other damage caused by vandals to a masonry structure which commemorates one of the country’s best loved monarchs.
Such was the impact of her reign, which spanned most of the 19th century, that there are monuments to Queen Victoria across the country; though few can be in such an isolated location as that on the Yorkshire university’s Headingley Campus, which has left it vulnerable to attack. However, looking forward to the possibility of a visit by our present queen, the Estates Department determined to make good the 160 year old landmark, while having to preserve as much of the original stonework as possible.
The Operations Manager for Plastic Surgeon’s North East Region, Mark Johnson, takes up the account: “We received a call from the Estates Department when they were looking around for a specialist to repair the damage which had been caused to the Victoria Arch; taking quotes from refurbishment contractors, stone masons and repair companies. Ours was the most competitive quote and based on a technical approach which matched all the criteria.
“Unfortunately the stone arch is hidden away in woodland at the top end of the Leeds University Headingley Campus and had been a target for vandals over many years, so the lower levels were covered in graffiti tags and places where people had carved their initials. Aside from the extent of the damage, the other complication was that the heritage people wanted any interventions to be as minimal as possible – that is to say removing the paint and the scratch marks, but not attempting to repair the stonework as a whole.”
With a time period of some 200 hours agreed for the extent of the work required, and tower scaffolding erected for safe access, the two Finishers began removing the paint, marker pen ink and general discolouration that had resulted from organic growth. This was successfully achieved using a soda jetting machine which gently scrubs the deposits away without eroding any of the ageing masonry.
Mark Johnson continues: “With the structure cleaned out two Finishers began making good the various depths of scratch marks and gouges, using our specialist stone restoration products, including cement paste and different fillers.
“Possibly most time consuming was matching all the different shades present in the old stone and mortar joints, which meant mixing lots of small batches of filler with the right pigments and grades of silica to replicate the original texture of the surfaces. It was a very big challenge, but the Victoria Arch now looks in a condition which anyone with a sense of our history would want to see it.”
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