St Mary's Church, Balham

Interior ceiling decoration at St Mary's, Balham

A comprehensive survey of the lavish Victorian interior decoration was commissioned by the church and carried out from a tower scaffold over a period of 3 days. The survey included: plotting areas of unstable paint, taking moisture readings with a conductivity meter, trials to stabilise typical areas of flaking paint and widespread cleaning. A comprehensive selection of paint samples were also collected and analysed by a specialist. The information was compiled into a written and photographic report which contained proposals and an estimate. Later that year the church had raised the necessary funds and after the faculty had been obtained and the project commenced.

The majority of the treatment centred on the chancel where there was extensive damage due to previous water infiltration resulting in widespread disruption and losses to the paint and plaster. There was also smoke damage to all surfaces due to a fire in 1998. The only original decoration is the painted scheme on the ceiling and the 5 polychrome plaster figures above the chancel arch, there have been 2 previous restorations which have altered the original colour scheme, traces of the original colour scheme used for the dado decoration were found on the square column adjacent to the organ and corresponding column on the south side.

The programme of work involved treating an enormous area (width 8 metres, depth 6.5 metres, height 12 metres) consisting of a variety of surfaces; painted and gilded decoration, plaster architectural elements and figures, scagliola columns and pilasters and a series of 9 large mosaic panels. Stencils were used to reproduce to complex decoration and any lost gilding was replaced with gold leaf. Losses to the figures were either modelled or carved in wood. Missing sections of the scagliola columns and pilasters were remodelled using plaster coloured with pigments.

In pictures

Click on any image for a larger version.

general view Ceiling before Ceiling after Capital before Capital after