New discovery from original plan of the Pier

Recently we announced some exciting news to share….and since then we have discovered some even more interesting heritage interpretation news to share with you.  So here we go…..

In a recent posting – found on this link – archive volunteer and professional conservator, Helen explained how she had carefully gone about opening and unfolding precious but very fragile engineering drawings of the Pier from the 1860s.  All that hard work was so that archive and digitisation volunteer, Michael, could go about the difficult task of photographing the large document in 6 sections and then magically – well digitally! – stick them together back into one image. 

You can read more about Michael’s work on this link.  Below he tells us a little more about the technical ‘wizardry’ he used to photograph this large and very fragile document (owned and on loan from a private collector) so that an image can be held safely in the Pier Digital Archive for future reference and made available to the local community and wider public.  

Below is the image of the 1863 drawing submitted to the Board of Trade for approval to build a pier at Clevedon. 

The very fragile document measuring 99cm by 65cm is made of a delicate tracing paper type – material which Helen has used her conservator skills to flatten and store rolled between sheets of acid-free polyester film.  With over 150 years of storage, the plan has torn in places and has split on some of the folds. 

The photographing was done in a north-facing room to reduce ambient light giving with less shadows.  To create the composite digital image, the drawing was rolled out onto a flat surface, being very careful where the paper was more severely worn.    The camera was setup on a tripod with flash and light diffuser box to minimise flare and reflections.  The drawing and camera were positioned so that several overlapping shots of the plan could be taken with a piece of card under the plan to give a consistent background.  A selection of the overlapping photos were then loaded into the photo editing software.  Through a process of ‘trial and error’, the software merges the images into one single panoramic image.  The quality of the output is dependent on how well the images match for size, colour, contrast…  This means that photos need to be retaken and remerged to optimise the final image.  Over 60 photos were taken to find the best result.  The final image is very large at 386MB (or 267 of the 3.5inch floppy discs if you are old enough to remember them !!).  Luckily it condenses down to 13MB for viewing.

With the plan finally digitised to a high quality it was possible for the Pier’s archivists to have a closer look and zoom in for a closer look at interesting features.  There will be plenty of opportunity to do this in more detail but an immediate and fascinating little point of interest emerged to share.  It also led to a bit of Clevedon sea front sleuthing to find out an interesting bit of the story of building the Pier. On the plan can be seen the outline of a house, shown cross-hatched in the image below, near the shore end of the pier.  It has a little M written just to its right and a mark on a front face of the building.

This was intriguing and apparently unexplained until a note was found on the plan which says the following:

DATUM LINE for sections 100 Feet below stone door step of house at point marked thus M on Plan.  The said step being 1 2/5 Feet below the lower edge of half round moulding on stone side pillar of Doorway thus…….. followed by a cross sectional image of the foot of a pillar with a moulding sitting on a step.  

Of course, the burning question was…..could that all important feature that defines the Datum Line for sections drawn on the plan still be there?

Michael went down to the seafront and looked at the front of the building now known as Campbells Landing, opposite the Pier Tollhouse.

And sure enough he found the pillar, with its moulding sitting on a step in the doorway at the left of the building.

Unfortunately, this did not fully confirm the story as Michael had forgotten that the plan had specified a measurement of 1 and 2/5 feet from the underside of moulding to the step.  Not having a ruler showing fifths of a foot, he converted this to 42.7cm in C21 units.

Another trip armed with a tape measure finally tied up the story, to within 0.5cm, and confirmed…that this is the doorstep used as the surveyor’s datum line or reference point when drawing up plans for the Pier in the early 1860s.

Its intriguing to think what else we may learn from the old plans of Clevedon Pier as the work continues with flattening and digitising them so that all will be able to see them in the future. The plans have been stored for over 150 years and are in the hands of a private owner who has allowed the Pier Archive to digitise them to share with the community before they are returned.

If you’d like to find out more please contact archivist@clevedonpier.com who will be happy to help if they are able.

Clevedon Pier Archive is run by volunteers and funded through grant aid and donations. 

You can discover more about what collections the archive holds by following this link to find out more from the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive catalogue held in The National Archive Discovery platform.   https://clevedonpierarchive.com/2020/10/08/find-out-about-the-archive-catalogue/

Conservation Work 2

Elsewhere we’ve shared information about the Archive’s Work In Lockdown including the work of Conservator Helen. We were also lucky to have Helen work on the original Pier Engineering drawings sent for Board of Trade Approval in 1864 – getting them ready for digitisation. You can read more about the digitisation on this link.

The drawings had been stored folded for over a hundred years and needed very special care and attention. Helen has offered to share a summary of that work …… see below.

Clevedon Pier Engineers Drawings


Conservation flattening report


Before commencing treatment, each drawing was examined to look for weak points, which were mainly the folds, but also one item had a particularly vulnerable area around a wax seal.


The two smaller items were dealt with first: there were gently but very gradually opened onto flat blotter sheets. As each fold was opened (often only partly at first) light weights would be used to hold the document in place (avoiding pressure on the folds themselves) and it would be left like this to relax for some time, often overnight. Then the next fold would be opened in a similar way, and so on until slowly the entire document was unfolded. As the drawings relaxed into their new shape, more weight would be added and gradually some weight moved onto the folds themselves. If necessary controlled amounts of moisture could be applied to the folds using a water brush to help them relax.


The larger items were unfolded using a humidity chamber. To create this, the drawing was supported on a layer of Sympatex over lightly dampened blotter. The Sympatex layer controls the moisture, allowing humidity to reach the document without it getting wet. This 3-layer bundle was sandwiched between two sheets of clear polythene, the upper layer gently laid on top and weighted around the edge to keep the humidity in. Because the polythene is clear, the document could be carefully watched during the humidification process. As the item relaxed, the top polythene layer was peeled back, the drawing carefully unfolded a little, and then re-covered. Eventually, the plan was allowed to slowly dry in its new gently flattened state.


One of the large drawings actually comprised three layers of tracing paper which had been attached together at the upper corner by a red wax seal and ribbon. Unfortunately, where the item had been stored folded, the layers in contact with the top of the wax seal had become adhered to it. Therefore, before flattening could commence the folded layers had to be separated from the upper surface of the wax seal, using carefully applied and controlled heat coupled with small tools.


Once each plan was gently flattened, they were laid onto a sheet of archival polyester and rolled around a tube, held in place with cotton tying tapes, for transport and storage.

Further enquiries – please contact archivist@clevedonpier.com

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Digital Preservation 2

Elsewhere you can read about Archive Volunteer Michael and the work he does using his own equipment and in challenging circumstances to digitally preserve some very precious items held in the Archive’s collections. Follow this link to find out more https://clevedonpierarchive.com/2020/12/15/archive-volunteer-michael/

Below are two more examples of his work showing, in particular, how heavily folded, large and sometimes split documents can be digitised and ‘stitched’ back together digitally.

A sweet little (10″ x 6″) pencil on tracing paper drawing of the original pier flagstaff. Circa 1860. From the Clevedon Pier Company Collection.
Read more on this link The Pier Flagstaff – Clevedon Pier Archive .
An important drawing of the proposed restoration of Clevedon Pier by architect Keith Mallory 1979. (3′ x 20″ approximately). Heavily folded and slightly split. Digitised so that it can be viewed safely and accurately without any further damage to the original. Donated by Mr Tony Wring, one time Chairman of Pier Preservation Trust. More of the original 1860 drawings to come….watch this space!

The Little Letters 1

To find out more about the Archive project being undertaking by Volunteer Margaret to transcribe a superb collection of ‘little letters’ – follow this link to find out more.

Here is an example of one of the little letters and its transcription. It is particularly interesting because it is from the ‘Collector’ at the Pier at Weston Super Mare and is addressed to Clevedon Pier Company asking for information about regulations to do with passenger and steamboat traffic.

The Pier, Weston Super Mare, 4th August 1880

Sir

I am instructed by the Secretary of the Pier Coy (L.E.Baker Esqe) to ask for information respecting the Parliamentary powers, Bye Laws and general management of your Pier.

This Company proposes applying for a new act of Parliament and will be obliged for any suggestions you can offer respecting Passenger and Steamboat traffic.

I am, Sir,

Yours respectfully

E. Brooks

Collector

To build a Pier and run it for tourist purposes – such as P

paddlesteamer passenger trips- required an Act of Parliament. The application by the Clevedon Pier Company is an interesting read and hopefully when Lockdown 3 is over the digitised versions of these precious documents will soon be made available for public consumption.

Conservation Work 1

Conserving the Campbell Citation

The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust used a local freelance bookbinder and archive conservator – Helen  – to investigate, make recommendations and proceed with the work to save the Campbell Citation for future generations.  Read more about the citation on this link. Helen’s report is summarised below and makes for a fascinating read.  The item was conserved during May 2019 when conservation treatment was urgently required due to extensive mould visible on the item, both on the front of the citation and mount, and on the rear of the frame.

Excerpts from the Framed Campbell Citation Conservation Report

Description:

A document on card, with an illuminated manuscript citation, set within a wide mount, the mount being variously illustrated in watercolour. The whole framed and glazed in a wide carved wooden frame, with wooden backboard and inner frame nailed into place and a hanging chain fixed to the rear. The treatment option chosen included de-framing the item, cleaning and mould removal, and re-framing to conservation standards.

Treatment: 

The first step was to carefully clean the frame of dust, dirt and insect debris as well as mould. It was found that the backboard had bowed and split into several sections. The rusted nails holding these in place were extracted so the board pieces could be lifted away. This revealed extensive mould on the rear of the mount and citation, which was removed using brushes and a HEPA-filtered conservation vacuum. Additionally, several strips of card, presumably inserted as a compensating layer, were also cleaned of loose mould and dirt and removed. These, along with the original backboard pieces, were packaged, labelled and stored for future reference.

The citation and illustrated window mount were adhered together in places, although much of this adhesive had failed, so they were carefully lifted from the frame together and dry cleaned. After this a small amount of adhesive, in the form of cooked wheat starch paste, was used to reinforce the attachment between the citation and the mount.

As the citation itself was delaminating, wheat starch paste was also used to re-adhere the layers, and as added security, two hinges of Japanese tissue were added to ensure the citation would not detach from the mount if the remaining old adhesive failed.

The remaining rusted nails were removed to allow the inner frame and glazing to be lifted out and cleaned. The outer frame required extensive mechanical cleaning (often under magnification), using a variety of tools and materials including dissecting needles – used to carefully pick out ingrained wax polish, insect debris and encrusted dirt from the deep grain and intricately carved areas of the wood. Most of the corrosion products were lightly cleaned from the hanging fittings and the fittings inspected.

During the process of opening the frame, the corner mitres gradually parted, with one completely separating. The frame mitres were found to be held together by wooden dowels only, with no trace of adhesive strengthening. The weight of the glazing plus the inner frame, citation and mount puts strain on these joints, and therefore to strengthen the mitres and reduce any risk of them opening up in future, the decision was made to add a corner bracket to the rear of each mitre.

The inner border of the frame front had originally been decorated with a thin strip of gilded wood. Much of this strip had already become detached and lost, and the remainder was extremely worn, fragile and cracked. During the treatment of the frame, the remaining parts of the gilt strip became fully detached. Some intact sections were supported on archival tissue and encapsulated in archival polyester, for future reference.

Mould on citation exposed as backboards removed

Larvae imbedded in intricately carved frame.

Mould, rusty nails, general degradation of back of citation.

Re-Framing

The inner frame was prepared with a lining of conservation tape and re-attached to the outer frame using brass fixing plates hand-moulded to the correct shape. Conservation glazing was used instead of the original glass to reduce the amount of harmful UV light reaching the citation and decorated window mount, and thin strips of archival board were placed around the edges as spacers between the window mount and the glass.

Next, the citation and its decorative mount were fitted into the frame, with new archival board compensating strips and rear mount, followed by a layer of archival polyester moulded over the inner frame and sealed using a conservation framing tape.  This polyester layer acts as a barrier between the external environment and the object, reducing the impact of environmental fluctuations upon the citation and mount. A new backboard was fixed in place and the gaps sealed using traditional gummed framers tape.

The conserved citation was put on display in the Porthole Room following an official ‘launch’ attended by Helen and a member of the Campbell family who kindly travelled from the other side of the country to do the honours.   Now, the citation has been digitally copied and is currently stored in the Pier’s Archive awaiting the end of the Covid pandemic and hopefully the chance for it to be put on more regular display within the Tollhouse. 

Thanks also go to Clevedon Salesroom Clevedon Salerooms – Bristol Specialist & Fine Art Auctioneers (clevedon-salerooms.com) for their ongoing support for the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive Service – in this case with the loan of a magnificent (and heavy!) Victorian easel so that we could put the Campbell Citation on display.

For more information contact: archivist@clevedonpier.com

Archive Volunteer Helen

Helen is a professional conservator who has been busy this year undertaking work for various archives and private clients, whilst many heritage projects have been put on hold due to Covid. 

Conservation and Preservation Work Postings……No. 1

Despite her busy schedule, Helen has still found time to enjoy doing some very part-time, voluntary work for the pier archive – her most recent project has involved the slow and difficult task of unfolding and flattening a set of very fragile plans used by the Clevedon Pier Company in 1864 to obtain Department of Trade permissions to build Clevedon Pier and also to get quotations from builders to do the work. This has been an incredibly important task which means these plans can now be digitised. It’s good having someone like Helen on board to be able to do these conservation jobs for us.  The plans are a real digitisation challenge and Helen helped with the preparation of a grant application that has been submitted to try and acquire the funds to have the plans professionally digitised on a large flat bed printer.  Fingers crossed we are successful.  

Watch this space for more information about Helen’s work on preparing the old drawings and what happens next with getting them digitised.

Conservation Work Posting No. 2