Normansfield theatre scenery: materials and construction revealed through conservation
Part of book or chapter of book
- Publisher: Archetype Publications
Described as one of the finest collections of stock scenery in the country, and a rare survival from the 19th century, the painted scenery from Normansfield Theatre is the focus of this paper. A team of conservators from the Textile Conservation Centre, in collaboration with paintings conservators, conserved a representative selection of painted flats, a backdrop and a false proscenium for display on the stage as well as stabilising and storing the other items in a bespoke system so that they are accessible to researchers.\ud \ud Normansfield Theatre was a small private Victorian theatre and entertainment hall built in the grounds of a former hospital for people with learning difficulties. The theatre was used by the staff and patients for both therapeutic and recreational purposes between 1879 and 1909. The stage is a miniature version of a typical Georgian theatre, with grooves for scenic flats and mechanisms for hanging backdrops, set within a Victorian proscenium arch. Unusually over 100 pieces of stock scenery, created by established scene painters and dating from the 1870s, survived in its original setting. \ud \ud Although textile conservators are familiar with treating painted textiles, the Normansfield scenery with its large flexible canvases and water soluble, under-bound paint presented new conservation challenges. Research into the scenery’s materials and construction, collaboration with paintings conservators and the conservation treatment itself were able to shed more light on the scene painter’s art.