Photo gallery: Majesty of historic ceiling restored in Lowestoft
It is an exceptional piece of ornate craftsmanship that had succumbed to years of neglect.
But thanks to months of painstaking work, the glory of an historic ceiling has finally been restored – with a little help from Lowestoft apprentices.
The 17th century relic has undergone a major revamp after it was salvaged from a grade-II listed farmhouse in Stoven and stored in a garage for more than 30 years.
This week, apprentices from Lowestoft College have been adding the final touches to the plasterwork before it goes on public display at the Lowestoft Civic Society Heritage Workshop Centre later this year.
John Stannard, chairman of Lowestoft Civic Society, told of his joy at seeing the evolution of the project which transformed 12 cracked and crumbling pieces into one captivating whole.
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Mr Stannard, who learned this week that they would receive a commendation from English Heritage for the scheme, said: 'This has been an learning curve for us all because it has never been done before and now we have been commended by the English Heritage.
'That's a real rarity and it is something for Lowestoft to be proud of. I think the reason we have been successful is because everyone is interested in this project because of its uniqueness.'
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He added: 'This now gives schools a place to come and visit. We will be building temporary canvas walls around the ceiling, and having actors in period costume, so children can experience it and learn about Stoven and the farmers who worked there.'
Spearheaded by the Cliveden Conversation Group, the Jubilee Ceiling project challenged a team of three conservationists to revamp the ornate designs, which were hidden under layers of paint and had fallen into disrepair.
Senior conservator Fiona Kelsey, conservator Katie Langridge and trainee conservator Daniel Chapman spent nearly three months chipping, moulding and repairing the revered decor after receiving more than �70,000 in charitable funding.
It is believed the ceiling shares motifs with the plaster work at Sutherland House in Southwold, which was the temporary headquarters of the Admiralty – providing a home for the Duke of York (King James II) and Admiral Edward Montagu, the 1st Earl of Sandwich.
Mrs Kelsey said she was surprised how smoothly the project went considering how tricky conservation work can be. She said: 'The whole project has gone surprisingly well. We were thinking on our feet all the time and we never quite knew what it was we were going to uncover. Everyone learnt a lot of new skills on this. And that is what keeps it interesting.'
The next stage of the project will be to transform the ceiling, kept in a downstairs room at the Lowestoft Heritage Workshop Centre on High Street, into an educational space.
Mr Chapman, 27, trainee conservator, of Lowestoft, said: 'It has been a hell of an rewarding experience, especially as we have been able to see the project coming together.
'One piece of the ceiling was in about 70 different bits – now there are hardly any cracks in it. It is certainly something to be proud of.'
The 12 pieces of ceiling were stored in a Waveney District Council garage, in Rectory Road, Lowestoft, after being recovered when the farmhouse was demolished in 1978.
?For more information about the project, visit www.lowestoftheritage.org