Re-opening Limnerslease: Artists' Home | Part Two

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Posted 28th January 2022

Limnerlease reopened to the public in December 2021, it's so wonderful to welcome everyone back to our founders' home and studios, after last being open in March 2020. At Limnerslease you can step into the recreation of G F’s studio. You can also discover the story of Mary Watts and learn about the Watts’ life in Compton, plus visit some of the domestic rooms with unique decorative features.

Our Collections Manager, Emma Coburn ACR talks us through the work that took place to re-open Limnerslease, including extensive conservation work, this is part two of the blog, read part one.

Although the fire in the Studios lobby in September 2020 was localised, smoke filled the building leaving a residue, not only on the internal surfaces but also the artworks on display. As a result, many items went to external conservation studios for treatment. Working according to material type, the conservation methodology was tailored to the specific needs of each object type, with the knowledge that the collection and contents required decanting to off-site specialist art storage.

Decorative friezes and ceilings

We commissioned Opus Conservation, specialists in the conservation of wall painting and decorated architectural surfaces, to assess and clean the decorative gesso ceiling by Mary Watts within the Hallway and Red Room of Limnerslease. This work was done within a month of the fire. Opus also completed the cleaning of the detached Aldershot Chapel polychrome gesso frieze, altar panels, stone predella and capitals in the Mary Watts Gallery space. Once clean, the frieze, panels, predella and capitals were packed into bespoke crates and transported to specialist art storage.

Works of art on paper, archival material and books
Due to the nature of these items, most were displayed within showcases or were glazed, therefore there was a barrier between the object and the smoke residue. Nevertheless, all these objects were packed and transported directly to Bainbridge Conservation where full assessment, conservation clean and reporting could take place safely in their specialist book and paper conservation studio, before being transported to specialist art storage.

Three-dimensional artworks, including sculpture, terracotta, pottery, metalwork
There were a large number of three-dimensional objects and artworks on display at the time of the fire and to enable the full conservation assessment of treatment of nearly 80 items, it was decided that this should take place off site so as not to delay works within the building. Each item had a bespoke crate, and they were then transported to Richard Rogers Conservation.

Interior and furniture

The Collections and Exhibitions team, alongside Halahan Associates, completed the initial clean of the historic interiors including fireplaces, carpets and furniture. All historic light fittings were removed to reduce the risk of physical damage during redecoration and floors were protected during contractor works. Furniture was packed and stored until re-opening was planned.

Limnerslease is included in your ticket admission, explore the Artists' Home for yourself on your next visit to Watts Gallery Artists' Village, we recommend booking tickets online. You can also explore more online via Smartify.

We would like to thank everyone that has contributed to this project, from the original salvage and rescue to preparation for re-opening:

Ash Contracting, Bainbridge Conservation, Basis Lighting, Bequest, Bower Wood, Broadwater Electrical, Gander and White, Hallett Insurance, Harwell Restoration, HiLite Access, KD Fine Art, Opus Conservation, Richard Rogers Conservation, Selsey Press, Surrey Fire Brigade, Tracey Chaplin and ZMMA Architects.