Client: The National Trust

Location: Dyrham Park, near Chippenham, Gloucestershire

The aim of this conservation was to inspect and consolidate the structural integrity of this bell system, leaving it so that it is now maintainable as part of the Housekeeping programme. Constructed from a mixture of brass, bronze, iron and sprung steel, bimetallic corrosion in what is a damp corridor had damaged the bells over the years. Corrosion at the juncture of the metals was particularly noticeable on the clappers, the iron being very thin here and failing when next to brass. Similarly the thin, pressed brass spring roses were almost all missing; they had cracked and separated from their base iron discs long ago.

There was also evidence of bells spring failure over the years which had resulted in new bolted attachment of bells to springs. Two of the twenty-nine bells are of a different (possibly previous) failed incarnation which is of a much flimsier construction. Generally the bronze/brass elements were sound but have a heavy green/black patina which is as one would expect, given the limited maintenance they had received in the past.

The whole system was dusted, including the wires. All loose rust was removed from iron/sprung steel components. The rust pustules were removed from the paint-primed bell springs mechanically and any dirt and grease was removed from the brass components using a white spirit wash. Paint spotting was removed from brass elements mechanically using 0000 wire wool, scalpels and solvents. The painted location plates were checked for the paint’s stability and solvent cleaned. Any loose paint requiring consolidation on location plates was fixed using Paraloid B72, dissolved in methylated spirits.

All bell spring bosses (iron), bell spring axels (iron) and clappers (iron) were treated with an acrylic rust chelator, then waxed.

Once all components were cleaned and consolidated, a coat of clear microcrystalline wax was applied to all surfaces and then buffed to a soft sheen. The wires were also waxed.