Fibrous Plasterwork

Fibrous plasterwork is a lightweight substitute for ‘solid’ lime plastering. It was developed as a technique in the mid- nineteenth century to enable the mass production of ornamental work for the expanding Victorian market. Fibrous plaster consists of a thin layer of hessian sandwiched between layers of plaster of Paris and strengthened with thin wooden laths. Correctly fixed to an adequate frame it is durable and long lived. Large sections of either embellished flatwork or cornices can be made in the workshop and fixed on site saving on site time and avoiding the long curing times of traditional lime work.

Age has affected the original Victorian fibrous work and recent failure in London Theatres has led to the necessity of large scale examination of the condition of that which remains. Failure has been caused largely by either deterioration of the jute scrim or the ferrous fixings originally used. Fibrous work is either nailed though the internal laths to a timber subframe or is held in place by hessian and plaster of Paris ‘wads’ to a timber or metal subframe. These wads should include wire strengtheners but often rely solely on the scrim which has now rotted. The size and weight of some fibrous panels mean that failure can entail serious risk of harm. 

Cliveden Conservation Workshop have recently undertaken such an extensive survey to document the condition all of the existing fibrous work within the National Trust property portfolio. We are able to provide a service both for the examination and surveying of existing fibrous plasterwork and, in our workshop to produce either replacement reproduction panels and decorative elements (cornices for example) or create bespoke new work to the client’s requirements using our extensive collection of moulds or utilising the expertise of our talented modellers.

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