Recreating Gothic Revival Wallpaper

Oak Lodge at Richmond will be giving visitors a chance to witness recreated c.1845 Gothic Revival wallpaper being re-hung exactly in its original location as part of this year's Tasmanian Heritage Festival.


The recreated wallpaper

In the best Agatha Christie tradition, ‘paper archaeologists’ Karen Stott, Linda Clarke and Alan Townsend, were engaged by the Clarence City Council to revive the interiors of Oak Lodge. The trio started their quest to reproduce wallpaper with a seemingly insignificant clue - a tiny strip of wallpaper found in the upper stair lobby, left behind when an electrical conduit was removed in the 1990s.

With scrapers, scalpels, steamers and even ultraviolet ‘blacklights’ at hand, they soon discovered that when the original internal meter box was removed in the 1990s, the resulting hole was simply covered over and painted, leaving a substantial section of wallpaper hiding underneath the paint. But this was only part of the pattern. Finding the whole pattern required serious detective work. After much searching (including peeling back nine more recent layers of wallpaper), further fragments of the pattern were discovered under the stud work of a 1970’s bathroom, a former light switch, and a second hand coat rack.


The circa 1845 Gothic Revival pattern was originally chosen by Captain James Booth RN (brother of Port Arthur Commandant Charles O’Hara Booth), who seems to have decided that what Oak Lodge really needed to impress visitors was a vast Gothic Revival architectural paper with faux church windows in ultramarine blue.

It was then the task of self-confessed wallpaper nerd Alan Townsend to reconstruct the full Gothic splendour of the pattern from the scattered and much damaged fragments of the original. After months of painstaking work, that pattern has been reconstructed and hand printed in its original colours. Eighty separate prints were used to make each roll of the four-coloured paper. The result is 10 metre rolls of James Booth’s paper which will grace the Oak Lodge hallway, returning it to its original grandeur 170 years later.

As part of this year’s Tasmanian Heritage Festival, visitors to Oak Lodge will be given access to witness this extraordinary wallpaper being re-hung in its original location. Oak Lodge will be open between 11:30 and 3:00pm each day during the month of May. For those wanting to see the paper as it is being hung, Alan will be on-site Saturdays and Sundays throughout May (11:30 am to 3:30 pm) with wallpaper glue and brush handy, carefully re-hanging this remarkable survivor.  A display will also be set up showcasing the wallpaper discoveries from Oak Lodge and a number of Tasmanian colonial buildings.

The event is supported by Clarence City Council and the Centre for Heritage at Oatlands.

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