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
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.