Case Study: Leeds Castle, Kent, UK13 November 2018
UNITED KINGDOM / MUSEUMS DIVISION
Leeds Castle in Kent, UK, is steeped in English history. One of the most important items to be found on the castle’s estate is a 15th century altarpiece, the Battel Hall Retable, which we were appointed to transport and install in the castle following restoration works.
The Battel Hall Retable is a vital piece of English ecclesiastical history. Created around 600 years ago, before the English Reformation, it is a large oak altarpiece painted with tempera and gold leaf, depicting a specific collection of saints. The panel, frame, paint, and gold are all completely original. Works of its kind are extremely rare, and this one almost didn’t survive, being defaced numerous times in the ages following the Reformation.
Coming to the attention of art historians in recent years, the Retable was conserved at the Hamilton-Kerr Institute at Cambridge University in 2017. We have a strong relationship with Leeds Castle, having carried out numerous operations with them before, and were chosen again to transport and install the Retable in the chapel of the Castle.
One of the main technical challenges of the operation was the packaging of the object and transporting it safely. The extremely delicate nature of the piece, with its original frame and thin and unstable paint layer, meant that contact points in the packaging had to be kept to a minimum. We worked with conservators and curators to ensure that the travelling crates were designed to keep the rare polychromy intact.
Our team of art technicians safely transported the piece to its new location, ensuring that no harm came to the fabric of the building itself during the install. The last step was to install the piece – two metres from the floor, in reflection of the height at which it would originally have been displayed.
Visitors and researchers alike can today view the restored Retable in the chapel at Leeds Castle, shipped and installed by us.