Since 2012, the partnership of the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust (BLHT) and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St Edmund’s Church, Warkton, have been undertaking a Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve the Montagu Monuments in St Edmund’s Church using the highest level of care and professional expertise, and to improve access to and understanding of the monuments by setting in place of permanent access and learning arrangements for the local community and visitors.
Prior to the HLF funded project, concern had been growing as to the structural integrity of the monument to John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, due to evidence of corrosion affecting the iron rods which support the life size figures of Charity and the Duchess Mary in Roubiliac’s sculpture. The corrosion had caused the whole structure to move, putting the figure of Charity into compression, so that she was in immediate danger of shattering or collapse. The monument to Lady Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch, also gave great concern with the crumbling (or ‘sugaring’) of the left-hand and arm of the male youth on the west side of the niche. It was also agreed that all of the monuments were in need of specialist cleaning, due to decades of build-up of soot and grime, exacerbated by smoke from coke-fuelled heaters, previously a heating source for the Church.
During 2014 and 2015, specialist stone conservators Skillington Workshop Ltd were contracted to undertake major work to the four monuments, securing the unstable structural elements. Cleaning revealed the wonderful detailing of Roubiliac’s carving, including the way, for instance, in which he could evoke the different textures of fabrics, be they silk or fur. Skillington used a method known as poulticing to remove the pollution on the surfaces of the monuments, revealing the white marble as it had originally appeared. The project also saw the hand to the male youth of the monument to Elizabeth repaired, and a new spindle created for the monument to Mary Churchill. It also revealed some surprising secrets. With everything stripped away from the monument to Duke John, it was found that the core had been made from remains of the stone tracery of the original mediaeval chancel.
As part of the HLF project, a video was produced showing the work that went into the restoration, which can be viewed below:
Having been restored to their former glory, the monuments can now be seen by the public on church open days. For opening times, please see the Visit section of this website.