Conduit Christmas Crib Scene Restoration

Earlier this year the Rotary Club of Sherborne contacted The Gryphon to discuss the possibility of restoring the long established Christmas Crib Scene, which is erected inside The Conduit, Cheap Street for the Christmas period. The scene has been displayed for the last forty years, with some repainting undertaken around thirty years ago and it was very apparent that when the painted panels were delivered to the school, some serious work was needed to bring the panels back to their former glory. A particular concern was the complete lack of any kind of sky over the town of Bethlehem, with only a rough, five pointed star remaining. All of the panels had a great deal of flaking paint and areas of colour and detail missing, so quite a task lay ahead.

As the original panels had been designed and painted by a single hand, I decided to undertake the restoration myself, carefully copying the previous artist’s style, ensuring a good match to the original brushwork. All of the panels were carefully cleaned and then sealed with a clear varnish to stabilise the surface, ready for the restoration. Colour mixing was tricky at times, as the original was painted with a fluidity of personal style and colour knowledge, though after a while you become accustomed to the range of colours and techniques used. I created a brand new sky and star for the main central panel, which I feel adds a little more drama to the completed scene. A special thank you must go to Mrs Jensen in Textiles who repaired the costumes of the mannequins of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the completed display is currently on show at The Conduit for everyone to continue to enjoy for years to come.

Mike Fenton-Wilkinson, Head of Art & Design


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