Winchester Cathedral pre-1450 court and account rolls
The documents conserved in this project are among the Medieval rolls from the estate archive of Winchester Cathedral, which are deposited in Hampshire Record Office. This archive has contributed greatley to knowledge of how the Medieval English monastic foundations and their estates were managed. The rolls are therefore in heavy demand by researchers from the UK and overseas.
The rolls had become too fragile for public access as a result of several centuries of damp and mechanical damage, in particular during the Civil War when the Cathedral's muniment room was sacked.
A grant of £10,000 was awarded and a total of 61 rolls were conserved and digitally photographed.
Conservation work entailed initial dry-cleaning of the documents when their condition allowed, by light brushing with a soft brush and then gentle manipulation with white vinyl eraser particles to remove surface grime. The most fragile membranes were lightly brushed only and no further cleaning was attempted.
Prior to repair, the cockled membranes were flattened by a light application of ultrasonic humidity which allowed the parchment to soften slightly before careful manipulation into shape and controlled drying on a vacuum table.
Damaged membranes were repaired by in-filling of missing areas with thin sheepskin parchment pieces, shaped to fit and thinly pared at the edges where they overlap the original skin very slightly. The repair pieces were adhered in place using a 12% gelatine adhesive.
Once the in-fills were in place, weakened areas of the membranes were supported with goldbeater’s skin overlays applied with a thin gelatine adhesive. The goldbeater’s skin was first prepared for use by degreasing in acetone then lightly dampened and flattened to dry on perspex and brushed with gelatine adhesive. The goldbeater’s skin was adhered in place on the membranes by lightly brushing through with water.
All work was done on a vacuum table to control the membranes when the repairs were applied.
The rolls had become too fragile to be made accessible, in some cases they were even too fragile to be opened for cataloguing, but they are now stabilised and accessible for research. In most cases readers will find it sufficient to consult the digital copies, helping to protect the originals which will of course be made available whemn required by researchers. A number of talks and events have been held to highlight the collection and also the collaboration between the Record Office and Catherdal.
Images courtesy of Hampshire Record Office and Winchester Cathedral