Chirk Castle was built between 1295 and 1310 by one of Edward I’s warlords, Roger Mortimer. In 1595 the estate was sold to a prominent Welsh merchant adventurer, Thomas Myddleton, whose descendants have lived at Chirk ever since.
The Myddelton Pedigree dates from about 1650, it is thirty-five feet long and charts the family’s ancestry back to the Welsh princes and early English kings. It is made up of 20 individual sheets that have been stitched together and is a very early example of handmade paper in Wales; iron gall inks are also used within the illuminated manuscript.
The Conservation Treatment
The paper was supported on two padded rollers during bench work conservation. No attempt was made to separate each sheet to allow for possible water washing. This was considered too invasive and inappropriate for the iron gall ink. First, surfaces were given a light clean where possible with smoke sponges. This allowed for close examination of the media. Any flaking or loose bodycolour was consolidated with a 3% gelatine solution. Edge tears were repaired with Japanese tissues and wheatstarch paste, woodworm holes were filled with a thin cotton rag paper and held in place with wheatstarch paste and any significant edge losses were treated in the same way. In visually important areas (e.g. the large final coat of arms) these are toned with watercolour. Discoloured lead white was treated with ethereal hydrogen peroxide with varying degrees of success – sometimes a very good response, sometimes no visible reaction.
Once the treatment above had been carried out the Pedigree was prepared for framing. A new frame was made incorporating two rollers. The Pedigree already had a large extra sheet of plain paper on the lower edge. A similar sheet was added to the top edge. These were used to wrap around the new rollers and were secured in place with “Evacon”. The frame has been designed to open to enable the exposed area of the Pedigree to be changed on a predicted annual basis. The rollers, which are the only part to contact the Pedigree, are made from acid free card, wrapped with cotton rag paper and unbleached linen.
The grant has enabled the pedigree to be conserved into a stable condition and is now being exhibited under monitored conditions. Some 130,000 visitors a year will be able to see the Pedigree as it is displayed section by section. The high resolution scans are available for visitors and researchers to access on the property via ipads. The facsimile copy has proved to be an engaging way for visitors young and old to interact with, learn about and read the whole of the pedigree. The transcription and research information is being made available via the National Trust on-line collection database and National Trust website. Already independent researchers from the UK and internationally have accessed this information. The exhibition forms a significant part of newly refurbished state rooms in the East Wing of the castle and is a major contribution towards one of our property interpretation themes of Pride in Welsh Culture.
A gallery of images showing items from the collection can be viewed below, just click on each image to see it at full size. All images on this page are used with the kind permission of the National Trust.