Conservation underway at Vaucluse House

 

An exciting renovation and conservation program is being undertaken from Wednesday 7 February through to mid-March inside state-listed Vaucluse House to maintain and preserve the interiors in many rooms of the building.

There will be some areas closed during this period but there is still plenty to see and experience. We welcome visitors to come and find out about this important work to ensure the longevity of the historic house, employing skilled artisans in specialist works. 

Working with specialists in conservation heritage, we are currently undertaking several important projects at Vaucluse House to ensure the longevity of the building fabric of this significant colonial home.

More about the conservation works

The works currently taking place at Vaucluse House are part of our NSW State Government funded Capital Works program. This program enables us to undertake major heritage maintenance projects to ensure our properties are cared for and maintained, and to keep them looking splendid.

Painting

For the next few weeks, painting work is being carried out in several areas of the house by a team of specialist heritage painters. Initially the walls are methodically prepared to ensure the quality of the final product.

Paint flakes are removed, cracks are filled, and the walls are sanded and undercoated.

Finally the team uses existing paint scrapes to colour-match the new paint to the original colours used in the house during the Wentworth’s occupation.

Brushes will be used rather than rollers, resulting in a more traditional and authentic finish. 

The grand hallways of the house present an extra challenge, being almost double the height of a normal ceiling, and scaffolding has been erected to enable access to every corner. The curving stairwell is a particularly difficult space to paint - these areas may only be painted every 20 years, so it’s vital the work is undertaken with care and precision.

Plaster work

Elsewhere in the house we are working with a stone specialist to remediate damage to deteriorating plaster skirting. Much of this damage has been caused by water and salts leaching through the walls and floor from ground water.

Once the deteriorated plaster has been chipped off, a system called 'captive head-washing' uses a cycle of water to rinse the salts from the walls.

After several cycles, new lime plaster, based on a traditional recipe, can be applied and shaped to form new skirting and allowed to cure.

Pump re-bedding

Outside in the servant’s courtyard, the sandstone slabs that form the base of our 19th century pump have been re-bedded on a lime and sand base, and then re-pointed with a lime mortar, ensuring they remain in place and support the pump. The type of traditional lime mortar used for this work needs to dry slowly, so is covered with damp hessian to allow it to cure properly and avoid cracking.

Keep updated

While these works will be disruptive for the next few weeks in what is usually such an immersive 19th century property, this work is vital in the on-going preservation and presentation of this important colonial home. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

If you would like more details please contact us by phone: 02 9388 7922 (10am-4pm) or email: vauclusehouse@slm.com.au

  • Conservation works photo.

    Scaffold erected in the stairwell.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Conservation works photo.

    Stair scaffold extending up to the ceiling.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Conservation works photo.

    One of the painting team working at the top of the scaffold, preparing a wall.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Conservation works photo.

    Plaster chipped away from the skirting in the servants hall, ready for captive-head washing to remove salts.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Conservation works photo.

    Wet hessian covering the newly re-pointed base of the pump.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Woman standing in front of colourful mural.
Mel Flyte
Assistant curator
House Museums Portfolio
In her role as Assistant Curator in the House Museums Portfolio, Mel relishes the opportunity to get hands-on with the treasures in our collection.