Henry Hansard is described as “Lord of Coates”, and died around 1490. The alabaster ledger in the nave is a memorial to his two wives and son. The oldest coloured glass in the south nave windows comprise the coat of arms of the Hansard family (dark red with 3 mullets) and that of the Fishbourne family of Coates, to which his daughter married (with fleur-de-lys).
The ledger slab was previously fragmented and situated in the southwest corner of the Nave at ground level. Amongst the many damp related defects it was also suffering from general neglect.
With the above in mind the Churchwarden Pauline Organ was keen to conserve the slab and reinstate it in the chancel at the foot of his wife’s memorial stone in the nave (both being at the junction between chancel and nave).
As the floor within the chancel suffers from the ingress of liquid moisture and salts it was recommended that the ledger (being of alabaster) should be isolated by means of a lead membrane.
On June 7th 2011 the ledger fragments were removed from the church and transported to Skillington Workshop for conservation. The conservation treatment undertaken followed the recommendations given in Skillington Workshop’s April 2011 assessment regarding cleaning and repair.
The ledger slab before conservation
The fragments were re-aligned face down and the uneven surface supported with wooden wedges. Once a good fit had been achieved the whole ensemble was ratcheted together around the perimeter to facilitate a tight fit. Chases were cut into the back of the reconstructed slab and a marine grade stainless steel frame inserted into the chase and bedded in polyester resin with the addition of sieved stone dust. The frame was manufactured by 316 Engineering of Peterborough. Conservation
Missing sections of the ledger slab were repaired with Crystacal, a hard wearing casting plaster. These plaster repairs were pigmented with natural earth pigments and applied in a fashion to mimic the colour variations of the extant alabaster fragments, and provide a base colour for further pigmented washes.
The rear of the slab with the stainless steel frame slotted in position
Prior to the reinstatement of the ledger slab an area slightly larger and deeper than the ledger slab was excavated within the central axis of the chancel floor. As many as possible of the original tiles were salvaged.
The hole was lined with a Code 5 lead damp proof membrane coated on either side with bitumen to decrease the rate of corrosion. The membrane was manufactured in situ by Minster Lead Roofing LTD, Leicester.
The alabaster ledger slab was reinstated into the chancel floor, inside the lead membrane, with the aid of an A-frame gantry and dry bedded onto silver sand. Assistance was kindly given by the Farm Manager (Marcus) and farm labourers to help get the slab into the church with the aid of a farm fork lift truck and posted through the south door of the church. It was then delivered to the chancel down the nave on wooden rollers and let down via a chain block attached to the gantry.
After installation, trimmed sections of the excavated floor slabs were refitted between the slab and the adjacent floor to complete the existing tiling scheme. The tiles were bedded on a basic 1:3 mix of NHL 3.5 hydraulic lime and sharp sand. All elements were pointed with a finer 1:2:1 mix of NHL 3.5 hydraulic lime, plastering sand and Clipsham stone dust.
The plaster repairs were also touched in with washes tinted with earth pigments in an acrylic binder (Primal B60A). For further protection and to enhance the appearance of the alabaster.
The ledger slab after conservation
Although badly worn to the point of being indecipherable faint lines may be detected on the slab of what is thought to be drapery and are similar in fashion to those markings on the neighbouring slab to Henry Hansard’s wife Joan Hansard (c1470) where the correct orientation is clearer. Therefore the slab was set in the same orientation.