CONSERVATION AT BROMLEY HOUSE
Bromley House is both a listed building and a historic library. We have a responsibility to maintain this important part of our heritage. This means that we have constantly to address issues of conservation and/or restoration at Bromley House.
Built in 1752, Bromley House has many of the original features of a Georgian town house. It also has many of the problems associated with a 250 year old structure: a leaking roof, crumbling stonework and insecure flooring. Minor ‘patching up’ has always been carried out, but major repair work is prohibitively expensive and requires substantial fundraising efforts.
The relevant permissions have to be sought if any building work or redecoration is planned, which demands the involvement of English Heritage and local conservation officers. Providing full accessibility via a lift has been problematic in this context, for example, in terms of what is acceptable within an 18th century building.
Any restoration work must be carried out sensitively and to the highest standard, so that the very special charm and elegance of Bromley House is not lost.
We have some beautiful antique furniture: clocks and cabinets, library steps and chairs, tables and coal boxes. These need re-polishing or repair relatively frequently. Sometimes a member of the library with a particular skill is able to help us; otherwise, when our budget allows, we send our furniture away for specialist treatment.
Bromley House Library has acquired many fine paintings over the years, including works by Spooner, Rawson Walker and Sylvanus Redgate.
During the refurbishment of our hallway in 2010, we were able to send away four of our large oil paintings for restoration and cleaning. This very costly enterprise was made possible through donations from several charitable trusts, and from individuals associated with the Mundella school.
Bromley House Library has in its collections books dating from the 17th century and earlier. It also has very many books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many books have suffered, not only from being well-used over the years, but from being housed in a city centre building – which, until the 1960s, had coal fires!
Book conservation is therefore a critical part of Bromley House’s conservation programme. Our ultimate aim is to ensure as many of our books as possible are accessible and useable.
NADFAS VOLUNTEER SCHEME
We are lucky enought to benefit from weekly conservation work carried out by a team of trained NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) volunteers. Most are members of the library, and all have received training in book conservation before they are allowed to begin working with us. Anyone interested in joining one of the four groups, who work on a rota system, please contact library staff.
We have a budget allocation for standard cloth re-binding of those books which are becoming unuseable, but which are not particularly old or precious. A decision has to be made as to whether re-binding is a more economic, or, indeed, amore aesthetically acceptable alternative to buying a replacement copy.
CONSERVATION BINDING (ADOPT A BOOK)
Re-binding to conservation standards is expensive, and only a limited number of our books can be conserved in this way. Our Adopt-a-Book scheme, running since 2006, has been generously supported by our members. We have been able to re-bind well over a hundred books in this way, giving them a new lease of life.
We also benefit from grants awarded by charitable trusts specifically for book conservation.
BOOK DUSTING DAYS
A regular event in the library calendar, book dusting days are an opportunity for some of our members to become directly involved in conservation at Bromley House. Volunteers who are happy to ‘get their hands dirty’ can spend an enjoyable day exploring parts of the collection they may not have seen before, whilst carrying out basic dusting of books and shelves. Do please ask if you would like to be involved in the next event!
Bromley House Library is not in a position to fully fund the conservation work that is required here. In all of our conservation efforts we are dependent on the generosity of benefactors and volunteers, who give generously of their time and money.