BCD 2019

INTERIORS 5 155 C AT H E D R A L C O MM U N I C AT I O N S T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 1 9 LINCRUSTA-WALTON and other 19th-century raised relief wallcoverings HELENA BRAZIL and PAUL CROFT L INCRUSTA-WALTON IS a raised relief wallcovering still found in excellent condition in many homes and buildings, having endured far beyond the expected lifespan of other forms of applied decoration such as wallpaper, paint and textiles. It was one of several innovative wall and ceiling coverings manufactured in the late 19th century to imitate the rich surface patterns and textures of earlier centuries, including fine plaster wall and ceiling mouldings, timber panelling and embossed leather wall decorations. The leading manufacturers employed the skills of well-known freelance designers such as George Haité, Lewis F Day, Owen W Davis and Dr Christopher Dresser to reflect current fashion, and surviving examples provide us a valuable insight into the interior design and decorating trends of the period. Today, Victorian wall coverings are often under-appreciated, but conservation projects are under way to restore lost areas of Lincrusta-Walton and other raised relief wallpapers such as Cordelova, and to preserve these schemes for posterity. THE HISTORY OF LINCRUSTA-WALTON Lincrusta takes its name from the Latin ‘linum’, meaning flax (linseed), and ‘crusta’, meaning relief or embossed. When a pot of linseed oil paint is left without its top on, the surface quickly forms a thin film which gradually thickens as short molecules of oil cross-link to create long molecular chains, a process known as polymerisation. It is these long molecular chains which give paint and modern plastics their strength and resilience. Frederick Walton may not have understood the chemistry involved, but he recognised the significance of the skin and its potential. His experiments led him to dip panes of glass repeatedly into linseed oil, allowing them to dry between applications. He later perfected the process of drying by painting the linseed oil on to stretched, pre-prepared cloths. The oxidised oil cloth was then broken down and a small amount of shellac added before the mixture was thoroughly kneaded in hot mixing vats, creating a material not unlike rubber. The addition of naphtha, a distillate of coal, created the material more closely resembling that of the India rubber Walton was searching for, and by early 1863 he had recognised that his newly patented material could be rolled directly onto a backing fabric in a single pass through mechanised rollers. The discovery was first used by Walton to develop floor coverings, and the Linoleum Manufacturing Company began production in Chiswick in July 1864. An adaptation of the process led to the development of an embossed wall covering known as Lincrusta- Muralis when it was patented in 1877, but it was renamed Lincrusta-Walton in 1880. The principal ingredients of both lincrusta and linoleum is thus polymerised linseed oil, termed linseed oil ‘putty’, combined with various other resins, driers and fillers and bound by a backing fabric. For Lincrusta the linseed oil putty is embossed or imprinted by rollers which apply pressure to create the design, and adheres the embossed sheet to a backing fabric of hessian or paper. Unlike linoleum, Lincrusta-Walton does not require long periods to cure and can be hung on the wall almost immediately. Modern day Lincrusta ® ingredients have been slightly changed, enabling the material to meet British fire regulations to Class B, s2-d0 under BS EN15102:2007. Lincrusta-Walton in its long history has been manufactured all over the world. Joseph Musnier purchased the patents to replicate it in 1880 and manufactured at Pierrefitte near Paris. The Lincrusta-Walton Manufacturing Company began trading in the USA in 1883 after building a large manufacturing plant in Stamford, Connecticut. Frederick Beck, manager of the Stamford business, purchased the company in around 1890 and renamed it Fr Beck and Co. Lincrusta-Walton was also manufactured under licence in the 20th century in Germany and Italy. OTHER RAISED RELIEF WALLCOVERINGS Lincrusta-Walton is not strictly a wallpaper as it is made from linseed oil and various fillers. It is frequently confused or categorised with other raised relief materials made from paper such as Lignomur, Anaglypta, Cameoid and Calcorian, all of which are manufactured using distinctly different processes. Tynecastle Tapestry is the earliest raised relief wallpaper, conceived in 1874 and later refined in a series of patents by Morton & An authentic Art Nouveau style of Lincrusta installed and decorated by Lincrusta technical manager, Andy Sarson (Photo: courtesy of LINCRUSTA ® )