Restoring and preserving for the future

Nine months of conservation work began in September 2018 to restore the Charters for future generations to see and enjoy

1. Assessing the damage

Museum Conservation Services Ltd assessed the six parchment documents belonging to the Town Council of Higham Ferrers:

  1. Charter of 1556, Philip and Mary

  2. Charter of 1604, James I

  3. Byelaws of 1616, James I

  4. Charter of 1664, Charles II

  5. Charter of 1684, Charles II

  6. Charter of 1886, Victoria.

Their report showed:

  • the storage materials and method were slowly causing chemical and physical damage to the documents

  • previous conservation work was of a basic level and had unfortunately caused problems of its own.

1556 Charter

1604 Charter

1616 Byelaws

1664 Charter

1684 Charter

1886 Charter

2. And conservation work began …

Conservation work began in September 2018 and took nine months to complete.

The process aimed to restore any damage caused by age and poor storage. The conservators used their own discretion as to how much repair work to carry out so as not to lose authenticity.

The Studio

Light in the studio is controlled to preserve materials in good condition.

Specifically designed artificial lights and treated windows are installed to eliminate damaging UV light.

The Process

To lessen the ‘waves’ or rucks in the parchment, charters are hydrated with mist. They are too delicate to be stretched and can only be air dried. This process may have to be repeated several times.

The Byelaws

This document is stronger than earlier charters and has been restored using the hydration and stretching method.

The document is hydrated with vapour and the pegged out to a board which is tightened between each treatment to ease any ‘waves’ in the material.

Unexpected finds

Sometimes UV light in a darkened room will reveal hidden damage – for instance the 1556 Charter revealed a faded portrait of both Phillip and Mary which cannot be detected by the naked eye.

Charters safely stored at Northampton Records Office

3. After conservation …

  • the restored original Charters are now stored in boxes created from acid-free material to eliminate any further damage and stored in safe conditions at Northampton Record Office whilst remaining the property of Higham Ferrers Town Council

  • digital images of the restored Charters are displayed on this website

  • framed full-size prints of the Charters, alongside interpretative material, formed part of a touring exhibition in the town and wider area in Summer and Autumn 2019

  • the town celebrated the restoration of the Charters on the Charter Celebration Day – Saturday 29 June.

The Mayor of Higham Ferrers with one of the restored charters in its storage box