Hartwell Wooden War Memorial

Existing Monuments

June 2022 – April 2024

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Stone, Brass, Royal Marines

A truly stunning and original War Memorial in Hartwell, Northamptonshire. We at War Memorial Conservation Co. have intricate knowledge of this particular monument given that we’ve performed numerous works to it over recent years, from bottom to top.

This memorial was erected in 1965 as a replacement for the original wooden monument erected in 1920. It is composed of oak made up of three sections to create its pillar form with a prominent pointed cone-top. Three copper bronze plaques are engraved with the names of lost souls from Hartwell during World War II.

Interestingly, our work revealed hidden archived information, but more on this later.

BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER

ABOVE: The copper bronze plaque was carefully removed from the structure to avoid abrasion to the wood when being cleaned.

Our work started in 2022 with the copper bronze plaques. These were carefully removed from their locations, ready for transport back to the workshop for much-needed cleaning and conservation work. This meticulous process began with a thorough washing. The plaques were gently cleaned with distilled water, using a soft-bristled brush and a mild cleaning solution.

After the initial wash, the plaques wre thoroughly rinsed with distilled water to ensure all traces of the cleaning solution were removed. The next step involved a careful brushing with a hard-fine nylon bristle brush. This step required precision to avoid altering or damaging the delicate bronze surfaces.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

ABOVE: Although still distinguishable, the plaques required intricate cleaning and protection to bring them back to their best.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

ABOVE: Years of bird fouling isn’t good for any surface. Our cleaning techniques removed these residues.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

ABOVE: The memorial with plaques removed.

The restoration of the wooden obelisk was scheduled for the warmer, drier months to ensure the best results. The process began with a light steam cleaning using the DOFF system. This method effectively removed surface debris and killed any organisms living on the wood. Once cleaned, the wood was treated with a biocide to prevent future infestations.

The next step was to allow it to dry as much as possible. Once sufficiently dried, the obelisk received coats of clear wood preservative and protective resin.

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ABOVE: The DOFF cleaning process made a world of difference to the oak.

With both the plaque and obelisk restored to their former glory, the final step was to return to the site. The copper bronze plaque was carefully re-fixed to its original location. The wooden obelisk was inspected, and additional coats of wood protection oil were applied if necessary, ensuring it remained protected from the elements.

Through careful and deliberate restoration efforts, both the bronze plaque and the wooden obelisk were given a new lease on life, ready to stand the test of time once more.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

ABOVE/BELOW: The newly refurbished and protected plaques looked superb re-fixed to the oak structure.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

After our initial work cleaning and treating the memorial, it was decided that a more thorough assessment be carried out to investigate possible insect infestation and compromised structural integrity.

Following the careful dismantling of the timber sections of the memorial, we gained a far better understanding of its history and construction. With this newfound knowledge, we developed recommendations and suggestions for its restoration and conservation.

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ABOVE: The spider crane enabled us to lift the oak sections carefully, safely and efficiently.

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ABOVE: Unfortunately the top cone was in a very poor state of repair and considered a safety hazard.

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ABOVE: The sections back at our workshop where they were free to fully dry out prior to assessment.

During the dismantling process, we discovered a hidden archive niche on the underside of the base section. This niche revealed that the timber memorial was originally erected as a replacement for a previous construction on November 5, 1965. Within the niche, we found a penny dated 1917, which was replaced along with another penny from 1965 and two typed notes providing historical context. These notes confirmed that the timber used was oak from Salcey Forest, donated by the Forestry Commission.

Research indicated that the original supply company, E Whatton & Sons Ltd of Hartwell, Northampton, was no longer in operation, making further historical inquiries impossible. Additional notes and a Euro-96 commemorative coin were added to the archive when the memorial was dismantled for restoration and re-erected on July 5, 1996. These notes mentioned that the timber was already deteriorating 27 years ago, and although efforts were made to source oak from the same location, suitable wood was unavailable. However, new oak was obtained through Mr. Anthony Whatton, presumably linked to the original suppliers.

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ABOVE: The coins obtained from the base of the memorial along with the hidden document.

Granite, memorial, hand painted

ABOVE: The document nestled inside the base section revealed that E. Whatton & Sons Ltd construction the memorial back in 1965.

The timber sections, now dried out in our workshops, showed clear evidence of insect infestation, decaying wood, and biological infections. Moisture levels had likely risen above 20%, facilitating the growth of fungi and decay. The initial gentle steam-cleaning with our DOFF system helped remove surface debris and kill many organisms, but further controlled steam-cleaning and chemical treatments were necessary.

The capping section (the top cone) was in the worst condition, with significant loss and brittleness. We recommended replacing this section with a new English Oak replica, matching the original as closely as possible. This replacement was crucial for both aesthetic and structural stability reasons.

Still on site was the the mild-steel rod which we coated with anti-rust treatment. We also supplied and fitted a moisture barrier between the concrete foundation  and the base section.

Work to the oak was as follows:

  1. Further gentle steam-cleaning of all surfaces and recesses.
  2. Localised chemical treatment of infested or fungal-affected areas.
  3. Complete drying out of all sections.
  4. Treatments of clear wood preservative.
  5. Cleaning and treating the capping plate, fixing and nuts
  6. Carving a new top cone from English Oak

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ABOVE: A piece of English Oak was used to carve an entirely new capping section or top cone. The result speaks for itself.

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ABOVE: The capping section securely fitted to the top of the memorial.

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