Dorset, England
Tim Reeve

Thornhill was the home of Sir James Thornhill, Britain’s great baroque painter. The new stucco armorials in the staircase hall were modelled insitu by a team of six sculptors. Winner of the 2008 Plaisterer’s Trophy.

The owner of Thornhill Park, Tommy Kyle, had always wanted a house with spectacular plasterwork and he commissioned Geoffrey to design and make new stucco armorials for the staircase hall. Mr Kyle wanted the new plasterwork to be in keeping with the period when the house was built, and he particularly liked the stucco armorials at Mawley Hall. These elements formed the starting point for the designs, which were also strongly influenced by Artari’s incredible work at Moor Park in Hertfordshire (both Mawley and Moor Park date from c.1730).


The initial brief included six armorial panels on the first floor. The spandrels to the dome on the second floor and the eagle holding the chandelier were added soon after. Once designs were settled on, full size drawings were made for each of the first floor panels and hung in place to get a feeling for the appropriate scale. A three dimensional sketch model was made for the ceiling spandrels.


The armorials were hand modelled in situ by a team of six sculptors. Work started on the second floor. The wall surfaces were prepared and the design was transferred onto the plaster substrate. A new lime plaster moulding was run on the underside of the spandrels. Armatures were put in place for the modelling; stainless steel screws for smaller elements (spears and poles, for example), and larger forms roughly sculpted out of wire and metal lath for the bulkier areas of the design. The substrate was scored to provide a key and then the stucco was applied and modelled into shape, firstly using a coarse ‘core’ mix and then a fine finishing coat to complete the work. Once the spandrels and the eagle were completed, we moved down to the first floor. The work took nine months, and won the 2008 Plaisterer’s Trophy for the best new plasterwork in Britain.