Conservators have spent four years cleaning the estate’s entire model ship collection

A four year voyage to conserve more than 70 model ships at Arlington Court is nearing completion.

The collection ranges from early models made in bone by French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars to models of the ships used in the Dunkirk evacuations of 1940.

Each model was carefully removed from its case and inspected minutely using a torch and magnifying glass.

A condition report was written for each, detailing areas of damage, any previous repairs and removing any mould or dust.

The biggest and oldest ship in the collection, Princess Louisa, needed the most attention.

It is thought this model, made in 1750 as a memorial to the crew of the real ship which was lost in a storm in 1736, hadn’t been cleaned in over 300 years.

A lot of mould and four vacuum bags of dust and dirt were removed during the conservation which also brought to light some fascinating interior decoration not seen before.

‘Into the unknown’

Giles Miller, conservation and engagement assistant at Arlington Court said: “The glass cases the models are in are a bit like a greenhouse, with fluctuating humidity levels and temperatures just perfect for mould growth.

“The outside of the cases are dusted regularly but we have no record of when the models were last taken out so it was a venture into the unknown.”

See the conservator team at work before the project concludes - each Thursday from September 8 until October 27 there will be Conservation in Action sessions from 1pm to 3pm.