This week Kelvin and Mary Thatcher have been working on our wonderful showman’s van. Unpicking the history of this home has been a marvellous experience and finding the tiny signs of everyday domestic life has really connected us to the family that lived here. My favourites are the circles left on the newspaper in the cupboard where the pans used to be kept.
The work is still continuing – so far we have repaired the door, restored the stove (which provided all the heating and cooking requirements in the wagon), made repairs to the roof and cleaned some of the windows. Taking all the black dirt from the beautiful clerestory windows really made a difference to the inside of the van, brightening it and lightening it.
We have also been struggling with ethical, conservation problems. Should we remove the vinyl sticky backed plastic from the surface of the fold down table top? How do we paint the new mouldings Kelvin has lovingly made so it is clear they are modern and restored? In general we are looking to conserve the history of the van as far as possible – including all the bodges and materials that we might not choose to use now. So the 1980s sticky back vinyl remains – as it was put there by one of the owners of the van. And we paint the new mouldings so it is clear they are restored and not original.
It has been a fascinating process and we are really excited to see how the van will look once conservation is completed.