Since April, the Winchester Cathedral Nativity figures have been safely housed with the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS), a conservation practice based in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, for a series of special restoration treatments.

Originally created for Winchester Cathedral by Sybil Blunt in 1937, the full Nativity scene consists of 8 figures, all of which are constructed of metal and coated in textiles and plaster. After 90 years on display, the figures were starting to show their age and required conservation treatment to stabilise any damage, including the cracking of the surface and the filling of areas of loss, to not only improve their appearance, but to preserve them for future years to come.

The team of conservators started by consolidating any areas of cracking by using a fluid adhesive that could be applied under the surface layer with a fine paint brush or syringe. A paste was then made and tinted to match the original surface and applied to areas of loss to help stabilise the surface. The materials that were used were conservation grade, meaning their properties were analysed and found suitable for long term preservation.

The Revd Canon Dr Roland Riem, Canon Chancellor and Vice-Dean at Winchester Cathedral said, “These Nativity figures have been, for over eighty years, a part of Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas celebrations, so it is important to care for these humble objects. The CMAS have done wonderful work to ensure that these figures are protected for decades to come, which point us to the significance of the birth of Jesus with simplicity and charm.”

With treatment completed, the figures were returned to Winchester Cathedral to go on display at the High Altar, throughout December as part of the Nativity story. The restoration work carried out on the figures was paid for by a grant from the Friends of Winchester Cathedral.

About the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service 

CMAS is a conservation practice based in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham, working as part of Wiltshire Council. With its paper and object laboratories, it not only cares for the records held within the History Centre but offers practical treatment and analytical services for a variety of materials from archaeological digs, historic houses, and private individuals. The team of conservators and heritage professionals promote excellence in the care and use of collections by providing conservation advice to heritage organisations and the public. They also support museums in Wiltshire to meet professional standards and become sustainable, resilient organisations to preserve the County’s heritage.

Image 1: Object Conservator Thomas Wickes carrying out conservation treatment

Image 2: Area of detail showing before and after filling area of loss

Image 3: The full Nativity scene after conservation has been completed

©Conservation and Museums Advisory Service, Wiltshire Council