Gristwood and Toms, a leading tree management contractor, has surprisingly helped conservation specialists Orbis with the restoration of 19th Century sailing ship figureheads.
Gristwood and Toms’ very latest non-invasive sonic technology, which is usually used to determine decay and structural weaknesses in trees, was used on the decorative figureheads to help provide an accurate picture of their internal condition.
Unfortunately the technology found that the figureheads were not left in the best of shape.
“Sadly with some the condition really is quite poor and the figureheads will require extensive restoration,” said Jim Mead, head of decay investigation at Gristwood and Toms.
Previous restorations had used a variety of non-wood fillers and impermeable lacquers which had gradually weakened the structural integrity of the figureheads.
Kirsten Walsh of Orbis Conservators said: ”These beautiful figureheads are of national maritime importance and deserve to be preserved.They sailed the seven seas when Britain ruled the waves and each has a fascinating story to tell.
“The technology we’re using today will also allow us to research how they were originally painted and in what colours so when fully restored we’ll be able to show how they would have looked centuries ago.”
When the restoration is complete with the aid of Gristlewood and Toms the 12 figureheads will take pride of place in a permanent display in the new £37m Museum and History Centre, which is scheduled to open in Plymouth in 2020.