Stabilisation of a Portuguese Pithoi from the walled garden at Turn End in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. This large planter has been a part of the Grade II garden at Turn End for over 50 years.
The Pithos form has been made across the Mediterranean for centuries to store and transport olive oil, wine, and grain. This vessel was likely made in Portugal around 1800, it was made as a planter evidenced by the drainage hole at the base. This jar was acquired by architect Peter Aldington and his wife Margaret on the Kings Road in London in the 1960s for their award winning Grade II* house and Grade II garden, Turn End. The vessel is made of unglazed earthenware, which is low fired and porous. It is decorated with an impressed circular pattern which has arguably been enhanced by lichens.
This large ceramic planter has been displayed outdoors year-round for decades. Overtime, the cycle of freezing and thawing has created running cracks that have progressed to breaks, and more recently a small section worked its way out of the join. The goal of treatment was to stabilise the vase physically without removing the patina of plant growth that integrates it visually with the garden, and to advise on long term maintenance so it could continue to be displayed outdoors. The challenges were the fragility of the surface, and the size of the object, which is approximately one meter high by seventy centimetres in diameter.
The scale of the object made this project a two-person job. Working with Kenneth, the Pithoi was initially taken to the workshop to dry out before treatment. The breaks were steam cleaned to remove plant material from the joins, and a collection of organic material removed from inside the base to unblock the drainage hole. The Pithos was too large to pass through the workshop doorway once reassembled, so it was moved to a secure outdoor space to be bonded. The sections were adhered with a conservation grade acrylic adhesive. A few small fills were applied, and the joins lightly retouched where the plant material had been disturbed. The Pithoi was reinstalled by supporting it on bricks with a gravel drain to mitigate water collecting inside.
Turn End featured on Grand Designs The Streets, Series 2, Episode 3 in April 2022, the house and gardens are periodically open to the public. For more information visit: www.turnend.org.uk.