Conservation of the Waterloo Apron

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Waterloo Apron As Received But With The Frame Removed

This apron, which is known as the ‘Waterloo Apron’, has certifiable provenance that it was discovered on the body of deceased officer following the Battle of Waterloo, which was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near the village of Waterloo, which is now in Belgium, but in 1815 was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.  The Battle of Waterloo was fought between a British led army of the Seventh Coalition under the command of the Duke of Wellington and a French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.  A Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prince of Wahlstatt joined the battle on the allied side several hours after the battle commenced and proved decisive in the defeat of the French.

The apron is owned by the Marquis of Lorne Lodge No 1354, Leigh, Greater Manchester, a daughter Lodge of the Lodge of Lights No 148 in Warrington and which is the oldest Lodge in the Warrington Group, being founded in 1765.  The apron is on a renewable five year loan to the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry.  The conservation of the apron was jointly funded by Marquis of Lorne Lodge No 1354, the Leigh Masonic Group and Warrington Museum of Freemasonry.

The Waterloo Apron In Its Original Frame

 

 

 

 

The apron as received by the Museum was mounted in an oak wood frame behind glass, with just the decorated portion exposed.  The highly reflective glass behind which the Apron was mounted made it very difficult to photograph and the adjacent photograph unfortunately includes many unwanted reflections.  However, it can be seen that the true shape or form of the apron could not be discerned.  There were some marks or stains visible on the decorated portion.

Detail of One of the Stains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail of Corroded Mounting Nails

 

On dismantling the frame, it was discovered that the apron was complete but it had been nailed onto a pine panel with 114 iron or steel nails all around its edge and also under the flap, these had corroded, producing rust stains as well as holes and damage to the lambskin leather which formed the apron. This work was probably carried out in the late 1800’s.

 

 

There was also a distinct colour difference between the exposed area and the area which had been hidden within the frame, undoubtedly caused by exposure to strong light.  This can clearly be seen in the image of the conserved apron at the foot of this article.

Since this is, we believe, a unique object of national importance, it was decided that it should be professionally conserved on an urgent basis, Tania Desloge of National Museums Liverpool Conservation Department agreed to perform the task.

Please view the video below as Tania shows and explains the issues concerning apron.  She does however make one minor error when she says the apron was found on the body of a British soldier.  The nationality of the officer whose body it was taken from is actually not known, but the way the provenance notice is worded, allows the probability of the Apron being taken from a British Officer a slightly higher credence than any other nationality, since if it was taken from another nationality it would probably have stated the nationality of the Officer.  For example a ‘French Officer’, a ‘Belgian Officer’ or even a ‘Dutch Officer’.  Whereas officers of your own army are commonly just referred to as ‘Officers’.  It must however be accepted that this indication of the nationality of the officer who originally owned the Apron is extremely slight and actually the nationality and name of the original owner is unknown.

In the video below Tania shows in detail the damage to the apron and explains what she is going to have to do to conserve it.

Following conservation it was decided not to remount the apron back into its original frame  since it was constructed of Oak, which is an acidic timber that exudes vapours which are known to damage artefacts over time.  The old frame also did not display the complete apron, only the decorated portion.  Therefore, the apron was remounted in a new teak frame with non-reflective glass which allows the whole object to be displayed. It is now proudly on display within the Warrington Museum of Freemasonry, but under subdued artificial light which hopefully will not further damage the Apron.

The Waterloo Apron Following Conservation

The above photograph shows the Waterloo Apron following cleaning and restoration just prior to its mounting within the new frame.

Below is a gallery of photos of the apron during its conservation process.

Please click on each photograph to display it full size.