November 2015 | Fiona Karn-Smith

In 1779 the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul was gutted by fire. As part of the rebuilding under the direction of architect James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, the floor was re-laid (as it looks today) in white and black marble forming intricate geometric patterns.

The Chapel of St Peter & St Paul © Colin Chrisford, 2013

The paving in the central aisle and elsewhere is bordered with a white ‘guilloche’ design of interlocking circles against a black marble background with black centres. The centre of the aisle is covered in diagonally laid square marble tiles with miniature square black corner ‘cabochons’. The white marble was from Carrara in Italy and the black marble possibly from Tournai in Belgium.

paving in the central aisle bordered with a white ‘guilloche’ design of interlocking circles

In the Nave of the Chapel, the Carrara marble is 24mm thick and is laid on a bed of plaster of Paris. It is cut into slabs about 600mm in length. Beneath this (resting on the stone vaults of the undercroft) is limestone paving bedded on a thick layer of material bound with lime mortar and horsehair. This paving may pre-date the fire of 1779.

The floor is generally in good condition but heavy use has caused some of the stones to become loose and cracked, requiring repair and re-bedding.

The stones during conservation repairs 

As part of this programme of repairs the loose stones have been lifted, repaired and re-bedded. Broken stones have been repaired by cutting slots on the underside and fitting stainless steel rods into the slots, bedded in resin. Cracks have been filled with ground up marble dust mixed with clear resin. Black marble has been repaired using black marble dust.

Previous poor quality repairs have been removed and replaced with new repairs as described above. The repaired slabs have been re-laid on a mortar bed of Portland cement, silver sand, and lime. The black marble bosses have been re-bedded in gypsum casting plaster. The final results should improve the look of the Chapel flooring considerably, just in time for Christmas. 

You might also be interested in: Chapel Services

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