A week during the summer of 2020 saw us gilding the re-carved lettering on the plaque dedicated to Emma Cons (1837 – 1912), the founder of The Old Vic, London. Approaching a hundred years beforehand the plaque was unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1929.
Emma Cons was a philanthropist and theatre manager. She was very much active in the temperance movement of the time and the ‘Old Vic’ was first set up as a coffee shop, known as the Coffee Music Hall Company, in the hope that it would encourage gin soaked indiviuals to opt for coffee as a beverage of choice over alcohol. Emma was quite a lady, she pushed boundaries and her actions and dedication to help others affected the lives of many in need for the better. Her story is inspiring and is touched upon in this beautifully worded memorial, it reads as follows:
FOUNDER OF THE VIC
ALDERMAN OF THE FIRST LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL
BORN 1837 – DIED 1912
LOVER OF BEAUTY AND A PUPIL OF RUSKIN SHE YET GAVE
UP THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST FOR SOCIAL WORK. SO DEEPLY
DID SHE SYMPATHISE WITH THOSE WHO LACK MANY
OF THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. TO IMPROVE
HOUSING FOR WORKING MEN AND WOMEN. TO
PROVIDE WHOLESOME AND JOYOUS RECREATION AT A
LOW PRICE. TO PROMOTE EDUCATION, TO PROTECT
INFANT LIFE, AND TO BRING A HUMAN TOUCH TO THE
CHILDREN IN THE INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS OF HER DAY
TO SUCH BENEFICENT ENDS SHE GAVE HER VERY SELF.
LARGE-HEARTED AND CLEAR-SIGHTED, COURAGEOUS,
TENACIOUS OF PURPOSE AND OF GREAT PERSONAL
MODESTY HER SELFLESS APPEAL DREW OUT THE
BEST IN OTHERS AND WAS A CONSTANT INSPIRATION
FOR SERVICE TO ALL WITH WHOM SHE WAS ASSOCIATED.
We feel very privileged to have been able to gild the lettering of the memorial of such a great lady. A blue ceramic plaque for Emma is set into the walls at 136 Seymour Place, Marylebone, London, where she made her home for some time.
The plaque (see below) had deteriorated to the extent of losing the definition of the lettering and the applied decoration, rendering the memorial illegible.
Our part in the project was to gild the lettering. We prepared to do this after the plaque had been expertly re-carved enabling us to gild the new, crisp lettering to once again, render the plaque legible for all to read. The gilding work began when the covid pandemic temporarily waned in London. This lull allowed us to proceed with our work carefully, in an unusually quiet north-west corner of Waterloo Road and The Cut.
As with all decoration the devil is in the detail, your work will only be as good as your preparation. This is especially so with gilding as gold only highlights further any mistakes. When the preparation is complete the gold can then be applied.
Due to the weather it was considered best to take off the cover from the scaffold. This action allowed people to see us work and promoted dialogue. We very much enjoyed speaking with the locals who were very happy and excited to see works near completion. It was clear the people were very proud of their local history and especially of Emma’s memorial.
The last day and it is always good to remove the scaffold and clear the site.