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Georgian plasterwork in Britain: historiography, interpretation, restoration. A case study of Fairfax House, York.

Harrington, Ralph (2017) Georgian plasterwork in Britain: historiography, interpretation, restoration. A case study of Fairfax House, York. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Fairfax House, a mid-eighteenth-century house in York, was restored in the 1980s and is now a museum. The house is examined in this thesis as the focus of a complex process of material change and interpretative development over time. In particular, the thesis explores the significance of the interior decorative plasterwork at the house in its social, cultural, material and aesthetic dimensions. The plasterwork and the house that contains it are material objects that have been subject to change over time, not only in substance but in the way they have been perceived and the meanings they have accrued. The full exploration of this dynamic process requires that they are analysed not only in the context of the eighteenth century, when both were created, but also the twentieth century, when the house was restored. The plasterwork played a central role in that restoration because of the significance it had developed among York’s ‘neo-Georgians’, the influential group of conservation-minded individuals centred on York Civic Trust, who sought to bring the perceived qualities of Georgian civilisation to bear upon aesthetics and civic culture of modern York. The restoration of Fairfax House, which involved not only the reshaping of the plasterwork’s material substance but also of its meaning and interpretation, was central to that process. Plasterwork itself is a marginalised field of study in architectural history and the thesis begins with a consideration of the historiography of plasterwork and the issues that arise from its study. The thesis then explores the place of Fairfax House, and specifically its plasterwork, in the culture and imagination of twentieth-century York, analysing the development of interest in the ‘Georgian’ and in the conservation of eighteenth-century buildings in York, the restoration of 1982-4 itself, and ends with a case study involving a close reading of the plasterwork on the Great Staircase in the house and an analysis of the way it has been interpreted and presented.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: York; plasterwork; stucco; Georgian; eighteenth century; plaster; craftsmanship; museology; heritage; townhouse; museum; interiors; architecture; decoration; ornament; Fairfax House
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.745506
Depositing User: Dr Ralph Harrington
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2018 14:43
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:57
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19575

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