Berwick woman's jubilee heirloom restored by BBC's The Repair Shop

A damaged Victorian keepsake which gave a Berwick woman a last link to her father’s family has been painstakingly restored.

Saturday, 4th June 2022, 11:28 am

The hand-painted plate belonging to Helen Ringland featured on a jubilee special of The Repair Shop on BBC One.

Helen, a retired teacher, said: “It’s a plate that was painted for Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887

"It was always on my grandparents’ wall and on the back it says ‘painted by Jonathon Forster.

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Helen Ringland with Kirsten Ramsay and Jay Blades from The Repair Shop. Picture: BBC

“My grandfather was Jonathan Foster Tait and we think it was his uncle who painted it for an exhibition in Newcastle.

“From what we know he wasn’t a painter. My grandfather’s family were all builders and bricklayers. My dad’s side of the family we know very little about.

"I’ve tried researching further back but drew a blank. I think he was perhaps someone who worked with their hands in the building trade and to be able to produce something like that is absolutely fantastic.

"These plates are the only thing we have of my dad’s family. My mum gave them to me 20 years ago when we moved into the house we’re in now and they’ve been on my walls ever since so they’re very precious to us.”

It was damaged some 50 years ago when her dad was decorating the sitting room and her mum took it down and dropped it.

“It was glued back together but it was a pretty unprofessional job,” admitted Helen, whose mum sadly passed away a few months ago.

“She would have been absolutely thrilled that it was going to be repaired.”

The plate was restored by Kirsten Ramsay, a key members of The Repair Shop team, who specialises in the restoration and conservation of ceramics.

She initially established the plate had been kiln-fired, then delicately cleaned and dismantled it.

She then used acetone on the old adhesive and was able to pick it off before putting on a new resin, putting it back together and filling in the cracks before repainting it until the lines disappeared.

“She did an incredible job,” said Helen. "It was a very obvious break and the glue had gone yellow but now you can’t even see the break in it. I am in awe of her talents.”

Filming took place at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, near Chichester, West Sussex.

“It’s exactly how it looks on TV,” said Helen. “They’re all just sitting in there working away.”

Helen had written into The Repair Shop some three years ago after the plate came up for discussion at Christmas-time.

"I didn’t really think anything more of it after that but then they got in touch to say they were doing a jubilee special and asking if I’d like to take part,” she revealed.

The programme also brought to light a spelling mistake on the plate.

"Jubilee was spelt wrong and it was something none of us had ever noticed before,” said Helen. “I took it back off the wall to have a look and sure enough it was there.

"And I was terrified of dropping it!”

Catch up with the episode on BBC iPlayer at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0017xkh

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