We’re working on the smaller objects that will be shown with the boats in the new Windermere Jetty museum. It’s about thinking and seeking advice first – then working carefully, stopping, assessing, and thinking some more before continuing.
Volunteer Mel has been cleaning a fragile seat from Sir Henry Segrave’s boat, Miss England II which capsized and sank during his water speed record attempt of 1930. Segrave and his crew achieved an average of 98.76 mph before the disaster in which he and engineer Victor Halliwell were killed. The boat was salvaged by Windermere boatbuilders and pursued further records but no longer exists.
The seat was preserved and used by surviving engineer Michael Willcocks. It is an emotive remnant from an iconic and tragic vessel. Pictures and film show the unbelievably lightweight seat perched in Segrave’s so-called ‘bomb in an eggshell’. Behind it, the twin Rolls Royce R type V-12 engines, barely contained in 5 tonnes of boat, are ready to roar into action.
The chair was dull and grey all over with a thick coating of dust. Over time, this would attract moisture and cause further damage, as well as detracting from the appearance. Mel methodically removed the loose dirt with a brush and low suction vacuum cleaner then worked slowly over the surface with a smoke sponge.
The hardest thing was to know when to stop. Cleaning can become addictive but we only want to remove dirt, rather than bits of the object or historic evidence attached to it.
Here’s the finished result, ready for our Segrave display in the new museum. Working on something like this, you really are aware of the heavy weight of history and human experience behind it.
It is a moving and sobering experience and we approach it with caution and respect.