The Woodland Scenery

Georgian Theatre Royal

Believed to be the oldest surviving stage set in the country, the Woodland Scenery is on display in the Theatre's museum.    

The History of the Woodland Scenery
Painted sometime between 1818 and 1836, the Woodland Scenery would have been used whenever  a play required a rural setting.

The scenery came from the firm of George Rivers Higgins in Oxford. Higgins created stage sets to order and also kept a stock of scenery for hire.

The Scenery was painted on sized canvas. The ‘Backdrop’ measures approximately 10 x 13 ft. It is nailed at the top to a heavy hoisting beam.

The eight painted ‘Flats’ were nailed to looms measuring 8 x 3 ft.

We have a full size copy of the Woodland Scenery, which is sometimes used in the theatre.

The Blue Drawing Room
The scenery is unusual because it is double sided, with a ‘blue drawing room’ depicted on the reverse.

The scenery may have been patched together from a set that had been previously scrapped in order to meet an urgent order for a Woodland Scene. If you look closely, you can see the joins.

Conservation of the Woodland Scenery
In 2016, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund,  the Woodland Scenery underwent conservation.

The conservation work was carried out by Francis Downing ACR. This photograph shows Francis and Nicky Downing working on the backdrop.

Heavy surface dirt and grime covered all parts of the Scenery; losses of paint were evident, mainly caused by creasing and abrasions to the canvas during rolling.

Heavy surface dirt and grime covered all parts of the Scenery; losses of paint were evident, mainly caused by creasing and abrasions to the canvas during rolling.

A water leak had caused some staining on the painted canvas, and there were also tears and evidence of overpainting.

Fragile areas of paint were stabilised. The surface grime and ingrained dirt was carefully removed using a low suction vacuum and microfibre mitten. The canvas was steam ironed to remove creases.

The backdrop and two side flats are now on permanent display in a new glass storage cabinet in the Georgian Theatre Royal exhibition.

Credits: Story

Photographs by Tim Dunk (2016) and Guzelian (2016) and held in The Georgian Theatre Royal Archive.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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