Conservation Live! Siborne’s Waterloo model: Treating a corroded figure

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s large-scale Waterloo model is nearing completion ahead of the upcoming exhibition Waterloo 1815: The Art of Battle, opening at the Royal Armouries on 22 May 2015.

While most of the lead/tin figures on the model were in excellent condition, it was evident that some had corroded in the past. A small number were actively corroding – a few quite severely. One such figure was a soldier lying in the road. Voluminous, powdery corrosion products could be seen encompassing the figure. At this point it was not clear how much of the figure had survived.


The first step was to remove the corrosion products mechanically and assess the level of loss.


Fortunately, the figure was in better condition than expected. Much of the paint had flaked off, the top surface of the body had corroded away and the left foot had been lost completely, but the surviving metal was fairly solid and the figure as a whole was still recognisable.


As much corrosion as possible was cleared away and the surface was cleaned with alcohol.


The next step was to consolidate the affected areas by applying a dilute acrylic adhesive in a solvent mixture. This accomplished two things: it lent the figure strength by filling any porous gaps in the metal and it sealed and protected the surface.


Following consolidation I made a replacement foot for the figure using Milliput epoxy putty. When freshly mixed it was the consistency of modelling clay, but within a few hours it set into a hard, durable fill.


After the Milliput had set the final step was to touch in the paint. The colour is slightly different than the original – this is intentional so that my touch-up will not be confused with original paint in the future.


The final result is below. My goal in this treatment was to preserve as much of the original figure as possible, stabilise it and make some cosmetic improvements so that the damage was not readily visible. While the figure is not exactly as it was before it corroded, it is still clearly identifiable and now in a stable condition.


The newly conserved Siborne model will be a key element of our Art of Battle exhibition, which opens 22nd May.

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator

Meet the Horse: Alfie


15.1HH  Traditional Gypsy Cob

Do not be fooled by Alfie’s colouring. The humble black and white cob is seen in many battles throughout history. A true jousting star. Alfie’s short stocky frame and bulging muscles along with his tonnes of personality make him a fantastic mount. He is an amazing stunt horse and has taken part in displays up and down the country. Although he never forgets his roots as a riding school pony back at base camp.Easter Joust  - April 2014_11_Alfiealfie3

Meet the Horse: Rupert


16.3HH Irish Draught

Star of stage and screen Rupert has taken part in many productions from centre stage in Falstaff at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to leading Cavalry charges at the Horse of the Year Show. Rupert is a brilliant jouster , as steady as a rock, a lovely kind horse who never lets you down.

Rupert and Andyrupert in armourEaster Tournament 2013020413_61_RuperthorseEaster Tournament 2013020413_116_Rupert

Meet the Horse: Aramis


15HH Dales x Irish Draught

Small but mighty with his tail swirling like a propeller, Aramis is quite a sight. If you keep your ears open you can even hear him squeal with joy when he sets off down the list. This horse loves jousting more than anything and it shows in his work. An amazing tv and film horse who is also in Poldark showing on BBC at the moment.

Aramis2celt 077

Meet the Horse: Dylan


15HH Dales

A determined little tank who will joust whilst conserving energy. Will do the minimum required them plod back to his stable for his hay net. But still gets winning results, a very clever little horse who at the moment is playing Elizabeth’s horse on Poldark. He has been in many TV and film productions but also takes part in our trick riding and stunt shows , specialising in jumping fire and fighting dragons!!

Picture 263Easter Tournament 2013020413_109_DylanEaster Tournament 2013020413_110_DylanEaster Joust  - April 2014_10_DylanDylan2

Meet the Horse: Ted

ted15.1HH Irish Cob

Ted or Tedward Bear as he is so valiantly known behind the scenes, is a true gent. Having turned his hoof to everything from being a county show cob to pulling wagons of potatoes whilst filming, or pulling a roman chariot. Ted has seen and done it all. Unfazed and unimpressed, he runs straight and true down the list and has won many a competition at the Royal Armouries.

ted in action

Easter Tournament 2013020413_117_Ted

Mark Caple won the Queen’s Jubilee Horn in 2014 riding Ted.

Knight on horse

Royal Armouries jouster Andy Deane riding Ted

Easter Tournament 2013020413_130_Ted

Mark Caple won the Queen’s Jubilee Horn in 2014 riding Ted.


Meet the Horse: Patrick

Patrick (2)17HH Irish Sport Horse

The second of our coloured horses, though he couldn’t be more different with his long legs and hogged mane. You can see his sporty breeding from a mile away. With muscles designed for the hunting field, the short sprints needed for the joust are a breeze for this gentle giant.

Meet the Horse: Tino

driff 00516.1HH Lusitano x Irish Draught

With his beautiful dun coat Tino is sure to catch your eye. A brilliant trick riding horse who is also trained at liberty. He has competed in both show jumping and dressage. Tino’s greatest battle in life is against the dreaded enemy …food….as you can see by his rather cylindrical shape he is losing the battle. However he has taken home many a victory on the jousting field.

tino2 tino3Tine center

Meet the Horse: Albert

albert16.3HH  Irish Draught x Thoroughbred

Albert is one of the tallest horses in the competition. He has previously graced the public with his presence at the Great Yorkshire Show in ridden Hunter classes and has also been on the big screen in Brideshead Revisited and The Kings Speech and on the small screen in Emmerdale and presently in the BBCs adaptation of Poldark.    At home he enjoys eating, sleeping and doing quiet hacks. However he is still as sharp as ever when called to battle.

ATT00001Easter Tournament 2013020413_3_Albert


Conservation Live! at the Royal Armouries: Siborne’s Waterloo Model

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s remarkable model of the battlefield of Waterloo is now underway at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

The model, which was completed in 1843, shows – in marvellous detail – the battlefield as it was at around 1:30pm on 18 June 1815. It is more than five metres long and two metres wide, and it comes apart into ten sections. The battlefield is populated by more than 3,000 finely modelled and painted lead figures including soldiers, horses and artillery.


Section of the model before conservation.

The model has been on display at the Royal Armouries since 1996. Now, in advance of the bicentenary of the battle, it is being dismantled and conserved piece by piece as part of a Conservation Live! programme.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

British soldiers in miniature - look closely and you can see their individual faces!

British soldiers in miniature – look closely and you can see their individual faces!

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

From March until May 1st 2015 museum visitors can meet the Conservator, discuss the conservation programme and watch conservation of the model taking place. At 11:00 and 2:00 visitors can attend talks with the Conservator, which is ticketed due to limited access, or simply drop in between 2:30-3:30pm. For more information on how to take part please ring the Royal Armouries on 0113 220 1999 or email Alternatively, keep your eye out for further blog posts over the next few months as conservation work progresses

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator