Object: Uniform Coat of the Duke of Wellington c.1835 (xvi.8)
Blogger: Suzanne Dalewicz-Kitto, Conservation Manager
This blue cloth uniform with white lining and scarlet facing was worn by the Duke of Wellington when he was Constable of the Tower of London. It has gilt buttons bearing a miniature of the White Tower in silver, and epaulettes made of gold and silver thread. The coat is in reasonable condition with only a few small holes and surface grazing of the cloth, probably caused by moths. The main area of interest to our Conservators were the tarnished metal threads and spangles (sequins) on the epaulettes.
Metal threads are fragile at the best of time. Some are made from twisted fine metal wire and others are formed by twisting wire around a cotton or silk thread. When applying treatments to remove the tarnish Conservators have to be careful not to leave residues behind that will ‘rot’ the thread over time. On these epaulettes there are eight different types of thread design including: dull purl, pearl purl, bright check and Lizardine close.
The tarnish was removed by gently cleaning the surfaces with a damp swab using a mixture of carefully chosen chemicals. This was carried out under a microscope to make sure no metal threads were being pulled away from the epaulette. Residues where removed again by careful swabbing using deionised water – very pure water that has had any minerals filtered out of it.