The Library News

The Larger Heraldic Shields Up Close

Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 009The Library ceiling, seen from the north west, after conservation and just before the scaffolding platform was removed. The wall to the left is the east wall, and wall to the centre and centre-right is the south wall. The wall on the extreme right – the only wall with windows (which look over the lake), is the west wall.

We have discussed before the large heraldic shields on the east, south and west coving of the Library ceiling, but now that the shields have been cleaned there is an excellent opportunity to really examine them. These are the shields which were painted on flat board, which was then in turn attached to moulded, scrolled surrounds. The finished shields were each bolted through the plaster to the beams behind. In each case just two bolts were used, which resulted in several shields have cracked along a straight line between the centrally-located bolts (and for the conservators it was a very fiddly job to get to the nuts in the roof space above the ceiling).

Most of the shields are dated, in an oval cartouche mounted above the shield (separate from the shield itself). The majority of the shields commemorate marriages, and two sets of surnames are painted on to the outer surround. The name Cotton appears on all but one, and on the remaining one Corbet appears instead. There are eighteen ‘named’ shields.

The earliest date on a shield is 1245 – on the far left of the south wall, and then four are undated. A further five – on the east wall – are neither dated nor inscribed with any surnames. The dating resumes at 1461, and that included, there are fourteen more dated shields – the last being 1838.

The dates vary in significance; some are the dates of marriages – when the surnames were joined – as might be expected, while at least one other is the date of a death.


Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 015 Extreme left, undated, un-named:

Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 017Second from left, undated and un-named
Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 012 The third arch from left is unoccupied. To the right of that, in the centre, is the carved wood panel dated 1580, with a large plaque below showing thirteen coats of arms. It is hard to see what the date of 180 signifies; there doesn’t see to be anything in the births, marriages and death of the Cotton family which occurred on that year. It may refer to the completion of the work on the Abbey, which will  have been about that time, under the ownership of Richard Cotton (1539 – 1602).

Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 013


Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 019Third from the right, undated, named Corbet and Cotton.

In 1772 Hester Salusbury Cotton (born 6.2.1753), daughter of Sir Lynch Cotton, married Sir Corbet Corbet Bt. Of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire at Wrenbury church. He was the son of Colonel Thomas Davenant of Pembridge, Herefordshire, and Anne Corbet (second wife) of Stoke-on-Tern, Shropshire. Sir Corbet seems to have taken mother’s surname. Anne was daughter of Sir Robert Corbet (c. 1670 – 1740), and her son seems to have inherited the baronetcy. This marriage created a connection between the Cotton family and the ancient and very well-connected Shropshire family or Corbet. Hester’s mother was Elizabeth Abigail Cotton 1714 – 4.1.1777 of Bellaport, Shropshire, daughter of Rowland Cotton (born c. 1669). 

The raven is the crest of the Corbet (or Corbeau) family who were established in Shropshire after the Norman conquest by Hugh Corbet. The red hand is normally the crest of Ulster, but it’s presence here is difficult to explain. The three silver or white Cotton twists on a blue field, with a white or silver chevron is the heraldry of the Cotton family of Shropshire. The family were never involved in the cotton trade; it is a visual pun on their name.

Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 023Second from right, undated and un-named:
Combermere Shields Library April 14 2014 025Extreme right, undated and un-named:


Hugh de Cotton, 1245

Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 049The first person we know of in the Cotton line was Hugh of Hodnet, whose son Alan de Cotton lived between 1290 and 1320. As his wife (see below) was born circa 1270, 1245 cannot be the date of a marriage, but could be the supposed date of his birth. a sate for his birth does not seem to be recorded anywhere. Whether or not this coat of arms is genuine is open to debate.

 Cotton – Titley, 1245

Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 050A reference to the marriage of Hugh of Hodnet to Elizabeth, daughter of Hamon de Tittenleigh (born circa 1230). The archivist Henry Spelman (1562 – 1642) had mention of Tittenleigh as a surname appearing in Nantwich.

 Cotton – Hackett  undated

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 051

No information at present

Cotton – Haydon  undated

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A reference to Heyton. Hugh de Cotton, grandson of the first Hugh we know of in the Cotton family, and son of Alan de Cotton, was born circa 1313, probably in Hodnet in Shropshire. He married Isabel de Heyton (born 1313 or 1315). Heyton – now Eyton – is south east of Shrewsbury. Isabel was the daughter of Thomas de Heyton, born in 1290, whose residence is given as both Hodnet and Ludlow. Hugh and Isabel’s only known child is their heir, Hugh Cotton – born circa 1335 – was known as Hugh of Rudheath. Rudheath is a village south east of Northwich in Cheshire.

Cotton – Acton  undated

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Alan de Cotton of Hodnet lived between 1290 and 1320, and married Margaret of Acton (born c. 1295), daughter of Roger Hellesby of Acton (born 1273). The date of their marriage is given as 1319, but that cannot be the case as their son and heir, Hugh, was born circa 1313 (see above), and Margaret would have been 46.

Cotton – Young, 1461

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 William Cotton was born in Wem in north Shropshire in around 1432. He was the son of (another) William Cotton, who married Elen de Grymelond of Alkington. William junior married Agnes Yonge of Caynton (Cainton) in Shropshire. We have no record of Agnes’s date of birth but she died around 1516. She was the daughter of Sir Philip Yonge (died 1459) and Agness de Peshale (daughter of Robert de Peshale). Agnes’s brother was the Sheriff of Shropshire, Sir William Yonge. William and Agnes’s son, John Cotton, was born in circa 1464 and became a successful lawyer in London, and later, at the court of Henry VIII. William’s marriage to Agnes seems to have moved the Cotton family up the social ladder. 1461 is presumably the date of the marriage and therefore the association between Cotton and Yonge.

Cotton – Mainwaring, 1500

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John Cotton, who was born circa 1464, was the son of William Cotton (junior). He married Cecily Mainwaring of Ightfield in north Shropshire (‘Istefelt’ in Domesday Book). John was born in Wem. From this date of 1500 one surmises that he married Cecily then.

Cotton – Ongley, 1545

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John Cotton’s elder son, Sir George Cotton, married Mary Onsley (or Ongley or Onley). She came from Catesby Castle in Northamptonshire, and died in 1559 or 1560. They had five children ; the first born in 1528 and the penultimate in 1539. Their only son was the fourth-born, Richard (1539 – 1602) – who was not the courtier to Henry Fitzroy; that was his uncle. Sir George Cotton and his brother Sir Richard (two years the younger) were very successful Tudor courtiers. Sir Richard, who established the household of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, The Duke of Richmond, made his home at Bedhampton in Hampshire. – on manors which had been gifted to him. George was gifted Combermere Abbey after the Dissolution. The date of 1545 was the date of George’s death (March 25 1545).  His son, Richard, inherited.

Cotton – Mainwaring, 1570

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 057

A Cotton married into the Mainwaring family of Ightfield again in – presumably – 1570. Richard Cotton, son of Sir George Cotton, (1539 – 1602), married Mary Mainwaring of Ightfield. Richard, aided one imagines by Mary, did much to improve the Abbey and turn it from a great ecclesiastical pile into a then-modern country house.  They had six children, the second-born – George (circa 1565 – 1647) being the heir. Mary died in 1578 at the age of 37. Richard had three other wives; Agnes Shatbolt (one daughter; possibly called Mary), Jane Gulliard or Silliard (possibly one daughter; Jane), and Philippa. It is possible that the marriage to Agnes Shatbolt pre-dated the marriage to Mary Mainwaring, but not certain.

Cotton – Shelley, 1596

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This is curious; the date of 1596 does not match any known Cotton marriages or deaths.. The son (the eldest of three) and heir of Richard and Mary, George Cotton ( circa 1565 – circa 1647) married Mary Bromley of Shifnal (circa 1569 – 1647). Mary Bromley was the first of the highly-fecund Cotton wives, giving birth to eleven children between about 1588 and 1609. The best date for marriage is 1585, when the bride was just 16 (and Mary lived to a great age despite the large number of pregnancies). The first ten children were girls, and a son only appeared at the end of the run in 1609 (Thomas, who died in around 1646).  All their children were too young to be married in 1596. Looking at George’s siblings, it is possible that one of them was married to a Shelley in 1596. His brother Arthur (born circa 1562) may have married an unknown woman with the surname Shelley. Another brother, whose possible birth date ranges from 1564 to 1575, could also be a candidate for a marriage to a Shelley. The youngest daughter, Frances (born circa 1573) married Sir George Abell, but any of the other daughters could conceivably made a match with a Shelley, thought august enough to be added to the family heraldry.

Cotton – Bromley, 1600

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 059

George Cotton (1560 – circa 1649) married Mary Bromley of Shifnal (1569 – 1647). The date we have for that is 1585. It is thought that their first seven children (of eleven) were born before 1600, but this may be wrong, and 1600 may be the date of their marriage – though it does seem late. The only definite date for the birth of one of their children is 1609 for the last, their only son and heir, Thomas (died circa 1646). He and his son George both died during the Civil War, though whether or not it was as a result of the war we do not know. This Thomas Cotton is not the man of that name who was curator of his father’s library in London at much the same time.

Corbet – Needham   undated

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Thomas Cotton married Frances Needham, daughter of the first Viscount Kilmorey, on November 10 1624. Her date of birth is not known but she died around 1629. She gave birth to a daughter in that year, who was also named Frances – and from that it is possible to assume that the mother died in or soon after child-birth. Frances was therefore the only Cotton wife who we can assume, more or less as a probability, died as a direct result of child-birth. She had previously borne George, circa 1625, and Mary, circa 1627. Viscount Kilmorey was born Robert Needham in circa 1656, at Shavington, near Adderley in Shropshire (not Shavington near Crewe). He served in Ireland and was knighted in 1594 (when he inherited Shavington Hall from his late father, Sir Robert Needham), and was created Viscount Kilmorey in 1625. He died in 1631. The date to accompany this shield should therefore be 1624, the date of the marriage which united the two families.

Cotton – Blount, 1625

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 061

The connection between the Cotton and Blount families steps to one side of the direct line of male descent in the Cotton family. The younger brother of Sir George Cotton (died 1545), Sir Richard Cotton (circa 1497 – 1556) married Jane Onsley (presumably the Jane Onsley of Sir George’s wife, Mary Onsley – both daughters of John Onsley, who was married to Jane Pontesbury of Albrighton in Shropshire). Richard and Jane had three children; two daughters, both of whom made good marriages – Elizabeth, the elder, married Sir Henry Longeuville, and Susanna, the youngest child, married Charles Grey, Baron Grey of Ruthin and Earl of Kent. Their son and heir, George Cotton married Mary Shelley, and they had three children – Mary, Jane, and Richard. Richard married Elizabeth Blount. 1625 is acceptable as the date of their wedding.

Cotton – Calverley, 1630

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 062

Thomas Cotton, eleventh and last child of George Cotton (circa 1560 – 1647) and Mary Bromley of Shifnal (circa 1569 – circa 1647), was born on August 1 1609 and lived until around 1646. He married, firstly, Frances Needham in 1624) and secondly,  Elizabeth Calveley of Lea in Cheshire on march 10 1635.  The date of their marriage is well recorded, so the date of 1630 on the shield seems erroneous. This seems to have been a profitable marriage. Elizabeth was third daughter of Sir George Calveley of Lea. She was the eldest sister and eventually co-heiress of Sir Hugh Calveley. She and Thomas had three children; Sir Robert Cotton (1635 – 1712), Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cotton (born circa 1637), and Lettice (circa 1642 – circa 1710). Sir Robert out-lived his half-brother George (who died around the time of his father’s death, in 1646), and inherited Combermere Abbey. His marriage to Hester Salusbury brought the great estate of Llewenny into the family.

Cotton – Salusbury, 1677

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 063

As noted above, Sir Robert Cotton (1635 – 1712) married Hester Salusbury of Llewenny (died 1710). The accepted date for their marriage is 1658, and 1677 seems much too late – especially as George and Hester had sixteen children. Their heir was the eleventh birth, Sir Thomas Cotton (circa 1672 – 1715).

Cotton – Lynch, 1704

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 064

Sir Thomas Cotton, son of Sir Robert and Hester, was probably born in 1672, at Llewenny. He married Philadelphia Lynch  (1675 – 1758). Philadelphia was the daughter and heiress of Thomas Lynch of Esher in Surrey,  governor of Jamaica, and his wife Vere, the sister of the Earl of Torrington. That marriage will have further enriched the Cotton family. 1704 cannot be the date of their marriage as Sir Thomas died in 1715 and he and Philadelphia had sixteen children (as had the previous Cotton generation). A date of 1689 for their marriage seems correct, with the birth-dates of their children stretching between 1691 and 1714). The two year gap between marriage and the first birth is probably accounted for by Philadelphia, fourteen years old at the time of her wedding, coming to maturity.

Cotton – Tollemache, 1730

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 065

Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton (1695 – 1748), fourth child and third son of Sir Thomas and Philadelphia, married Elizabeth Tollemache (1682 – 1745) of Hellingham in Suffolk. The date we have for the marriage is 1720. She was the eldest daughter of Lionel Tollemache, Earl of Dysart and Huntingtower (a title he inherited through the distaff line; his father was a baronet) who was born in 1649 and died in 1727. The marriage of Sir Robert and Elizabeth produced no progeny. On his death the line continued through his brother, Sir Lynch (circa 1702 – 1775).

Cotton – Cotton 1740

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 066

Sir Lynch Salusbury Cotton married Elizabeth Abigail Cotton of Bellaport in Shropshire at some date before 1738 (probably 1734, certainly not 1740), and they had fourteen children, with the last born circa 1755. Elizabeth, who was born in 1714 and died in 1777, was the daughter of Rowland Cotton of Bellaport (born circa 1669) and Mary Sleigh (born circa 1673) of Etwall in Derbyshire, daughter of Sir Samuel Sleigh. There were two men with the name Sir Rowland Cotton, who were Members of Parliament; one lived 1581 – 1634, and the other 1674 – 1753. Elizabeth’s father was the latter, son of Ralph Cotton and Abigail Abney. He lost his seat in Parliament in 1715 for supported the Jacobites. The other Sir Rowland Cotton was his grandfather.  There seems to have been a distant relationship between the two Cotton families, with Sir Rowland’s branch, which turned to Catholicism, descended from Sir Richard Cotton (circa 1497 – 1556).

Cotton – Pelham Clinton, 1800

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 067

The sixth child of Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton (1739 – 1809) and his wife Frances Stapleton (died 1809) – who married in 1767 – was Field-Marshal Sir Stapleton Stapleton-Cotton of Bhurtpore, who was born at Llewenni in 1773 and died in 1865. His first of three marriages was to Anne Marie Pelham-Clinton of Clifton in Bristol (1783 – 1807). They had one child; Robert Henry Stapleton-Cotton (1802 – 1821) who did not inherit due to his early death. She was the daughter of Thomas Pelham-Clinton, Duke of Newcastle. Anne Marie and Stapleton married on January 1 1801 at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, the Newcastle’s family seat. Given that the wedding date of 1800 is well documented it is curious that this shield bears a date of 1800.

Cotton – Greville, 1814

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 068

Sir Stapleton’s second marriage was to Caroline Greville (died 1837) on June 18 1814 – so the date on the heraldry is correct for the wedding. They had three children; Caroline Frances Cotton (1815 – 1893) who married the Marquis of Downshire in 1837; their heir, Wellington Henry Stapleton-Cotton, second Viscount Combermere of Bhurtpore (1818 – 1891), who married Susan Alice Sitwell (1819 – 1869) in 1844; and Meliora Emily Ann (1825 – 1897), who married John Charles Frederick Hunter in 1853. After 1830 Caroline lived apart from her husband. Her parents were William Fulke Greville and Meliora Southwell.

Cotton – Gibbings, 1838

 Combermere Library North Wing May 19 2014 069

On October 2 1838 the then very grand Field-Marshal Sir Stapleton Stapleton-Cotton, first Viscount Combermere of Bhurtpore took Mary Woolley Gibbings (1800 – 1889) of Kilbolane in County Cork as his third wife. There were no children, and the heir remained Wellington Henry Stapleton-Cotton, child of the Viscount’s second wife. Mary’s father was Robert Gibbings, a doctor and apothecary of Irish descent but then working in Cheltenham. The Viscount often took that waters at spa towns and this may well have been how he met Mary.

We do not know exactly when the Cotton arms were added to the early-Seventeenth century coving on The Library ceiling, but if it were in the years after the first Viscount’s third marriage, that would not be surprising. They seem to have been planned all at the same time. the second Viscount was a month past his twentieth birthday when his father married for the third and final time, and he was perhaps involved in the researches into their ancestors and their heraldry. It is possible that the son started – or continued – the work – but his marriage, in 1844, was not included, so the work was doubtless finished by then. Two arched panels on the south wall are blank and there is no obvious reason for this.


The First Licks Of New Paint Go On

The coving on The Library has been cleaned, stripped and left to stabilise, and now the first test coats of paint are being applied. All the colours being used are historically accurate, both in terms of the hues and their composition.

Part of the scaffolding platform is being removed so that the test colours can be seen from ground level, and by the natural light which comes through the west-facing range of windows. The base colour tried first is a light, dusty green, and the mouldings are picked out in a mid-grey (with some green in it).

Combmere Library March 16 2014 003Where mouldings have broken off they are carefully repaired on a temporary work bench and are then re-attached by whatever method is appropriate. By and large, substantial and intrusive fixing is avoided. These pieces of plaster can be returned to their rightful place with new plaster.
Combmere Library March 16 2014 004The majority of the tools used resemble the contents of a sculptor’s tool kit. Few power tools are used; this small mains-operated sanding and buffing tool, with its very fine heads, is as large as they get.
Combmere Library March 16 2014 005As mentioned previously, some of the heraldic shields have split across a line between the two retaining steel bolts. This was a simple way of fitting them, but has not stood up to holding their weight over the passage of time. It has been possible to repair some of the shields in place, but others have had to be removed – which does make other damage easier to repair.  These will be re-secured to the remaining element as simply as possible. Once back in place there will be no evidence of repair from close up, let alone from floor level once the scaffolding platform is removed. 
Combmere Library March 16 2014 008The south west corner of the early Seventeenth century coving on The Library ceiling. The new colours have been applied (around the two shields which can be fully seen on the left), and on the scroll catouches. The scaffolding will be removed in this corner so that the new paint can be seen and considered from ground level – some twelve or so feet lower.
Combmere Library March 16 2014 006With the new paint on the coving and the moulding, attention will turn to the shields. These will be cleaned but new paint will only be applied where absolutely necessary. A small number of shields have been over-painting – not for repair but to change the details of the heraldry, and need more restoration. Stripping back the layers to see what is underneath – and trying to work out why they were re-painted – will be fascinating. The policy is to touch in the paint only where there is a loss of the original paint and the image no longer makes visual sense. As much original paint as possible will be retained.
Combmere Library March 16 2014 010The moulded wooden cartouche behind each shield will be painted to match the coving behind it, but because they are in relief they are tending to look a shade lighter simply because they catch more light. The right hand side of this cartouche has been re-painted and shows the contrast with the old paint, which has been darkened by smoke and dust over many generations. The central shield is in good condition, and when cleaned will be entirely acceptable.
Combmere Library March 16 2014 009At the north end of The Library the smaller, flat shields are still masked off. They are far less complex than the larger relief shields and should need a lot less attention.

A Quick Update

Two weeks on from the last update on the work of the conservation team on the ceiling of The Library, and it all looks very different. The layers of paint have been almost completely removed from the coving and the ceiling itself, and the original early-Seventeenth century top coat is revealed.

This yellowy-white covering is fibrous and lime-based, and has to stay in place. Trying to remove it would break up the plasterwork mouldings. It’s a good foundation coat though, over which a match for the original pale green top coat can be applied.

The larger heraldic shields, all showing arms relating to the Cotton family over the centuries (accurate or not – we shall see), have been freed from the wall so that the timber grain-effect paper – which had itself been painted over – can be cleaned and made good enough to take new paint.

Combermere Feb 14 2014 003The larger heraldic shields on the early 17th-century coving.

Close examination of these shields reveal an interesting fact about their construction. They look as if they have been individually carved, but they are in fact made up of two separate elements. Each has a flat, profile-cut background, on to which a moulded or pressed wood-composite material has been applied to create the three-dimensional curved sections. This is simple mass production, and will have saved time and money. The panels of inverted ‘U’s between the crests on the higher frieze will also have been pre-made sections, plastered into place.

These heraldic shields were probably commissioned by the first Viscount Combermere in the early Nineteenth century, and no matter how grand he was, he was obviously not averse to taking a few short cuts to save a few pounds. It will be fascinating to consult heraldic experts and see how accurate the coats of arms are; in at least one case a shield have been over-painted at least twice, perhaps as new research contradicted earlier assumptions.

Each shield is held in place with two bolts (their heads concealed by plaster moulding). Several shields have split to a greater or lesser degree in a horizontal line between the bolts, perhaps when they were first secured, or as a result of movement. One shield has been taken off the wall completely and it will be weighed.

Combermere Feb 14 2014 004The smaller and less elaborate shields on the north wall are also still masked off, as are the crests of local families on the frieze above. The plyboard box at the bottom of the image is protection for pictures still on the lower part of the hall. The floor to ceiling height here is in excess of twenty feet.
Combermere Feb 14 2014 005A close-up shot of a central portion of the ceiling.The pulley wheels on the bottom left corner are for the central light fitting. New, discreet lighting will be added to the coving to illuminate the coats of arms. The considerable distortion in the ceiling can be seen as it slopes downwards into the corner on the bottom right of this photograph.

After stripping, the material on the ceiling almost looks like marble. There are numerous cracks in the plaster, and any which have have needed it have been filled in. The plaster is in good repair in fact, and no sections need replacing wholesale. Areas of decoration, such as the cartouche in the top left corner, are still masked off. These will be re-painted individually with carefully matched colours from a historic paint palette.

The paintwork will take place over the next three weeks, and the entire job will then be left to stabilise and dry for a fortnight before work resumes.


Restoration Of The Library Ceiling: Week Two

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 003With the scaffolding platform covering the entire area of the Library, work on the ceiling is much easier. The conservators from Hare & Humphrey have found evidence of a lot of previous piece-meal restoration, some of it within the last fifty years or so, (though no one has any memory of this). It is unlikely that previous restorers had, in effect, a false floor to work from, and they would probably have been up a ladder, or at best on a small scaffolding tower. The platform brings everything within arms’ reach, as you can see from the photograph. It makes the job a lot quicker and also a lot safer. The boxed area you can see in this picture of the east wall is the top of the fireplace, carefully protected from any possible harm.

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 001With the heraldic shields and the small crests masked off (the areas covered in plain white paper), all the areas between the shields have been treated with a mild paint-stripper. This comes as watery paste, which smells of almonds – which is slightly alarming as anything which smells as almonds is usually cyanide! Despite its smell the chemical does not give off fumes and safety breathing gear in not required when it is being applied, nor while it dries.

The stripper is then covered with a special paper strip – seen with black print on it in the photo – which will be peeled off after a couple of days, and will bring the stripper and the top layer of paint with it. This will obviously bring the surface dirt off too. Once the paper has been removed it is not hazardous waste and does not require special disposal measures. As well as atmospheric dirt the worst of the discoloured will have come from years of open fires, plus cigar and cigarette smoke. The conservators think that the ceiling paints will have become discoloured quite quickly, and the family will have enjoyed them at their brightest only briefly.

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 004In the photo above the area at the top of the triangular element, including the blue and red device, has had the top layer stripped away to reveal the original paint colour – a pale grey/green. With the covering paper pulled away all the surfaces will be restored to this tone.

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 013Highly skilled professionals in ill-fitting white suits apply the paint stripper.

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 006

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 005

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 002Thanks to the platform we can now get up close to the ceiling bosses, which reproduce the crests on the coving discussed in last week’s post. Here we see better examples of the elephant and castle of the Corbet family, the head of a tethered bear – the crest of the Breretons, and the dog with his tongue so rudely stuck out (a talbot; see which in this instance denotes the Grosvenor family – the Dukes of Westminster (whose seat at Eaton Hall is some sixteen miles north by north west as the crow flies).

Combermere library Jan 2014 2 010We will come to the Cotton arms soon, in all its variations, but on this shield the left hand side is described in heraldic terms as “Azure, a chevron between three cotton hanks palewise Argent”. The hanks are the figures of eight; representing lengths of carded cotton tied up for ease of transportation. There is no evidence of the family making cotton; the device merely comes from the surname. The chevron – from the French word of the same spelling meaning rafter (as in the roof of a house, and indicating protection) – was granted to someone who had done a special service for their monarch and country. The red rose is the symbol of the house of Lancaster, of course.

cottonThe ‘basic’ shield of the Cotton family.

 Combermere library Jan 2014 2 009 No, it’s not a Cistercian monk in one of their distinctive grey habits, time-travelled forward half a millenium to assist with the conservation; just one of the ‘wet’ tradesmen.