Ruth Pierce Panels

An artist local to Devizes, Wiltshire carved a series of oak panels during the 1950s. The panels each represent pivotal moments in Devizes history. The first panels were originally on display in the Ruth Pierce Restaurant in Devizes and a booklet entitled ‘The Ruth Pierce Panels’ was sold there for one shilling. Additional panels were carved until there were a total of 18 panels in the collection. To this day, the panels are now in the care of Devizes Town Council and, up until recently, one of the 18 panels was missing. 

The seventeen known panels from Devizes Town Council were treated by the conservators at the Objects Conservation laboratory in Chippenham. The panels arrived in groups of  two or four and were first photographed before being conserved.

             Conservator at work on a panel

All the carved wooden panels have iron struts screwed into the edges which have put stress on the panels and caused the wood to crack and split to varying degrees. Damp storage conditions have lead to the panels warping as a consequence of the elevated humidity. Others are stained and a number showed signs of previous repair. Every one of the panels has dust and dirt on the surface and a large number have been coated with varnish which has become discoloured and flaky over time. 

The panels have been worked on by conservation student Nyssa Mildwaters and conservators Sebastian Foxley, Helen Wilmot and Kelly Abbott. For all panels, the iron struts have been loosened to decrease the stress within the wood. The surfaces have been cleaned of dirt and the varnished removed. The panels have been treated with conservation grade wax. The project initially lasted a period of three months and was completed in December 2007. 

               Conservator at work on a panel

In 2008 a further two panels came to light - the one that was believed missing and an additional panel - in response to an advert that was posted by Devizes Town Council asking for any information on the possible whereabouts of the missing panel. These have been treated by the conservation team in the same way.

All the panels have been returned to Devizes Town Council to go on display with a description of each scene published underneath the panel. These panels are available to view by the public by appointment.