Conserving the Key to Headstone Manor

By in Collections

Displayed adjacent to the door of Headstone Manor is usually a large iron key! However, in later 2019, we carefully removed it from the Museum as it needed critical conservation work.

This key was discovered in 2014 by archaeologists during excavation on site. The excavation team was headed by the Museum of London during a community dig project which saw two areas of the site explored. This included the inside the old peace garden, just outside the Small Barn towards the café where local school groups had the opportunity to dig, experiencing the life of an archaeologist! In addition, the area to the left of the Granary building was also excavated alongside the local community – this is where the iron key was discovered! The key was exposed on the final day of the excavation, making it more special for both the archaeologists and the community!

Once the key was documented and cleaned by archaeologists, it was given back to the Museum for display. We decided to display it inside the Parlour room, next to the main visitor entrance to the Manor House as this was where the original door of the medieval house would have been. This entrance was reinstated during restoration works in 2005, having been blocked up in the 1700s. We believe the key dates to the same period. Could this be the original key to the Medieval Manor House? We’re not sure but we hope to continue our research!

In late 2020 we tightly packaged the key up and sent it off for conservation. We enlisted the services of Drakon Heritage and Conservation in Birmingham. The company provides conservation, archaeology and project management services to museums, heritage organisations and private individuals across the UK.

We received it back this month and we’re completely astounded by the results!

Drakon Heritage and Conservation reported that
“The key was in a stable condition but was covered in voluminous corrosion products and broken into 3 pieces. The key was x-rayed to reveal the shape. The cleaning of the key was firstly carried out under the microscope with hand tools to clear out loose soils. Following…cleaning the harder corrosion products were removed. The corrosion on the bit area was not all removed as the density of the corrosion products meant that removing the corrosion would damage the original surface. Broken pieces were re-joined. The object was given a coating to inhibit future corrosion.”

We look forward to re-displaying the key in the very near future. Stay tuned for further updates. We can’t wait to welcome you back in the Museum to see it!

What do you think of the results? (The image below changes from before to after!)