A man’s fragmentary 17thC coat: conservation, documentation and replication


The coat body is of fulled wool comprising four main parts with a small standing collar and centre front button fastening; wool linings and linen interlinings. Evidence of repairs (e.g. to sleeve) and later additions (e.g. cuff). It has been suggested that the earliest components of the coat could date from c.1650. Museum records indicate the coat was found walled up in a chimney, which suggests that it may have formed part of a cache, deliberately concealed within a building.

Client brief/Role of object

Conserve and mount for long-term display and make a replica.

Condition before treatment

Fair to poor condition overall; extremely fragmentary; stains and ingrained soils; very crumpled; one sleeve missing.


The original - Surface cleaned, retained soiling likely to be of historic significance. Humidification reduced creases, revealing the original shape of the coat. Fragmentary wool and shoulder seams supported onto a semi-transparent net. Coat displayed on a custom-made 3-D support, designed to hold the mount board at an appropriate angle for display.

The replica – During the conservation of the coat, patterns were made directly from surviving panels. The aim of the project was to make a copy of the original coat, including the thread-wrapped buttons, in the configuration most likely when last worn. The garment was made of machine-made materials but was hand stitched throughout.

Condition after treatment

The original coat is stable for long term display on the sloping board; however the buttons remain too fragile to be fastened. The replica provides a better understanding of the cut and construction of the original as it can be viewed from all angles on the mannequin and alongside the original. PowerPoint presentations illustrating the investigation, conservation treatment and replica making are played alongside the Museum display.

Further information

Gill, K. (accepted) ‘Making Sense of a Fragmentary Garment: the Maldon Cache Coat.’ (working title) In M. M. Brooks and D. D. Eastop eds. Predicaments in Conserving and Displaying Dress: Contributions to a Theory of Practice (working title), Getty Conservation Institute.

Gill, K. 2015, ‘Sharing Evidence: Documentation, Conservation and Replication of a Man’s Wool Coat with Thread-wrapped Buttons.’ Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Volume 13, Issue 1, 4-29.

Gill, K. 2012. Images can speak louder than words: Communicating conservation effectively. Congress proceedings The Decorative: Conservation and the Applied Arts, 24th International Congress of IIC, Vienna, Austria, September 2012, S.114-S121.

Harrison, A. and Gill, K. 2002. An eighteenth century detachable pocket and baby’s cap, found concealed in a wall cavity: conservation and research. Textile History, 33(2), 177-194.

Further examples of items of clothing that have been deliberately hidden within building structures can be found by visiting the following website: www.concealedgarments.org


Reproduced courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service. Kate Gill Textile and Upholstery Conservation Services © 2012.

Conservation, display mount & storage box, coat replica and PowerPoint presentations undertaken by Kate Gill between December 2010 and January 2012.