Hall Conservation Ltd

Project Information

The Tulip Staircase is thought to be the oldest unsupported spiral staircase in the UK. The stairs are held in place by the support of a cantilever from the wall with each stair supporting on the one above. This famous staircase is

located within the Inigo Jones’ designed Queen’s House, which is part of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The Queen’s House was built as a royal residence between 1616 and 1635.

A major 14-month restoration and refurbishment of the Queen’s House began in 2015. We were asked to investigate the possibility of reinstating the original smalt finish to the Tulip Staircase. Smalt is powdered cobalt glass, it was used as an alternative to blue paint as at that time there was not a stable blue pigment available.

As part of the research we tested a variety of paint bases from modern to traditional along with different methods of applying the smalt to a vertical surface. Trials were initially undertaken in our workshop before eventually applying them to the staircase itself. The work often took place when the Queen’s House was open to visitors, providing an excellent opportunity to discuss our restoration work with interested members of the public.