Q. I have found an old piece of wallpaper and am not sure what do I do with it?
A. Historic wallpapers can be very fragile and great care is needed to remove them from a wall. With the careful use of a flat-bladed knife poorly fixed papers can be gently eased off a wall, although this can often cause more damage than good. If uncertain, then advice from an approved paper conservator should be sought, who can offer guidance and even remove sections if required for conservation, or display elsewhere.
Q. What’s the earliest wallpaper in England?
A. The earliest papers are often called ‘black-and-white’ papers because they were printed in carbon ink and often used to line the inside of wooden boxes, or chests. A fragmentary design that includes the arms of England surrounded by Tudor roses, masks and vases of flowers has been found at Besford Court in Worcestershire; c.1550-70 in date.
Q. Is old wallpaper dangerous?
A. If you find fragments of wallpaper that date to the 18th or 19th centuries, it is sensible to take care when handling them. They may be fragile, but also printed with paints and dyes that contain chemicals including chromium, cadmium, mercury, lead, cyanide, antimony and arsenic. Prolonged inhalation of dust from these papers should be avoided, but in a well ventilated area and if using gloves, then it should not be problem to handle them.