Obituary: Richard Lithgow FIIC ACR

Richard was an accredited conservation professional with over forty years of experience

19 Oct 2023
Richard Portrait Final Print(1).jpg

Richard Lithgow, who died on 9 October 2023, was an Icon accredited conservator-restorer and Fellow of the International Institute of Conservation, with over forty years’ experience conserving wall paintings and other painted surfaces of all periods and styles.  With Mark Perry ACR, Richard has been a Director of the Perry Lithgow Partnership (PLP) since 1983 and a Trustee of the Eve Baker Trust, maintaining the extensive archive of conservation work carried out by the Eve Baker Trust from the 1950s to 1980s.  PLP have completed more than 200 conservation projects in cathedrals, churches, and historic houses in all parts of the British Isles.  These projects are a roll call of many of the most significant buildings in this country, including Rochester and Chichester Cathedrals, St Alban’s Abbey and Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, Kensington and Hampton Court Palaces and several Oxford Colleges. 

A highlight is the major project to record and conserve the entire painted ceiling in the nave at Peterborough Cathedral between 1999 and 2005. Richard’s drive and motivation came to the fore in grappling with the level of documentation required, which was immense and unique in England at the time. Richard had to teach himself the necessary computer skills to master the technical challenges of, amongst many things, multi-layered graphics.  The project also demonstrated the high level of Richard’s practical conservation skills.  His work on relaying extensive flaking paint on the figure of St Peter was exemplary.

PLP’s professional standing grew through such work and was recognised in 2010 with the Pilgrim Trust Award for Conservation for their treatment of Sir James Thornhill’s 18th century staircase scheme at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire.  Richard’s typically methodical and practical approach to the ‘Death Reawakened’ project to conserve the internationally significant late 15th/early 16th century wall paintings at the Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon, led to PLP winning the prestigious 2018 SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) John Betjeman Award.

Richard also used his business and conservation skills in support of the profession. For Icon, he joined the Stone and Wall Paintings Group in 2005, became Treasurer in 2006, and then took on the role of Co-Chair with David Odgers for two years from 2010.  During that time there were regular conferences including: ‘Going beneath the surface: Conservation of architectural plasterwork’; ‘Grouting’; Graveyard Slot’; and ‘Problem Stones 2’.  The committee was very active with all involved in conference organisation thanks to his infectious enthusiasm.  Richard was also a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Reader for Icon between January 2010 and April 2018.  During this time, he read numerous CPD forms ensuring that the standards were applied fairly, and that feedback was always constructive.

Richard supported students and young conservators with the placements offered and supervised by PLP, and he has continued to mentor them throughout their careers.  Most recently PLP has provided a much-needed work opportunity at Boughton House for two Ukrainian conservators who have escaped the conflict back home. Richard’s knowledge, skills and interest will be sorely missed by the whole conservation community and not least by his business partner Mark Perry ACR and his wife Katy Lithgow ACR FIIC.

1999 c. Peterborough Cathedral Nave ceiling c. 1999.jpg

Richard Lithgow working on the nave ceiling of Peterborough Cathedral, 1999

A full obituary has been published in the December-January issue of IIC News in Conservation.  This shorter version emphasises his contributions to Icon.