Early in 1999 the Frobisher Studio in Glencoe Road was seriously deteriorating and although it was patched up from time to time, it had become uneconomic to consider restoring it. However, the owner, Nick Browne, wished to find a way to save it and if possible increase its use. In discussion with Bryen Wood of Bushey Museum & Art Gallery, the idea was conceived to move the Studio to the Museum site, restoring it in the process. A report from a structural engineer, Ian Mackay stated that such a project was feasible. The only site available was a derelict plot behind the Museum partly occupied by a World War 2 shelter, which the Museum also wished to restore. A difficult dilemma was averted when a detailed survey by architects John Craig Gray and Annette Schmidt showed that the Studio could fit alongside the shelter. The Museum found it very difficult to find building companies interested in taking on the project. But after seeking advice from the Hertsmere Conservation Officer Bill Tyler, the Museum engaged the local architectural practice of Counter & King, who found specialist companies willing to tender. Planning Permission was applied for and subsequently granted with no restrictions. More detailed plans and a specification were drawn up and the Museum had a much better idea of the scale of the project and the amount of funding that was needed. Nick Browne offered some financial support and the decision was taken to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund. David Whorlow, Museums Officer from Hertsmere Borough Council, was asked to lead the project. The application involved input from many people from the Museum, Hertsmere Borough Council and letters of support from many local interested parties. The bid was finally submitted in August 2005 and in December 2005, the Museum found out that the Heritage Lottery Fund application was successful as a joint project with Hertsmere Borough Council.
The Studio was cleared by a team from the Museum in February 2006 and work formally began in May 2006 by the contractors Stress UK Ltd.
By mid July the roof of the Studio was off and the inside panelling had been removed.
Everything had been numbered or lettered to help with reassembling at the Museum site, like a giant jigsaw!
One of several changes to the original plans was the requirement to build a retaining wall at the new site to protect the nearby buildings. This caused some delay to the project and was only finished by September 2006 along with a concrete raft for the foundations.
By the beginning of November the walls were up on the new site and the roof trusses and purlins were on. Unfortunately the original tie bar could not be reused and so the Studio had to be temporarily wired together to prevent it spreading further apart whilst new ones were ordered.
The building was by now watertight and secure and much of the insulating lining had been put inside the walls.
Another unforeseen complication for the project came about when the Museum was visited by the Hertsmere Building Enforcement Officer to investigate a complaint that the new Studio roof was too dazzling in the sun! This was solved by painting the High Street side of the roof.
The floor had been placed having been strengthened and repaired.
When the Studio was being dismantled, traces of the original finishes were discovered. It was decided to reproduce these as closely as possible but using new fire retardant paints so inside, the upper walls were painted in cream and the lower section was stained a dark brown.
The plan was always to be as authentic as possible with the Studio building, but the Museum recognised that it would need to be a fully functioning building. So whilst the original, badly deteriorated, heating stove was replaced with exactly the same model (a Portway Tortoise No. 5 found by Jim Craig Gray on the internet), modern gas fired central heating and modern lighting were also installed. The railings for the access ramp were installed in April and the last of the fittings were installed in May. The exterior was painted green to match the original colour with ivory doors and window frames.
The Studio was formally reopened in June 2007 by the Mayor of Hertsmere and July saw the return of the original Wednesday Art Group, successor to the Frobisher School of Painting all those years ago.
The Bushey Museum collection includes some paintings of the Frobisher Studio painted by Margaret B. Spark (1927–2002). You can see them on the Art UK website. Click on the two pictures for more information at the Art UK website!