Room-dividing screen decorated by Charles Dickens saved

The screen decorated by Charles Dickens and William Mcready
Image caption The screen was decorated by Charles Dickens and William Macready in the 1850s, at the latter's house in Dorset

A room-dividing screen from the 1850s that was decorated by the writer Charles Dickens is being saved from further deterioration in Dorset.

The screen had been passed down through the family of its original owner, Dickens' friend, actor and theatre agent William Macready.

Restoration work has begun on it at the Dorset History Centre with the aim of displaying it at Sherborne Museum.

Rebecca Donnan, from the centre, said: "It's very damaged, but it is lovely."

Image caption Rebecca Donnan, from the Dorset History Centre, works on the screen

The screen of four two-metre tall panels was decorated by Dickens and Macready during regular visits to the latter's Dorset home, Sherborne House.

In a fax from 2004, sent when the family donated the screen to the trustees of Mr Macready's former Dorset home, his grandson, Sir Neville Macready, wrote: "They were great friends, and they used to spend part of their leisure time together sticking pictures of current or topical interest on it.

"I have no idea how long it took them but they seem to have persevered until the whole screen was covered."

The screen arrived at the Dorset History Centre after its current owners, The Friends of Sherborne House, asked for a costing on its restoration.

It was bequeathed to them by Macready's family, after it was found among the possessions of Sir Neville Macready's mother, who died in Paris in 1969.

Ms Donnan said: "It has quite a lot of Shakespearean influences and is beautifully put together.

"There are also images of the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon, George III and lovely pastoral landscapes.

"It's very organised and symmetrical. I'm very fond of it."

Ms Donnan said her work involves cleaning the screen's surface to stabilise its condition to stop further deterioration.

This process will take about two weeks, after which it will be stored until The Friends of Sherborne House can raise further funding to pay for its full restoration before putting it on public display.

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