Textiles Conservation on The Harefield Flag from Adelaide High School
The Harefield Flag, as it is known, is a large and very battered Union Jack belonging to the Adelaide High School. The story behind this Flag is fascinating. During World War 1 many Australian soldiers were stationed near Harefield, north of London. They worshipped at the local church and wounded soldiers were treated at the Harefield hospital.
The Flag, which belonged to the local school, was draped over Australian soldiers’ coffins when they were taken from the hospital to the Australian cemetery within the Harefield churchyard.
During this time the Adelaide High School community also sent relief parcels to Harefield. After the war the Harefield School presented the Union Jack to the Schools Patriotic Fund, who in turn presented it to Adelaide High School as a token of thanks. The much loved Flag has belonged to the school since this time.
Adelaide High School later sent Harefield an Australian Flag which they still have. To this day, the children of Harefield continue to tend the graves of the Australian soldiers buried in the Australian section of the cemetery and the village celebrates Anzac Day each year by raising the Australian Flag at the churchyard and placing flowers on the soldiers’ graves. The Union Jack (Harefield Flag) housed at the Adelaide High is still mentioned. An extract from the Herald Sun dated April 21, 2009 reads, “In a small English village, hundreds of school children have this week been given the morning off to hunt wild flowers in the forest to carry in an annual procession. The unusual spring-time ritual has been quietly happening for 90 years in Harefield, an hour north west of London for one reason only - to ensure the town never forgets the ANZAC diggers that forever changed the face of their tiny community”.
Links between the school and the Harefield community continue and students from Adelaide High School are hoping to visit Harefield as part of a proposed trip to the western front in 2015 to celebrate the centenary of Anzac Day.
The love of this Flag has also been responsible for its fragile condition. Constant display has resulted in the Flag being very fragile and faded. The school has taken the Flag off display in recent years but this year has decided to undertake its conservation. At some point in its life the Flag has undergone restoration with sections of the blue and cream replaced. Since then it has been displayed with the back to the front as this side is less faded. It was decided not to remove the previous restoration and leave it displayed as is. The repairs are very much part of its history and reflects the effort and care taken to look after the Flag by the school community.
Conservation Treatment of the Harefield Flag
The Flag was initially wet-cleaned. This allowed many years of dirt and acidity to be removed. As it was very damaged, the Flag was sewn between two layers of nylon net before washing, to hold it in place during the delicate washing procedure. After washing the nylon net sandwich was removed. New wool fabric was dyed to match the flag as closely as possible.
The next stage, as the Flag is still undergoing treatment , the new wool will be used as a lining and this lining will be cut and sewn together to match the Flag. The full lining will provide much needed physical support. The front of the Flag will then be covered with sections of fine nylon net dyed to match the different colours. Extensive hand stitching will also be carried out to secure the Flag to the lining and the net overlay. Velcro will be used as a hanging device at the top edge.
After Artlab’s textiles conservators have completed the treatment the Flag will once again be returned to the Adelaide High School community. Unfortunately it will never be able to withstand the rigors of long-term display. In the future it will be displayed for short periods of time for special occasions. When it is not on display it will be rolled and placed in conservation grade storage. The Adelaide High School, with the advice from the textile conservators at Artlab, will continue to work hard on a long-term plan for the care and preservation of this much loved and fascinating piece of history.
Adelaide High School, Adelaide
South Australia, Australia
World War 1 Union Jack Flag