Preserving the Preston Twin Elm

January 4th, 2023

Artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva has embarked on a challenging restoration on one of the infamous Brighton Preston Twin Elms, in a bid to preserve and celebrate the much-loved tree. The team at Brewers Freshfield, alongside the team at Repair Care have been working to provide preservative and wood hardening products plus resin to help stabilise the wood and provide protection for Elpida’s final vision. 

Photo courtesy of @elpidahadzivasileva

More about the elm tree:

Elm disease is one of the most destructive tree diseases in the UK and has claimed many elm trees over the past 100 years, including one of the Brighton Preston Twin Elms. Considered to be the oldest and largest Elms in the world, one of the twins had to be felled in 2019 due to being contaminated by the disease. 

In a bid to save the much-loved twin, Elpida is working on restoring the hollowed stem hulk into a sculpture which is to be displayed back in its original position within Preston Park.

Photo courtesy of @elpidahadzivasileva

More from Elpida:

Elpida is an experienced sculptor, specialising in gilding and has worked with Elm trees previously.

"This is one of the most special projects I have done to date in my career as a visual artist, particularly as it's local to my home and studio; it is a real privilege to work on this magnificent 400 years old English Elm Tree and contribute to saving it for future generations of residents and visitors to Brighton. I'm particularly very grateful to the team at Brewers Freshfield and Repair Care for their generosity and help with the preservation of the timber." Elpida Hadzivasileva, Artist.

Photos courtesy of @elpidahadzivasileva

The project in detail:

As the Elm had been on its side for some time, the timber has required a major clean up by Elpida and her team and some structural work will be required. 

The twin elm had to be moved several times throughout the project and finally back to its original position in Preston Park. Each move was a challenge due to the sheer scale of the tree and ensuring its protection and structural integrity remain intact.

Photos courtesy of @elpidahadzivasileva

Brewers have supplied Toupret Wood Hardener to strengthen the wood. To preserve the wood, offer protection and give the desired finish, Bird Brand Complete+ Superior Wood Preserver in Ebony has been donated by the local Freshfield store. The black shade has been selected to bring out the character and markings on the Elm's surface to help tell its story.

Repair Care have supplied their DRY FIX® UNI, a product that will stabilise the wood fibres in the applied areas, and their BIO FLEX™ All Round. The BIO FLEX™ All Round is an epoxy based repair resin which consists of 40% bio based raw materials, which made it a great choice for this project. The resin was coloured using a pigment in the mixing stage by Elpida, to match the colour of the surrounding timber in the elm tree.

Photos courtesy of @elpidahadzivasileva

Elpida has used Dutch gold to gild the interior of the hollowed trunk to create a striking sculpture which will be on display in its original position in Preston Park.

Brewers are pleased to help this important project, in addition to support from Brighton & Hove City Council and the National Lottery through Arts Council England and other local businesses and individuals.

To help create this community sculpture, the project is being crowdfunded, click here to donate.