Restoring lost splendor of


by Phil Johnson

The incredible project of Phil Johnson, a self-taught colorist from the UK, allow us to admire the grandeur of Witley Court estate, destroyed by fire 80 years ago in full color.

Witley Court. Wostershire. UK.

For many years Phil Johnson has been collecting black and white photos of the UK landmarks. In 2018, after he discovered CODIJY Pro, Phil embarked on an ambitious project to restore their splendor by meticulously bringing their photos into full color.

Reconstructing the color of lost objects in the black and white images demands significant effort. Besides colorization, the colorists does a lot of research that ensures natural, historically accurate result.

Below we will quote Phil explaining the special features of each of his colorizations.

Witley Court, Worcestershire

I am generally interested in England’s historic buildings but I have a specific interest in Witley Court in my home county, Worcestershire. 

Witley Court was the impressive estate that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A fire in 1937 destroyed one wing and the house was abandoned afterwards. It is now a magnificent ruin.

Witley Court ball room in the 1987 photograph.  It’s the same now. 

This is the same view of its ball room, the place for decadent house parties, balls and concerts photographed 17 years before the fire, in 1920. 

Obviously, after the destruction, we lost the opportunity to explore the interior of this exquisite baroque room.

It will never be restored so... Codijy to the rescue....

Restoring the Ballroom to its Grandeur

Incredibly, Phil managed to accomplish the almost impossible. For hours he worked on recreating the details of ornaments, furniture and paintings, tracing element after element.

Well, the final result is in itself a colorization masterpiece!

The photo of Witley Court ball room in the 1920 photograph. Colorized by Phil Johnson. 

The Witley Court Ballroom photo color reconstruction is the kind of project that requires devotion and utter dedication. Here is what Phil wrote about this project:

It's a 20mb 300dpi original so there is great detail throughout. Overall, around 115 hours. Covid19 is good for something at least!

Let’s take a peek into the colorist’s studio and see how he performed such a sophisticated and voluminous colorization in CODIJY.

As you can see, the level of detail with which the colorist approached his work and the amazing accuracy of his masks are no less admirable than the final result!

Working on this grand project has not kept Phil from continuing to work on new photographs of the interiors of the estate.

From time to time I feel the need to take on another hi-res Witley Court colourisation. 

The "Red Sitting Room"

One of Phil’s next projects was the Red Drawing Room, a 1920 photograph from the Witley Court Collection.

For all the grandeur and spaciousness of the Court, this relatively small room was a family favourite, tucked away in a corner off the grand entrance hall with superb views across the garden towards the giant Poseidon fountain. 

Phil’s task in the case of this image was made more difficult by the fact that the negative was damaged and there was a lot of work to be done to restore the lost fragment.

After that, it was essential to determine a starting point for an appropriate color palette. Phil accomplished this task with the same amazing skill that can be seen in the ballroom shot.

The original plate is cracked, so prep work was also required on this one but at least the name of the room gave me a starting point for the colourisation... 

The Sculpture Gallery

The next work in the project gives us a chance to enjoy the tranquility and spaciousness of the sculpture gallery. Despite the apparent plainness and lack of infinite decorative elements, the work on this photo was not an idle stroll.

I continued to battle away with his historical research and colourisations of a set of photographs taken at Witley Court in Worcestershire just before it, and its contents, went under the auctioneers hammer in 1920.

Sculpture Gallery, Witley Court, Worcestershire. 1920 Colorized by Phil Johnson. 

According to Phil the main task was to find the colors that were present in the gallery and recreate them on the image.

This one took a huge amount of time to complete, although that time was mainly spent finding the current whereabouts of (and, hence, the correct colours for) the painting of 'Hobnelia' that hangs over the fireplace.

Not all of the details can be located and verified. Then the colorist has to apply his talent and best knowledge. 

We have not been able to locate the mantlepiece clock so that is all guesswork. The red marble plinth is correct however

Portraits in Witley Court

A new photograph and the next equally daunting task. The detail of the artwork that was once part of the interior requires as careful a reconstruction as anything else in this stately mansion.

These two portraits are, I believe, of the same woman. She is not identified but she will be a member of the Ward family that owned Witley Court in Worcestershire until 1920, when the photographs were taken. 

As you will see from the original, the paintings are both damaged, one severely, and both of the glass plate negatives of the paintings are also damaged! At least half of the work on this project was the restoration of the original images prior to colourising. 

A lot of detail has been lost from the orange portrait and the colourisation, therefore, is intentionally incomplete. Because of the damage, it is unlikely these portraits still exist, so good to have a restored, colourised version of them.

Fountain in Witley Court

1920. Flora Fountain, Witley Court, Worcestershire, UK. I include a recent view of this beautiful feature, now, sadly, in a ruinous state.

All of these wonderful works are the result of a colorist’s total dedication. Phil’s work has inspired many colorists to create photographs with great detail, such as landscapes, interiors and street scenes.

However, such projects are unthinkable without a reliable tool at hand. That’s why Phil has repeatedly emphasized that Colorizer Pro plays an important role in the success of his projects:

It was not important for me to be able to complete colourisations quickly or automatically, but it was essential to be able to complete them accurately, with colour control available down to individual pixels if necessary. Codijy Pro appeared to provide me with what I wanted and I have been extremely pleased with it.