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Conserving Knole Park

PUBLISHED: 11:44 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:44 25 April 2017

Conservator Carmen Vida conserving Flight & Barr porcelain from the ballroom at Knole

Conservator Carmen Vida conserving Flight & Barr porcelain from the ballroom at Knole

Archant

A new conservation studio at Knole gives a rare glimpse into the intricate work that goes into caring for precious artefacts

Senior conservator Gerry Alabone with the ribbon-framed painting of Henry VIIISenior conservator Gerry Alabone with the ribbon-framed painting of Henry VIII

The chance to visit the new conservation studio coincides with the reopening of four of Knole’s historic showrooms, which have undergone extensive building and conservation work.

The exciting developments at the National Trust property form part of a £19.8m building and conservation project – the largest of its kind ever undertaken by the charity.

Supported by a National Lottery grant of £7.75m, it heralds the biggest changes at Knole in more than 400 years. The new two-storey studio has been constructed in what was formerly Knole’s medieval barn. Inside, a team of five National Trust conservators will work all year round on historical paintings, furniture and objects.

Over the next two years, 80 per cent of Knole’s own royal collection will pass through the studio’s doors to be cared for and conserved. This will include gems in the collection such as rare Stuart furniture, some acquired from royal palaces by Charles Sackville, sixth Earl of Dorset when he was Lord Chamberlain in the 17th century.

The famous 17th-century Knole Sofa, which has inspired multiple copies around the world, will be among the first pieces to be conserved. Upholstered in its original but now worn red velvet, it was originally designed as a throne fit for a king or queen.

The royal ‘Stool of Easement’, an early form of ‘loo’ from the French ‘lieux d’aisance’ thought to have been used by Charles II, will also undergo careful conservation work.

The doors to the studio will be open daily for visitors to spy treasures in the conservation store on the first floor, and sit on the ‘cool chair’ as part of a real-time experiment testing Knole’s unique fabrics.

From Wednesday to Saturday there will be a unique opportunity to enter the studio itself and speak with the team and gain valuable insight into the delicate work that goes on behind the scenes.

The completion of the conservation studio coincides with the reopening of four of Knole’s historic showrooms. Ever since the National Trust acquired the house and grounds in 1946, it has faced an ongoing expensive battle with leaking roofs and windows, damp, moths and woodworm.

Thanks to the project, however, the showrooms have been made secure for the future, with wind-proofing, water-proofing and greater environmental controls installed.

Visitors to the revitalised showrooms will now be able to take in the extensive collection in comfortable conditions, with controllable conservation heating and new LED lighting to illuminate objects – some for the very first time.

Particular highlights include a new glass viewing box in the King’s Bedroom, bringing admirers closer than ever before to the grand 17th-century state bed designed for James II.

In the Cartoon Gallery, the six full-height copies of paintings known as ‘cartoons’ or working designs for tapestries by the Renaissance artist Raphael have been restored to brilliant colour.

Work continues on the project at Knole until spring 2019, by which time the remaining showrooms will reopen.

The project is opening up domestic areas of Knole for the first time too. The new spaces, including the Gatehouse Tower which opened back in spring 2016, and the secretive attic spaces to come by the project end, will make 70 per cent more of Knole accessible for visitors to explore.

Find out more

For conservation studio and showroom opening times, or to see videos and pictures of Knole’s building and conservation project, visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole.

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