Stourhead Axminster carpet restoration

The team packing the carpet ready for it to be moved for conservation

The team packing the carpet ready for it to be moved for conservation

Latest update 09.04.2014 18:18

The Axminster carpet is the oldest, largest and most important at Stourhead. It has been sent for conservation work after a complex operation to survey and remove it safely from the house.

Recently our team of gardeners and garden volunteers turned their green fingers to a very different task, helping move the 40-60 stone Axminster carpet from the house for a nine-month-long conservation project.

Made by the world-famous Axminster carpet company in the 19th century, the carpet is the oldest original carpet in the house and was rescued by servants from a fire in 1902 which destroyed the central part of the house. The carpet was then cut to fit the room’s new layout although the cut pieces have been found neatly folded underneath.

People's Postcode Lottery

The £36,000 cost of conserving the carpet has been made possible as a result of £100,000 of funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery towards the National Trust’s priority collections conservation projects.

It was no mean feat getting the carpet out of the house as it stretches from wall to wall. At 9.7m x 8.6m, the carpet is larger than life in more ways than one, as Stourhead’s House Steward, Alison Lee, explained:

'This is the oldest carpet in the house and the only one that belonged to the family. It is a rare, original Axminster. It has been in need of support for such a long time, and we haven’t had the ability to deal with it, so the fantastic support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery has been really important.

'It is huge and quite a weight so we got a real idea of what the servants at Stourhead felt when they had to take the carpet out during the fire.'

Removing and conserving the carpet

Before removing the carpet we moved all of the heavy furniture out of the room including a Steinway grand piano. The carpet was then surveyed by specialists in preparation for their work off site at the Tetley Workshop in Devon.

Conservators will be cleaning the carpet, adding support to the damaged areas and restoring some of the losses such as splits and holes.

Having survived the turbulent war period – which we are sharing through Harry’s Story – the carpet has been a characteristic feature of the Saloon since the house was opened to the public.

Returning in November

Whilst the piano and other furniture are now back on display in the Saloon, the carpet won’t be returning until the work is completed in November. We will then have to empty the room once again and enlist our garden team to help return the carpet back to the house.