The Boudoir project

Arlington's boudoir is one of the few remaining rooms with the original interior intact. The years have ravaged the silk wall hangings and now a new project will decide the fate of this Victorian decoration.

What's in a name?

The boudoir has its origins in early eighteenth century France as a place of private worship. The term evolved during the Victorian era to describe a lady’s private sitting room. The word boudoir comes from the French bouder, which means to sulk.
The boudoir is one of the few rooms at Arlington which still have their original interior decoration, dating from the 1830s. Sir John Chichester of Arlington married Caroline Thistlethwayte in 1838 and as this room would have been used solely by her, she may well have had an influence on the design. The hangings on the wall are made of red and gold silk damask, a technique whereby the pattern is woven into the silk. 

Wear and tear

Over the years the silk has been damaged by light, it has faded and the threads have weakened causing splits. The wear and tear of almost two hundred years of people brushing past particular areas has also caused damage and the natural deterioration of an organic material.    
Over the past twenty years the National Trust has commissioned repairs to the silk, including sewing a fine net over it to limit any dust getting on to the surface and placing patches on areas where the silk has fallen away. We also took the decision to limit access to the room and to remove as much light as possible by closing the shutters and curtains, hoping to limit further fading. Although this has slowed down the deterioration, it is impossible to stop it completely. 

Beginning a plan

In 2014 we asked a professional textile conservator to write a detailed condition assessment on the silk and to give us some options as to what we could do in the future. It soon became clear that the deterioration was worse than we had thought, so we had to think very hard about all possible options. We came up with three options:
  • Leave it alone and let it continue to deteriorate, taking a sample and photographs to record what was there.
  • Take all the silk down and ask our specialist textile conservators to do what they can. There are no guarantees how long this work would last or if it is even possible because the silk is so fragile.
  • Commission a silk weaver to make an exact copy from the original and hang that instead. Keeping photographs and a sample of the original packed safely away for future reference.

Next steps

At the moment we are gathering information about what conservation work could be done, how much it would cost and how long it would last. We’ve also been in contact with a silk weaving company in the UK to find out if they could reweave an exact copy of the design, how long that would take and how much it would cost. We’re also raising money to help us with the project by selling raffle tickets. Whatever we do it needs to last and it will be a big investment of time and money.   

How you can help

For 2017 our property raffle is raising funds for this project. Whichever of the options we choose, we expect the cost to be upwards of £50,000, so this is our initial fundraising target. You can buy a raflle ticket at the house or carriage museum until the end of October 2017, or send in a donation to the property directly. To find out how to do this, call us  on 01271 850296.