A dress with a tale...

Three women looking at historic dress

Our Georgian routes are particularly celebrated here at Berrington, and in 2017 we are lucky enough to continue this celebration with a very special piece of history, the original dress of Anne Harley, Thomas Harley's wife.

We are delighted at the chance to welcome back a piece of Berrington's history through our doors in 2017. With the help of you, our supporters and our fundraisers, the dress of Anne Harley, Thomas Harley's wife can now be restored to 'where it would have been originally worn'.

" Most importantly [the dress is] back in the house where it would have belonged"
- Katy Lithgow, Head Conservator

This rare piece of Georgian history has a tale to it, and it is one that we are very excited to share with our visitors. Anne was married to Thomas in 1750, and by 1775 the Harley's had gained their fortune and began to build Berrington. As well as being the owners to a wonderful and fashionable estate, the Harley's needed the outfits to match. It was at this time that we believe the dress would have been admired and worn. The dress was passed on down through the ages through their daughter, Anne Harley. The dress remained at Berrington right up until 1901, when the 7th Lord Rodney scandalously became bankrupt and sold the estate, and the dress long with it. Now however, after over one hundred years of history, the dress can come home, and we can begin to tell you its tale.

Thomas Harley, Berrington's founder
Sketch of Thomas Harley sitting in a chair

After all of these years and all of its history, this dress is a conservation dream. We are certainly looking forward to taking care of the dress and being able to share its history with you. Berrington's textile curator, Althea Mackenzie summed up our excitement towards both the dress and the opportunity to try and conserve it when she stated that it's 'a very interesting item with fantastic provenance'. Now we are preparing for how and where we are going to place the dress so that it is in the right conditions for it.

" 'It is certainly a very interesting item with fantastic provenance.'"
- Althea Mackenzie, Costume Curator

Now we are researching and planning how we will look after the dress. We are always trying to come up with new ways to display the artefacts that Berrington has to offer, and this dress is no different. One idea is that our fabulous sewing team of volunteers may recreate the dress and replicate its original design and concept. Katy Lithgow, Head Conservator stated, '[Berrington] has an excellent group of sewing volunteers', and then recalled their success in recreating the 7th Lord Rodney's wife's wedding dress. This is not only a huge compliment, but also a encouraging start to this idea of a display. Although our main project at the moment is focused on how we might take care of this lovely piece of history appropriately.

" [Berrington] has an excellent group of sewing volunteers"
- Katy Lithgow, Head Conservator

You will have to keep your eyes peeled in 2017 to see where this project goes.