A Dress Fit for a King - Project progress

Elements of the Ann Bangham dress with gold thread

On the first floor of the mansion you can find our new exhibition, 'A Dress Fit for a King'. This exhibition is designed to offer visitors to reflect on the life of women in the eighteenth century and notably the life of Ann Bangham, wife of Berrington's original owner Thomas Harley. The main feature of this exhibition is an original eighteenth century dress which was owned by Ann.

Now, thanks to all of the support from our visitors, we have engaged conservator Melangell Penrhys and replica costume maker Michelle Barker to reconstruct the dress and ensure visitors will be able to see it for years to come. Watch the videos and hear about Melangell and Michelle's work.

Keep your eyes on this article as we update it with notes from the conservators, and stay in the loop with how the restoration project is coming along and their progress.

Latest posts

24 Oct 18

The bodice day

Mela's update for today: "Today was bodice day! Following the construction of the complete sleeve I have now made up the left sleeve using the original sleeve ruffles and the digitally printed fabric mounted onto calico. And today completed the insertion and stitching around the shoulder to make the bodice symmetrical and to give Anne some covering up on her left arm! Both the side seams are now stitched down and the bodice is complete apart from stitching down the robing’s. There are some severe storage creases on the train at the back and over the past few weeks I have been attempting to gradually relax them using a very slow cold humidification method. Once moisture is absorbed by the silk fibres they can ‘relax’ a little and the addition of glass weights helps to ‘iron’ them out – no heat is used as this can damage the 200+ year old silk. The creases cannot be completed eradicated but there is an improvement at least."

The dress with the new sleeves attached lying out across the table.

24 Sep 18

Advancements on the sleeve

This month Michelle and Mela have been continuing their work on the dress: "For us working on the gown, these last 2 days have had to be some of the most fun! We chose to concentrate on the sleeve and Bodice Seam this time and Mela, the Conservator, attached the ruffles back onto the sleeve. It looked stunning and was so rigid with gathers and lace that the whole thing could stand upright on the table. We were therefore very eager to get the side seam sewn up – which was not at easy as one might think - so that we could get this stunning sleeve set in it’s home and begin to look like Ann Harley might have done on the night she first wore this. We also worked on the replica sleeve. As you all know that only one sleeve survived with the gown, Mela had managed to get a small piece of silk printed digitally with the pattern. It’s a much softer silk, so mounting it onto calico we’ve re-created a sleeve that will be presented to the decision making team at Berrington. Plain Silk? Missing? Or Digitally Printed? It’s a big decision."

The top of the sleeve of the dress

13 Aug 18

Battling the seams

Have a look at what Mela has managed today: 'Back in today after a little summer break and I tackled the back seam. I came armed with an extra sharp and fine needle which I had avoided before as the eye is so small it is really hard to thread! I succeeded in this however and keeping the two sides of the fabric abutted together stitched the whole back seam. I had a helper in the morning as well, in the form of a student on work experience and she helped me with starting to use humidification to reduce the creasing on the train piece so it can be stitched onto the rest of the bodice and train. Kit also used her pattern making skills to make me a template for the left sleeve using the existing right sleeve. We just need to decide on what fabric to use for this missing element! '

A young student working on the dress as it is laid out on the table