'A Dress Fit for a King' - Exhibition at Berrington Hall

Elements of the Ann Bangham dress with gold thread

Please be aware that the first floor of the mansion is currently closed, which includes the 'A Dress Fit for a King' exhibition. We apologise for any disappointment. The ground floor of the mansion will reopen on Monday 14 September 2020 and you'll need to book tickets before you visit. 

On the first floor of the mansion you can find our 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.

Discover this eighteenth century masterpiece
The court mantua in a dark room with a mirror lighting up the front of it
Discover this eighteenth century masterpiece

Now, thanks to all of the support from our visitors, we have engaged conservator Melangell Penrhys and replica costume maker Michelle Barker. Together they reconstructed the dress and ensured 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 updates

28 Feb 19

Completing the mantua

The day came for the final work and installation back into the newly compiled display room for the mantua. We were rather nervous as we still did't know how we were going to arrange and secure the petticoat sashes and the train. The train could not be displayed out at full length though it looked very splendid, as there was not the space and it would not have been worn like this. I was anxious however about securing and displaying it in a way that was not authentic and that we had 'made up'! We built up all the layers: the mannequin, the hoops, the new silk under petticoat. Michelle made and completed the mantua petticoat. Finally we were able to place the bodice and train and then we were able to fully focus on the mystery elements. We studied the potential historic creases versus storage creases, as we had before, and slowly but surely we worked out a way that 'hey presto' just worked! We can't say 100% it is exactly how it was worn, but it fits with all the evidence of extant broken stitches and creasing. It was very exciting and satisfying to see the splendor of this stunning mantua finally visible for all to enjoy and marvel at after more than 250 years away from view. Now the ongoing care will commence from the property to ensure it stays in as good a condition as possible for future visitors as well.

The court mantua in a dark room with a mirror lighting up the front of it

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