Caring for Calke Abbey
When we began to care for Calke in 1985, a decision was made to present the house as it was found. Essential repairs have ensured the structure is safe, but the house is little restored on the inside.
The Calke philosophy
Unlike many country houses in the care of the National Trust, Calke Abbey has not been restored to its former glory. Instead, we've undertaken necessary repairs to halt the decay of the house and its collections – so we can present it to you exactly as it was found in 1985.
Calke's unique story
The house itself was remodelled in 1701–4 by Sir John Harpur, the 4th Baronet, and lived in by generations of Harpur-Crewes. The family were avid collectors and never seemed to throw much away. Some items were never even unpacked, such as the grand state bed which is currently on display in the house.
The slow decline of Calke was cushioned by its vast wealth – as a result, it survived a period in the twentieth century when many other country houses collapsed and disappeared.
The house is now a strange mix of wealth and decay. Grand rooms are filled with works of art, taxidermy, toys and silver, all part of the vast collection amassed by the Harpur-Crewes. The rest of the house echoes the abandonment of Calke, and was in great need of repair when the house was handed to the National Trust.
A new method of conservation
In order to preserve that sense of dereliction, new methods of conservation had to be found in order to halt the decay of rusting metals and fading textiles. The structure of the building had to be repaired but the overall appearance remained unchanged. The stone ballustrades are still blackened by soot, the wallpaper dirty and peeling.
This kind of conservation is ongoing at Calke, to prevent further damage to the collection. This winter the Saloon curtains will be undergoing vital repairs – but they will remain faded and frayed when you next see them!
One way to support our ongoing conservation work is to buy a National Trust raffle ticket when you next visit Calke. They're about more than fantastic prizes – your money helps us to preserve Calke and its unique history and all money raised stays right here at Calke.