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Hidden Treasures of the National Trust

Multiple people hanging a landscape painting of Dunkirk while being filmed
Return of Dunkirk painting to Chartwell, Kent | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Follow our curators and conservators at work and get closer to the objects they care for in a new TV series, Hidden Treasures of the National Trust. All episodes are now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

What's the series about?

Hidden Treasures of the National Trust follows the curators and conservators who breathe new life into the places and objects we care for, uncovering hidden stories and bringing the past to life.

You’ll go behind the scenes to see the extraordinary work that’s being done to look after places and their collections for future generations. Throughout the series, you’ll meet some of our dedicated staff and volunteers who’ll be sharing their passion for the treasures they help to maintain. Each episode uncovers stories from different places across England and Northern Ireland.

Episode one

In the first episode of Hidden Treasures of the National Trust, the series takes us to the Midlands. At Belton House in Lincolnshire, conservators are conducting a deep clean of a seventeenth-century portrait that they hope will uncover a hidden figure. Discover how the ornate wooden Chinese-style bridge at Biddulph Grange Garden in Staffordshire is being rebuilt. Finally, at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, conservators prepare the painting of Queen Elizabeth I and the Sea Dog Table for travel to North America.

Episode two

Explore two historic houses in the South of England, where writers Vita Sackville-West and Rudyard Kipling came to create some of their best-known work. Following a ceiling collapse at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, 4,000 books and objects have to be removed from Sackville-West's Writing Room before restoration work can start. At Batemans in Sussex, Kipling’s desk gets a deep clean and a personal story of loss is revealed through faint marks on a map.

Conservator working on a piece of the deconstructed Hardwick Hall 'Sea-Dog Table' at the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio, Knole, Kent
Conservator working on Hardwick Hall's 'Sea-Dog Table' at the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio, Knole, Kent | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Episode three

Meet the teams saving some of our most unique twentieth-century treasures – including 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool, the house where musical legend Paul McCartney grew up. This episode also examines portrait photographer Edward Chambré Hardman’s photo collection, which contains around 100,000 prints and negatives that need cataloguing and cleaning at The Hardman’s House in Liverpool. Finally, learn about the modern art by Anthony Twentyman in need of restoration at Dudmaston Hall in Shropshire.

Episode four

In this episode, a rare Victorian clock at Cragside, Northumberland, is being restored by clock specialists who are working out how to repair its complex mechanisms. At Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, a doll, made by a former Prisoner of War and given to a young local boy, tells us a little-known story of the house. Also, questions arise about whether some recently-acquired wood blocks in the collection at Cherryburn, Northumberland, were made by famous wood engraver and naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753–1828).

The Dodo terrace in the Formal Garden at Mount Stewart, County Down
The Dodo Terrace in the Formal Garden at Mount Stewart, County Down | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Episode five

At Chartwell in Kent, a model of the floating harbours from D-Day in 1944 is being conserved to make it stable for the future. The Beetle Wing dress and velvet cloak from Smallhythe's collection in Kent, worn by Victorian actress Dame Ellen Terry in 1888 as Lady Macbeth, require over 450 hours of needlework. At Ightham Mote, Kent, some hand-painted Chinese wallpaper needs saving from an infestation of silverfish, and an investigation into the history of a curious advertising sign is underway.

Episode six

In the final episode, expert conservators at Mount Stewart, County Down, help to fix some unusual concrete sculptures which have been damaged by falling debris in a storm. A blacksmith works to restore a Victorian cast iron bench at The Argory in County Armagh and a painting conservator studies a portrait from Castle Ward in County Down to uncover more about the relationships of its subject.

Supporting special places

As well as showcasing treasures from our collections and the work that goes into looking after them, filming benefits the places that star in the production. Sometimes, the benefits can also stretch wider than just the production locations, providing support for conservation work at many other historic houses and landscapes. This means we'll all be able to see these places and treasures both on screen and in real life for years to come.

A close up of Paintings Conservator, Polly Saltmarsh, cleaning the image of an Unknown Attendant at Belton House, Lincolnshire

Watch Hidden Treasures of the National Trust

You can find out more about the series and watch all the episodes on BBC iPlayer.

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