Fragile bed conservation begins thanks to Wolfson Foundation

Published : 25 Jul 2019 Last update : 03 Apr 2020

If you’ve visited the house recently, you may have noticed that things are looking a little different in the State Bedroom. Our room where the furniture and even the wallpaper are so delicate and precious that visitors can only look into the room from inside a glass box – a measure introduced by the Victoria and Albert Museum when they restored the bed in the sixties.

Thanks to generous funding from The Wolfson Foundation our exquisite State Bed can now begin its precious restoration journey paving the way for a wider fundraising appeal to be launched.

State beds formed part of a grand suite of rooms in mansion houses, usually the most impressive rooms, reserved for special guests and royals. Our magnificent bed complete with original silk fabric dates back to 1720 and the Chinese wallpaper is around two hundred and fifty years old. It’s for this reason that the House and Collection team has taken the first steps to renew the groundbreaking conservation work undertaken by the Victoria and Albert Museum team over 60 years ago.

During winter, led by a national team of experts, we carefully began the painstaking work of dismantling and sending four elements of the bed to be assessed at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk. The time and specialist care involved in taking apart the tester, or canopy, is incredible and this is just the very start. 

House and Collections Manager, Graeme Clarke said:
“The team of conservators worked throughout the winter to establish the condition of this rare and special piece of furniture and we’re now investigating how best to go about protecting it for another 100 years.  One thing is clear, the bed is in a very fragile state and doing nothing is not an option!

“We are absolutely thrilled that The Wolfson Foundation has supported us at the start of our conservation journey to protect this very special piece of Welsh history. There is so much work to be done, all of which is going to take a lot of time and money.”

Visit Erddig's State Bedroom to see the bed's back panel of embroidered Chinese silk, bought by John Meller in 1720, carved and gilded gesso work by John Belchier
State Bedroom, state bed, detail of the back panel of embroidered Chinese silk, bought by John Meller in 1720, carved and gilded gesso work by John Belchier
Visit Erddig's State Bedroom to see the bed's back panel of embroidered Chinese silk, bought by John Meller in 1720, carved and gilded gesso work by John Belchier

At the moment the State Bedroom will remain presented as a ‘work in progress’, giving visitors the chance to see some of the previously hidden structure and fabrics for the first time.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said, “I am thrilled to be announcing this funding. We have worked hard to attract applications from across Wales, and to emphasise that we wish to fund great projects wherever they are located. The projects announced will, in a variety of ways, have a hugely beneficial impact on the lives of people in Wales. 

We may have a London address, but we want to sound the message loud and clear: we warmly welcome applications from Wales.”

Graeme and his team will soon be given a long list of work that needs to take place to conserve the bed and the team will have to prioritise the most urgent and important first, like the gaping holes in the tester curtains.

Fundraising Consultant, Amanda Pearson said:
“We’re very grateful to The Wolfson Foundation, they understand how important it is to preserve Erddig’s very rare state bed for future generations to enjoy and they’ve given us a very big helping hand to start conserving it.

“But this is the very start, there is a very long list of to do’s which are going to cost a lot of time and money, so I’ll be working with the Erddig team to look at all our options over the coming months.”

 
Organisations wishing to apply to the Wolfson Foundation can check their eligibility at www.wolfson.org.uk/funding