Funding windfall for precious artworks

Samurai armour from Snowshill being worked on by conservators at the conservation studio

We can protect more than 100 historic artworks for future generations to enjoy thanks to a £3m gift from our US membership affiliate The Royal Oak Foundation.

This vital funding will help conserve some of the rarest and most valuable items in the collections we care for.

The first objects we'll get to work on include a suit of Japanese samurai armour, a set of elaborately carved 17th-century chairs and a historical portrait with an intriguing secret.

We're excited to announce that we'll be using this additional funding over a five-year period to carry out specialist conservation work on a wide range of collection items at the places we care for. 

" We are looking forward to starting on the next phase of our collections conservation work and over the next five years we expect to dramatically improve the condition and appearance of more than 100 highly significant works of art, and items of historic furniture, books and textiles."
- Tarnya Cooper, curation and conservation director at the National Trust

The objects in need of attention will be taken to our conservation studio based at Knole in Kent. The funding will also allow us to carry out research, buy additional conservation equipment and strengthen the studio's expertise in the restoration of paintings. To recognise the contributions made by The Royal Oak Foundation, which has been supporting us since 1973 with gifts totalling millions of pounds, we will rename the studio after them. 

Once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted and The Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio is open to the public, you'll be able to see our specialists at work on the collection items and learn more about the techniques they use to restore them. 

Carved snakelike creature on a Samurai helmet

Repairing Samurai armour

We'll be bringing a suit of Japanese Samurai armour from Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire back to its former glory. To do this we'll need to carefully clean it and apply treatments to stabilise the metal work and textiles. The armour, dating back to the 1830s, was made in the province of Kaga and bears the signature of the master armourer Kashu ju Munenao.

One of an extremely rare set of nine black and gilt walnut English or Italian sgabello chairs

Restoring rare chairs

Among the first collection items we'll get to work on will be a set of nine early 17th-century chairs from Petworth House and Park, West Sussex. These ‘sgabello’ chairs are intricately carved and decorated with paint and gilding work. We hope to learn more about historical materials and techniques as we restore them.

Composite image

A painting with a secret

A portrait of Sir John Maitland of Thirlestane (1543-1595) is now in line for vital conservation work. In 2017, X-ray analysis revealed what's believed to be an unfinished portrait of Mary Queen of Scots hidden beneath the oil painting. We hope to learn even more about it by carrying out specialist investigations. Work also needs to be done to repair the oak panel support and consolidate the paint layers.

" A gift of this size would not have been possible without the generous support of our donors, especially those who provided legacy gifts in their estate plans."
- Ian Murray, the executive director of the Royal Oak Foundation
Why your support matters

As Europe’s largest conservation charity, we look after more than one million objects, ranging from fine and decorative art works and furniture to textiles, dresses, books and ceramics. Looking after such a varied collection requires specialist expertise, time and money. It costs £5,000 for 125 hours of a textile conservator’s time to repair a tapestry and £450 to restore a damaged porcelain figure. 

Sadly, we don't have the resources to conserve every item that urgently needs it. The pandemic has also had a massive impact on our finances, meaning we face greater funding challenges than ever before. 

  • £10 could conserve a square inch of a painting
  • £25 could fund materials to help conserve the paintings in our care 
  • £40 could help conserve a ceramic bowl in situ
  • £75 could fund two hours of expert textile conservation work
Conservator working on Hardwick Hall's Gideon tapestries at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Blickling, Norfolk

Help look after nature, beauty and history 

With your help, we can continue carrying out vital work to restore art and heritage for future generations can enjoy. Your support means more now than ever.

Volunteer room guide with visitors at Mompesson House, Wiltshire

Joining from the USA 

Would you like to become one of our members? Do you live in the USA? Take a look at the Royal Oak Foundation, our membership affiliate in the US.