Saving timeless treasures

Carmen Vida conservator at Knole

Carmen, conservator at Knole Studio in Kent, painstakingly conserves Knole’s centuries old objects from the ravages of time. With your support, we can take urgent action to preserve our unique historic collections.

Knole is a vast ragstone house. It’s the largest property we look after. The writer Virginia Woolf described it as 'more like a town than a house'.

Knole's West Front
Deer wander through Knole Park outside the West Front entrance of Knole in Sevenoaks, Kent
" You could be forgiven for thinking nothing has changed here in 400 years. Despite being a stone’s throw from commuter belt Sevenoaks, Knole really is a world apart."
- Carmen Vida, Conservator at Knole Conservation Studio in Kent

Carmen is part of the newly formed conservation team working in a converted 15th-century tythe barn within the Sackville family’s estate. She is working on Knole’s internationally important 17th- and 18th-century collections. As an Objects and Decorative Surfaces conservator, you could say she’s a custodian of past splendour.

Knole's six cartoons have returned to the Cartoon Gallery following conservation
The conserved cartoons have returned to the Cartoon Gallery at Knole, Kent.

Lack of environmental control at Knole created the perfect climate for mould and pests to thrive, threatening the extraordinary interiors and collections, including fragile Stuart furnishings and 18th-century paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Knole’s showrooms have already seen huge improvements, including the installation of an environmentally controlled heating system, insulation, new wiring and upgraded fire protection.

The challenge conservators face is immense. Besides reinstating half of the showrooms so far, Carmen and the team will continue to conserve over a thousand more objects over the next two years.  

Restoring a set of Flight, Barr & Barr porcelain from the Ballroom in Knole's new Conservation Studio
Carmen Vida in the Conservation Studio at Knole

Carmen handles the delicate conservation of Knole’s many remarkable objects. If you visit Knole, you can witness her work up-close in the new Conservation Studio. Carmen and the team can be watched as they clean, polish and retouch everything from porcelain dinnerware to gilded picture frames. The studio has only been made possible by gifts to the National Trust and with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Carmen says: 'I am proud to be preserving these precious items for continued enjoyment into the future and to be doing my bit to transform Knole into a place where history can be celebrated and appreciated. With every brush stroke, polish and gild, I feel as if I am putting the life back into its soul.'