Hardwick's carpet collection - not made for walking on

Persian Carpet Hardwick Hall National Trust

Within Hardwick Hall's historic collection are some rare and unusual carpets, some of which date from the time of Bess of Hardwick. As part of our conservation strategy, these carpets will be surveyed to assess their condition and understand the best preservation methods for the materials.

Unlike today, carpets in the Tudor period were not generally used on the floor. As expensive pieces of material, the textiles were there to be admired and so were used to cover tables. There are a number of such carpets in Hardwick's 1601 inventory as well as an unusual reference to a  ‘foote carpet’.

Carpets to stand on were very rare in this period and are most usually seen in a royal context. A portait within the Long Gallery at Hardwick depicts this; a painting of Elizabeth I who is portrayed standing on a carpet.

Elizabeth I, Studio of Nicholas Hilliard at Hardwick Hall
Elizabeth I, Studio of Nicholas Hilliard at Hardwick Hall
Elizabeth I, Studio of Nicholas Hilliard at Hardwick Hall

An example of the type of carpets that will be reviewed is this silk carpet from Isfahan, Iran, created in the first quarter of the 17th Century. Of the so-called 'Polonaise'-type, woven in green, blue and buff silks with gold- and silver-wrapped threads, with a floral border and a complex pattern of floral palmettes and scrolling stems in the main field.

The term 'Polonaise' is a 19th century misnomer owing to the numerous carpets of this kind then in Poland, where there had long been a tradition of Oriental carpet imports via Armenian merchants. Slightly later than the 1601 inventory, this carpet is not listed there, but it is possible that it was one of the carpets bought by William Cavendish, the future 1st Earl of Devonshire.  He bought a 'persia carpett' for £40 in November 1616 and another (in December 1618) for £23.

This carpet is on show, available to view in the Long Gallery.

Persian Carpet Hardwick Hall National Trust - Photo by Nadia Mackenzie
Persian Carpet Hardwick Hall National Trust
Persian Carpet Hardwick Hall National Trust - Photo by Nadia Mackenzie

Ksynia Marko, our Carpet Conservation Advisor will be undertaking the survey with assistance from Yoko Hanegreefs who works for the National Trust at the Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling. Ksynia and Yoko will be surveying around 20-25 carpets over the three days. They will be mainly focussing on those on display, but we also plan to get out some from store and these will be displayed (and surveyed) in the High Great Chamber.

See this conservation in action on Wednesday 18th September and Thursday 19th September during the Hall opening hours in the High Great Chamber.

For info information, pick upa copy of 'An Elizabethan Inheritance: The Hardwick Hall Textiles' from our stableyard shop.