Gallery of Affections staircase conservation

Conservation cleaning of the Disraeli bust

Hughenden has over 150,000 visitors a year and it's why some areas can look a little tired and worn. We close certain spaces in the Manor at times to give the house team a chance to restore those that receive the most wear and are difficult to work on when we're open, such as the staircase.

Hughenden stair care

For the first time in 30 years, Disraeli’s staircase and the ‘Gallery of Affections’ have received much needed repair and conservation.

When Queen Victoria climbed the staircase to Disraeli’s study after her favourite Prime Minister’s death in 1881, she experienced the Gothic arches and oak banisters in their heyday, past walls lined with gilt-framed portraits.

Known as the Gallery of Affections, the portraiture on the staircase depict the people who helped Disraeli through his career. They start at the bottom of the stairs with those that aided his early career and end at the top with associates from his later years.  It’s a concept Disraeli borrowed from Queen Victoria herself, who also had portraits on the stairs of those close to her.

To prepare the staircase for painting the House Team first removed all the portraits. This involved carefully unhooking the heavy paintings from their wall chains, carrying them up the stairs to the top floor where they were stored using specially made T-bars with bubble wrap and acid-free tissue paper. This gives the team the chance to give the picture frames a light dust with a pony hair brush and to clean the staircase skylight and walls using an ostrich feather duster.

A volunteer painstakingly cleans a picture at Hughenden
A volunteer cleans a picture at Hughenden, a national trust property in Buckinghamshire
A volunteer painstakingly cleans a picture at Hughenden

Scaffolding was then erected to reach the high out of reach areas and to clean the Disraeli bust which sits at the top of the stairs.

A team of specialist heritage painters and decorators moved in to repair the damage to the staircase walls, filling in the chinks and chips caused by years of scratching by the portrait chains as visitors move up and down the stairs.

Buttercup coloured paint used on the stairs at Hughenden
Buttercup paint used on the stairs at Hughenden
Buttercup coloured paint used on the stairs at Hughenden

New plasterwork to create an even surface for the new paint was added before a first coat of a buttercup yellow underlay was applied. This is an important part of the painting process as it helps to bring out the warm red colouring of the final paint as well as providing a protective layer that ensures the paint will last for many years. Checks were made to ensure that the underlay had been applied evenly and thickly enough so that the previous paint and any new plaster work would not show through.

Lastly working from the top of the staircase down, the painters slowly applied several layers of the famous Hughenden rmatte red paint to the walls.