Treasured: the care and conservation of Hughenden’s collection

Hughenden collection portrait miniature Colonel John Viney-Evans

Celebrating 125 years of National Trust care through special pieces at Hughenden with a story to tell.

Collections in our care

As Europe’s largest conservation charity, the National Trust is responsible for the collections of some 200 historic houses. At Hughenden, over 7,000 items, furniture, books, paintings, ceramics, manuscripts and sculpture are cared for and conserved.

Treasured explores past conservation practices and highlights the conservation work we carry out today, 363 days a year.

The exhibition showcases 11 items from Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s personal collection, which have all undergone specialist conservation treatment.

Disraeli’s personal collection

Mary Anne Disraeli was an avid collector of hair, from friends, family and royalty. Collecting hair was popular in the Victorian era, it was a tangible link to a loved one before access to photography was widespread. The portrait miniature above depicts Mary Anne’s brother Colonel John Viney-Evans and has his braided hair inset in the reverse.

An Arctic photographic album was presented to Benjamin Disraeli by The Admiralty in July 1877. The 107 individual photographs were the first to be taken in the polar regions and document the unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole in 1875. The box created to contain the photographs includes a letter personally addressed to Disraeli in thanks for his endorsement of the expedition’s funding.

To celebrate being made Viscountess Beaconsfield in 1868, Mary Anne Disraeli embroidered coronets and ‘B’s onto the furniture at Hughenden, including this chair. It was a favourite of Mary Anne’s and is typical of her decorative taste.

Hughenden collection armchair, circa 1780
Hughenden collection Giltwood French armchair, circa 1780
Hughenden collection armchair, circa 1780


Conservation at Hughenden

In the National Trust, there are two types of conservation.

Preventative conservation is the act of protecting the object from deterioration before it happens. Hughenden’s conservation team and volunteers ensure environmental conditions are always within advised limits, and apply a meticulous cleaning routine, because dust can be damaging. Changes in object condition are also monitored and comprehensive digital records are maintained.

Remedial conservation refers to the treatment of an object after deterioration or damage has occurred. Around £13,000 is spent on remedial conservation to the Hughenden collection each year. Reattaching pieces that have become detached, applying sealed backs to portraits, restoring surface finishes are just some examples of the conservation work that ensures the treasured items in the collection will last for everyone, for ever.

1950s style conservation

Conservation work was probably carried out on this teacup in the 1950s, when it was commonplace to reattach broken pieces of ceramic using iron staples. The practice was ended by the development of modern polymers after 1970, and modern techniques are much more sympathetic and reversable.

Hughenden collection China and gilt teacup
Hughenden collection China and gilt teacup
Hughenden collection China and gilt teacup


Treasured: the care and conservation of Hughenden’s collection is open daily until 31 December 2020 in the Statesman’s Room. 

Free exhibition. Normal entry admission prices to Hughenden apply.

The exhibition is on the first floor of the Manor, one flight of stairs up.