Peeking behind the curtains

Textile conservation in action at Ickworth

Ickworth is offering visitors the opportunity to see, first hand, some of the vital conservation work that takes place to keep Ickworth's treasures protected for the future.

We are beginning conservation work on our Drawing Room curtains and there will be an opportunity for visitors to watch the conservators as they work, when the House re-opens on 4 March.

Over the years a lot of our textile items including the curtains, have been affected by the conditions of their environment, in particular by light, and this has caused damage in certain areas. This year will see vital conservation work take place to prevent further damage and give the curtains some much needed care and attention.

The curtains, made from Rose Silk, were created by the Gainsborough Silks Company in Sudbury and were bought by the 4th Marquess and Marchioness in 1911.

Gainsborough Silks estimate to the Marquess and Marchioness
Gainsborough Silks estimate page
Gainsborough Silks estimate to the Marquess and Marchioness

The conservation work is vital because the curtains have been affected by light, which has caused large unsightly tears in the silk. Light is needed in the rooms to be able to view our collections, however, measures are put in place to make sure that they only get the minimum amount of light possible throughout the year. We keep blinds down where there is direct sunlight, shutters are closed when rooms are not in use and we have UV film on the windows which cuts this harmful element out of the light.

Damage of Drawing Room curtains
Curtain Conservation
Damage of Drawing Room curtains

The conservation work is a specialist task and we have two conservators from May Berkouwer Textile Conservation in Sudbury coming three days a week to carry out the essential works. A scaffold will be erected to work from, and the surface of the curtains will then be intricately cleaned from top to bottom. Patches of colour matched silk will be infilled where there has been losses, and will then be covered with dyed netting which will help to strengthen the area. 

Our conservators will be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the first two weeks we are open. During the works there will be a slight change of visitor route, however this will all be signposted and we hope visitors will enjoy seeing the work in progress.

The work is estimated to cost nearly £9000 to complete and we are only able to undertake this transformation because of you! Through your visits, day outs and membership you continue to support and protect Ickworth!