Fit for a King, Kedleston's State Bed
The return of Kedleston’s State bed marked the final phase of the State floor restoration, what a finale! The Bedroom is the highlight of the Hall's State Rooms, so it seemed fitting that the project should finish on a high.
" The bed is taken from an original Robert Adam design and believed to have been made by the Kedleston carvers under Derby carver James Gravenor. It was completed in 1768 and as far as we can gather most of it was made in situ and not off-site. "
The bed itself marks the culmination of the palm branch motif seen in the mirrors in the Dressing Room and Bedroom, with scaly tree trunks made to look like cedar of Lebanon, springing from gilded roots.
Palm branches were always a mark of fame in classical mythology, while the ostrich plumes at the top of the state bed were a symbol of power, so their combination here can be seen as a compliment to the favoured guest of the apartment.
There is evidence of past repairs and restoration efforts both historical and more recent. The whole state apartment was refurbished under Lord Curzon in the early 1900s. Then in 1970s a new damask was hung on the walls of the rooms and put on the bed and furniture. The 1970s damask was a cotton replica and not historically accurate and on top of this the furniture itself had not been conserved, but just re-covered.
There were extensive areas of damage to the bed and furniture such as extensive wear to the carved cedar roots of the bed-posts, cracks to wooden carving and sections of carved detail missing and flaking and tarnished gilding.
Some of the original 18th century water gilding appeared to have been re-covered in oil gilding, probably at some point in the late 19th or 20th century.
There was also evidence of water-damage, possibly due to flooding through the ceiling. The original gold braid and lace was so tarnished it could not be cleaned up and because the overall approach was a restoration one we have had new gold braid and lace made especially.
Dismantling delicate history
Those of you who have seen the bed will wonder how on earth we got such a large and delicate piece of furniture out of the room. The bed had to be carefully dismantled into about 30 pieces so it could be transported to conservator’s workshops for restoration- the biggest bits were the tester (roof) the 2 posts.
In addition to this was any number of carved elements and mouldings which had to be taken off and conserved individually.
Work on the State Bed brought together lots of local and specialist manufacturing companies, for reupholstering, delicate gilding and ornate carpentry.
The use of luxurious gold thread for the lace and braiding was one of the most unique aspects of this particular project and the restoration. We believe that the gold thread for the original bed was quite possibly made in Derby, we were lucky enough to find a local company Heritage Trimmings, who still made it.
One thousand five hundred metres of bespoke replica silk was needed to complete the restoration to the whole apartment, including the re upholstery of the bed and seat furniture as well as the walls.
The tester (top) of the bed proved particularly challenging to restore as it was the only part of the bed to have original 18th century damask on it which we were very keen to preserve.
Fixing the new damask to a curved surface proved a very tricky job for the conservators but with some clever use of separating barriers and traditional Japanese starch glue we got there in the end.
Ked Bed interpretation project
The removal of the State Bed left the State Bedroom looking very bare, so to fill the space it was replaced with a temporary simplified replica. It was by no means as grand as the original, but it wasn’t supposed to be.
Visitors were invited to enjoy the view of the room from the bed and learn more about the restoration process looking up at the screen in the KedBed’s canopy.
KedBed was removed in June 2016 to make way for the long awaited State Bed’s return, admittedly in lots of pieces ready to be rebuilt.
Returned to its rightful place
Parts of the restored bed started to return in summer 2016 and specialists spent months fitting it back together. The new Upholstery was the finishing touch, truly restoring it back to its original glory.
The work was funded partly through the Trust but also thanks to money visitors have helped to raise through donations and raffle ticket sales and through the Royal Oak Foundation, and the John Cornforth Memorial fund.
A significant contribution to the funds has also come from the work of a very enterprising team of volunteers. They repurposed some of the 1970s damask, liberated by the restoration of the other rooms at Kedleston, and turned it into lovely gifts, such as handbags and pin cushions, then sold in the shop.