Conservation undercover

Conservation team at Kingston Lacy in Dorset

The collection at Kingston Lacy is made up of over 17,000 items. From ceramics and metals to delicate cloths and historic wood, the conservation team use all sorts of specialist methods to care for the items.

During November the house will be open daily, from 11am – 4pm, to showcase the careful techniques used to keep Kingston Lacy ticking over. There are some practices kept all year to help the conservation of the house. For example, when you wear the protective blue shoes, it helps us conserve the Carrara marble.

" …it takes two housemaids a week or more to do the marble stairs- this is such a delicate marble. "
- Henrietta Bankes, in a letter to her housemaid

Some of the more rare items of the collection will be out on display this year. For the first time, the entirety of the ceramics store is being brought out, to be cleaned and itemised in the Drawing Room. It is in need of complete cleaning and re-organising, so the items will also be re-wrapped and properly labelled. There is a variety of pieces in the collection, including; Royal Crown Derby and Wedgwood.

Henrietta Bankes (1867-1953), the mother of the last owner of the house, was an exemplar of good housekeeping. Her letters demonstrate the high standards that she kept. The letters are currently kept at the Dorset History Centre but a special information booklet with copies of the letters will be available to all visitors during Conservation undercover and you may even take home a tip or two!  

Henrietta was very conscious of the need to protect her house and possessions from the damage that light can cause. The Bankes family had been using blinds, shutters and awnings long before Kingston Lacy was bequeathed to the National Trust.  When the family went away, to their other homes in Purbeck or London, the shutters would have been closed until they returned and covers similar to what we use today were used to protect the furniture.

" See that blinds on South side of house are all down always in summer or winter. "
- Henrietta Bankes, in a list of instructions

Metals are another feature of this year’s conservation work. They were commonly used in historic houses such as Kingston Lacy, as they contributed to a room’s appearance. Gilding, polished silver, brass, copper, steel and patinated bronze, and pewter all added to the appearance of opulence and ‘good housekeeping’. All metals apart from gold lose their lustre and darken when not kept polished – however this may have been the intention of the artist so each item has to be carefully considered as to what state the metal elements will be kept.

Join us this November to see more behind the scenes at Kingston Lacy. 1 – 27 November, house open daily from 11am till 4pm (last entry at 3pm).