Taking down the tapestries

The tapestries in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole, a National Trust property in Kent, have been cleaned and sent away for conservation.

Today we’re looking at yet more exciting work taking place in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole – and this time it’s all about tapestries. With the Spangled Bed temporarily stored in the Great Hall awaiting its journey to be sent off for conservation, we were able to take down the final two tapestries, leaving the walls of the Spangled Bedroom completely bare.

The tapestries, which date back to 1685, went through a careful cleaning and documenting process at Knole, before being sent off to the De Witt in Belgium – a specialist tapestry workshop where the tapestries have been meticulously cleaned before being returned to Knole.

The final two tapestries arrived home this morning and have been placed, still rolled and packed, back into the Spangled Bedroom before the next stage of their journey can commence. They will then be wet cleaned, steamed and fanned before being sent to a textile studio in the UK for repairs.

Conservation in the Spangled Bedroom

We prepared the first tapestries for travel back in November 2014, but that was a more complicated affair. Now that the Spangled Bed has been removed from the room there is plenty of space to work. This meant that we were able to set up our tapestry tables right there in the room.

This has a few benefits for us. To start with it means that we don’t have to roll the tapestry, transport it up to the Needlework Room (up some very steep and narrow stairs!) and then unwrap it again. Anyone familiar with the National Trust’s nine agents of deterioration will know that the less we move any object the better. Every time an object is handled it increases the risk that it will somehow be damaged. By moving our tapestries straight onto the tables to be worked on we significantly reduced the risk factor.

Cleaning the tapestries in the Spangled Bedroom
The tapestries in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole, a National Trust property in Kent, have been cleaned and sent away for conservation.

The other huge benefit to undertaking this work in the Spangled Bedroom was that we were able to do it in front of our wonderful visitors! This gave people the opportunity to see things that are so often hidden behind closed doors and we all enjoyed talking to our visitors about the work we were doing.

Our staff and volunteers spent three weeks carefully cleaning the tapestries in the Spangled Bedroom, which garnered much attention from our visitors. They vacuumed the 16th century linings of the tapestries using a special museum vac, before stitching the torn areas around the borders to secure them for transport.

We are getting more and more excited about doing this sort of work in front of visitors as we prepare for the opening of our brand new conservation studio next year. When the studio opens it will provide a unique experience for visitors to see conservation in action and speak to our conservators and volunteers.

Until then there is plenty of interesting conservation work to be seen at Knole. Now that the Spangled Bedroom is providing more space, you may just see more pop up conservation projects appearing in the near future…

The maker’s mark can be seen at the bottom of each tapestry
The tapestries in the Spangled Bedroom at Knole, a National Trust property in Kent, have been cleaned and sent away for conservation.