Saving the Saloon
In 2017/18 we undertook one of the largest interior conservation projects since the earliest days of National Trust stewardship. The 18th century Saloon carpet and ceiling both received extensive remedial conservation through the ‘Saving the Saloon’ project, improving their appearance and preserving them for future generations.
In the Saloon, almost 250 years of wear and tear have taken their toll. The ceiling and carpet were in a very fragile state and required urgent remedial conservation treatment.
The carpet was created c.1769 by prestigious carpet maker Thomas Whitty at his Axminster workshop and installed at Saltram in 1770. It is of international significance due to its size, rarity and well recorded history.
Surveys completed in 1997, 2008 and 2015 revealed that the carpet has an extremely worn pile and found new splitting in several areas. A key problem was the deterioration of the linen wefts, which were weakening the whole fabric of the carpet.
The carpet was included in the National Trust’s ‘Fabric of the Nation’ project, a 5 year programme of conservation and interpretation, that in 2014 identified 29 priority textile projects at 18 properties.
The plasterwork ceiling is believed to have been the work of the esteemed craftsman Joseph Rose (1744-99) with painted panels by Antonio Zucchi (1726-95).
A survey undertaken in 2008 revealed the fragile state of the ceiling, with severe cracks in the plasterwork and the paintwork was shown to be damaged in many places. Problems with the way the ceiling had been constructed and how it is fixed to the supporting joists had created issues with its movement and weight distribution in the superstructure.
As well as the loss of the decorative ceiling itself, the risk of structural failure could have caused damage to the Chippendale furniture, chandeliers, carpet and other items below.
How much did it cost?
Saltram has a budget of £15,000 a year for collection conservation. This is largely spent on preventative care and surveys. In 2017/18 the total sum of conservation work needed in the Saloon was £202,000 for the conservation of the carpet and £90,000 for the ceiling.
Saltram’s Saloon carpet was allocated £153,000, through the National Trust’s ‘Fabric of the nation’ project, but we needed to find additional sources of income. Established in 1955, The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities. They have been long term supporters of the National Trust and awarded Saltram £110,000.
Individual donors sometimes offer money for specific collections and we are thankful for one such individual who donated £900 for interior Robert Adam projects.
The work continues...
The National Trust’s efforts to make showpiece rooms like the Saloon more accessible continues and still to be completed is the production of a high quality reproduction of the Axminster carpet. This will allow a choice of full or partial carpet protection and allow greater access for visitors in to the Saloon.