In the spring of 2015 our team of gardeners and garden volunteers turned their green fingers to a very different task, helping move the 40-60 stone Axminster carpet from the house for a nine-month-long conservation project.
Made by the world-famous Axminster carpet company in the 19th century, the carpet is the oldest original carpet in the house and was rescued by servants from a fire in 1902 which destroyed the central part of the house. The carpet was then cut to fit the room’s new layout although the cut pieces have been found neatly folded underneath.
People's Postcode Lottery
The £36,000 cost of conserving the carpet has been made possible as a result of £100,000 of funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery towards the National Trust’s priority collections conservation projects.
It was no mean feat getting the carpet out of the house as it stretches from wall to wall. At 9.7m x 8.6m, the carpet is larger than life in more ways than one, as Stourhead’s House Steward, Alison Lee, explained:
'This is the oldest carpet in the house and the only one that belonged to the family. It is a rare, original Axminster. It has been in need of support for such a long time, and we haven’t had the ability to deal with it, so the fantastic support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery has been really important.
'It is huge and quite a weight so we got a real idea of what the servants at Stourhead felt when they had to take the carpet out during the fire.'
Removing and conserving the carpet
Before removing the carpet we moved all of the heavy furniture out of the room including a Steinway grand piano. The carpet was then surveyed by specialists in preparation for their work off site at the Tetley Workshop in Devon.
Conservators cleaned the carpet, adding support to the damaged areas and restoring some of the losses such as splits and holes, and now it is back home in the Saloon for visitors to enjoy once again.