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A la Ronde Symposium

Conservation of the feather frieze in the Drawing Room of A la Ronde, Devon
Conservation of the feather frieze in the Drawing Room at A la Ronde in Devon | © National Trust

Female Expression through Craft and Design in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries

A hybrid conference inspired by the conservation, outreach and interpretation project at A la Ronde, Devon.

Thursday 11th July 2024 9:00am to 4:40pm BST.

The National Trust is delighted to announce plans for this Symposium, as part of the ‘A la Ronde: Conserving the Past, Creating the Future’ Project.

Intended to forge new bonds with researchers and academic professionals, find synergies with similar projects and properties, and to share stories and discoveries from our recent conservation work in a broader context, the Symposium will be offered in hybrid form, with presentations both in-person and online. We are hoping to hear from a wide range of external voices to bring context and new perspectives to our work. We welcome both returning and new contacts to add their voices to the conversation.

We are happy to receive additional offers of contributions, please get in touch to discuss.

Provisional Programme

Presentations will be delivered in person at Reed Hall, Exeter University and online.

Welcome and opening remarks
Jonathan Fisher, General Manager South East Devon Portfolio, National Trust

A la Ronde: Conserving the Past, Creating the Future
Emma Mee, Project Lead, National Trust

Keynote presentation:
Making Cottages: Rural Retreat and the Appropriation of the Vernacular in the C18th
Professor Daniel Maudlin, School of Society and Culture
Faculty of Art, Humanities and Business, University of Plymouth

Morning Sessions

Panel 1: Female-Designed and Commissioned Domestic Spaces

Paper titles to include:
The Architectural Patronage of Mrs Montagu, Queen of the Bluestockings
Dr Rosemary Baird Andrae FSA

The Ornamental Dairy at Croome: Ceramics, crafting and performance
Tom Coombe, Collections & House Manager, National Trust

Transcultural-ism in Nineteenth-Century Mofussil India: Begam Samru and Her Architecturally Hybrid Sardhana Palace
Professor Jyoti Pandey Sharma, School of Planning and Architecture

Taj Mahal Palace, a royal residence commissioned by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum (r.1868-1901), ruler of Bhopal Princely State in the British-ruled Indian Subcontinent
Saniya Siddiqui, PhD Research Scholar, School of Planning and Architecture

Coffee Break

Morning Sessions

Panel 2: A la Ronde and National Trust conservation work
Convenor: Nigel Blades, Head of Conservation, National Trust

Paper titles to include:
Conserving the Past, Creating the Future: a summary of the conservation
project at A la Ronde

Daniel Cull ACR, Conservator, National Trust

The technical investigation and conservation of the octagonal chairs from
A la Ronde

Nicola Shreeve, Remedial Conservator National Trust

Shells, curtains and a dolls’ house: conservation and collaboration
Nicola Walker, Senior National Conservator, Paper & Photography,
National Trust

1pm to 1:45pm

Afternoon Sessions

Panel 3: Decorative historic interiors and material histories
Convenor and Lead Speaker: Lucy Powell, Leverhulme Early Career
Research Fellow, University of Oxford.
'The Feather'd Fair': women, femininity and feathers in the 1790's

Paper titles to include:
‘Our new paper hangings’: Women and wallpaper in eighteenth-century Britain
Professor Clare Taylor, Art History and Material Cultures, The Open

The Centre of Attention: Women’s Crafted Fire Screens & the Country House
Interior in the Nineteenth Century

Libby Horsfield, PhD Scholar, Birkbeck university

The material biography of Molly Lepell: Material culture and collection as
a form of life writing in the 18th century

Emily Deal, Digital Curator, National Trust

Coffee Break

Afternoon Sessions

Panel 4: Georgian period embellished decorative interiors using natural materials
Convenor: Rachel Conroy, Senior National Curator, Decorative arts,
National Trust

Paper titles to include:
From Chinese Chambre to Feather Room: Elizabeth Montagu’s (1718-1800)
Interiors in the 1760s and 1780s London

Wenyu Dong MA student, Central Academy of Fine Arts

The Eventfulness of Nature: women and the seashore in the long nineteenth

Dr Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi, Senior Lecturer, Victorian Literature and Culture,
Bath Spa University

“Call us not weeds!”: Examining the Aesthetics of Upcycling and Anonymity in
Victorian Depictions of Seaweed

Dr Beth Howell, Business Services Coordinator, National Trust

“Place to cultivate her Mind in by Musing:” Anne Reckless Emlen’s 1757 Shellwork

Laura Keim, Stenton Curator, Kaila Temple Stenton Curatorial Assistant, Lara
Kaplan, Objects Conservator Winterthur Museum

Closing remarks
Dr Sarah Lloyd, Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research, University of London


Price £35

To include a working lunch and refreshments through the day. Dietary requirements will be accommodated.

We want this conference to be accessible and enjoyed by as many interested parties as possible. To help with this, we have flexible pricing for this event.

How does it work?
When you checkout, you’ll be given a choice of 3 different prices:

  • Concession – If you don’t have the cash right now, don’t worry; book this rate and let us welcome you with open arms, no questions asked.
  • Adult in-person – If you can afford to, please book this rate; the extra money you give will go to our continued work at A la Ronde.
  • Adult Online – If you are unable to attend in person, please book this rate.

Bookings can be made here: A la Ronde Symposium - Female Agency through Craft & Design in the 18th and early 19th Centuries | National Trust


If you have any accessibility requirements, please contact


Contact Harriet Squire on

Visit our Project Webpage: A la Ronde Project | National Trust

About A la Ronde

A small estate in Lympstone, Devon, this 16-sided house and chapel were built, and perhaps designed, by Jane Parminter and her young cousin and ward, Mary, around 1796, following their return from several Grand Tour’s of Europe. The house is now owned by the National Trust and contains the extraordinary decorative interiors designed by the Parminters. These include over 27 metres of friezes formed from feathers in the drawing room, patterned wall painting in the central Octagon room, and a Shell Gallery sitting at the top of the house encrusted with over 26,000 individual components, accessed by a narrow Grotto Staircase from below. The wider estate also contained a chapel, alms houses and school room for local unmarried women and girls, a manse, vegetable gardens and small picturesque landscape in the context of a ferme ornée. Mary’s will records that the grounds originally contained decorative features including a shellery, fountain, obelisks and seating

The Shell Gallery, Grotto Staircase, Drawing Room feather frieze, and Octagon have been recently conserved as part of a two-year multi-strand project, ‘A la Ronde – Conserving the past, Creating the Future’ which will culminate in 2024.

The project and Symposium are supported and funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wolfson Foundation, to disseminate the processes, investigations, and findings from the conservation.

If you would like to find out more about A la Ronde, visit: A la Ronde | Devon | National Trust

Please follow this link of a 360 tour of the Shell Gallery: 360 degree interactive panorama of The Shell Gallery, A La Ronde

Our partners

Heritage Fund

Inspiring, leading and resourcing the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Visit website 

The Wolfson Foundation

Building excellence through support for education, science, culture and health.

Visit website 


Journey with A la Ronde 

Over the next two years new spaces will be open for visitors to discover inside the house, sharing different and unexpected stories of residents through the ages, and create new experiences in the grounds, and also online. Working with local and regional partners, neighbours, community groups and volunteers as partners and contributors, we will improve accessibility, conserve the building and its intricate interiors, and develop new ways of sharing the fascinating history and intentions of the pioneering women who built and sustained this special place. How are we going to do it? We’re working with conservation specialists to secure the internationally significant interior including the Shell Gallery, Grotto Staircase, Octagon and Feather Frieze. This conservation work is the latest stage of A la Ronde’s ongoing restoration journey, with work already underway to address deterioration of the roof, chimneys and windows. We’re grateful for the generous support the project has received from visitors and from donors. The project has been made possible through money granted from the Wolfson Foundation, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Trust’s central conservation fund.

A screen grab of the Shell Gallery virtual experience welcome

The Shell Gallery virtual experience 

Open the door on an extraordinary creation and its conservation.