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Victorian wallpaper at Newark Park

Intricate yellow flower design William Morris wallpaper at Newark Park
The wallpaper is one of the Dining Room's most impressive features | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The house at Newark Park is full of historic treasures, but one of the most interesting is the wallpaper found on the ceiling of the Dining Room. This decorative paper was designed by a famous Victorian artist in 1881 and has survived on the ceiling for more than 120 years. Conservation work has restored the paper and continues to protect it, enabling visitors to appreciate it.

History of the wallpaper

When the King family lived in the house in the late Victorian era, they decorated many of the rooms with wallpaper designed by William Morris. Today, the Dining Room is the only place left in the house where you can still see where it was applied to the ceiling.

Designing the paper

The ceiling paper was block-printed by hand in 1881, but wasn't put up at Newark Park until 17 years later. It’s possible the family purchased the rolls of paper and stored them for some years following other improvements to the house. Or they could've been purchased at a reduced price at a later date.

Yellow William Morris wallpaper against deep red wallpaper and white frieze at Newark Park
William Morris wallpaper on the ceiling of Newark Park's Dining Room | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Who was William Morris?

Morris started out as an apprentice architect, but soon discovered a passion for designing furniture and patterns for textiles used in interiors.

In 1861, he and a group of friends established the decorative arts company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, known to its partners as The Firm.

The ceiling design

The design used on the ceiling paper at Newark Park is recorded as paper no.45, and samples are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The same paper is used on the ceiling at St James’ Palace in London. It’s a non-directional paper, which means that it's symmetrical if used horizontally or vertically.

A popular movement

Morris's company aimed to improve the state of the decorative arts, using the ideas of John Ruskin to reform attitudes to production. It was this enterprise that helped establish what's known as the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK.

Morris-designed fabrics and papers became so popular that they were purchased for many late-Victorian interiors. The King family made many alterations to the Newark Park house, and adding the paper was one of these fashionable improvements.

Conservation work

Today, the ceiling paper can be viewed and appreciated by a wider audience. Recent conservation work has helped to repair any tears or grazing marks caused by insects. The room is monitored for any changes in relative humidity to ensure the paper is protected well into the future.

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Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Newark Park on the National Trust Collections website.

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