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Our work at the Textile Conservation Studio

Conservators working in the Textile Conservation Studio
Conservators working in the Textile Conservation Studio | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

Discover how we work to restore and preserve collections at the Textile Conservation Studio, the National Trust’s only specialist in-house textile conservation facility.

The Studio's work and staff

The National Trust Textile Conservation Studio was founded in 1976 at Blickling Estate in Norfolk. It's the Trust’s only specialist in-house textile conservation facility where treatment of textiles is undertaken, many of which are of international importance. Sometimes the objects are large scale, such as the Gideon tapestries at Hardwick Hall and the state beds from Knole, while others are very small such as the contents of the doll's houses from Nostell Priory and Uppark and the Book of Hours from Coughton Court.

Textile Conservator stitching velvet cloak from Smallhythe Place, Kent
Textile Conservator stitching velvet cloak from Smallhythe Place, Kent | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

Textiles in the care of the National Trust

The Trust’s textile collections are of international importance, numbering over 150,000 individual items. The majority of these precious and often unique objects remain on display in the houses for which they were made or acquired. These textiles boast a wide range of styles, materials and techniques. From grand furnishings such as state beds with rich hangings and trimmings to fine tapestries and costumes, they all help us connect directly with the people from our past.

Two conservators stitching at a tapestry frame
Conservators stitching Gideon tapestry | © National Trust Images / James Donson

Expert staff

The Studio has been established as a professionally staffed textile conservation facility within the National Trust for over 30 years. The amassed experience of the staff, the specialist equipment and facilities make the Studio one of only a handful of places in the UK where large, complex projects can be worked on with complete confidence. Our highly experienced staff, many of whom are accredited by our professional body, the Institute of Conservation (ICON), are guided by their professional standards and ethics.

A doll being conserved at the Textile Conservation Studio, Norfolk.
Doll conservation at the Textile Conservation Studio | © National Trust Images/Copper Crayon

Case study: dolls’ house conservation

Working alongside the conservators from the National Trust's Royal Oak Foundation Studio at Knole, in 2020 we conserved the contents from the dolls’ houses from Uppark and Nostell Priory. The work was undertaken thanks to funding from the Wolfson Foundation, the National Trust, Friends of Nostell and National Trust centres and associations.

The 18th-century dolls' house at Uppark is one of a handful that have survived from this era in such good condition. Meanwhile, Nostell’s dolls’ house is the only one you can still see in its original family home – it is a grand mansion in perfect miniature.

The work involved

First, we carefully undertook initial surface cleaning of the beautiful dolls and carpets. Using conservation-grade microfibre cloths and hydrophilic foam sponges, we removed the surface layer of dirt from the detailed needlepoint carpets to allow the brighter colours underneath to be revealed.

One of the doll's gowns had unsightly darned repairs which were removed and then treated with a fine silk crepeline patch coated with a conservation-grade adhesive which was activated using a heated spatula.

Meanwhile, the team from Knole treated the decorative paper motifs of figures and flowers on the alabaster ‘porcelain’ dolls’ dishes. The dishes are small and very porous and therefore fragile to handle. While working to repair the plates, a microscope was used to aid the removal of the old glue to avoid contact with the delicate paper.

Preserving a story

Our work to conserve the Uppark dolls’ house included cleaning the 'Best Bed', which has all the elements of a full-size bed, including valances, curtains and a headboard.

It was previously treated by Lady Meade-Fetherstonhaugh and shows her original couching. We chose not to remove this in order to preserve the story of the bed.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Detailed cleaning of cloak from Smallhythe Place


We look after over 300 historic buildings and nearly one million works of art, which need constant care to maintain them. You can help protect these important buildings and collections by donating today.

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