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Drawing Room Conservation Project at Cragside

Inside the Drawing Room at Cragside, Northumberland, with its intricately carved marble fireplace.
The Drawing Room and marble fireplace at Cragside | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Over the last few months we have been carrying out conservation work to protect two major features in the Drawing Room at Cragside; the marble fireplace and original chenille carpet. This grand room was used as a space to wow and entertain guests from all of the world, including the Royal family in 1884.

About the Drawing Room

Cragside House was a comfortable, elegantly decorated home, filled with world-leading technology. In contrast to the homely interiors of the rest of the House, the Drawing Room was created as a showpiece, with its colossal marble fireplace, lavish chenille carpet and elliptical glass ceiling to party under by moonlight.

This grand space was designed to entertain important guests and the clients of William Armstrong’s armaments companies. Its ostentatious, Italian Renaissance–inspired features were crafted using the finest materials and the latest Victorian engineering techniques.

Inside the italian marble inglenook fireplace in the Drawing Room at Cragside, Northumberland
The inglenook fireplace in the Drawing Room at Cragside | © National Trust Images/Tom Carr

Why we needed to work on the fireplace

The marble fireplace that dominates the Drawing Room had been experiencing significant occurrences of salt efflorescence. This is when salt crystals appear on the porous surface of stone and plasterwork.

It’s caused by moisture moving through the stone and then evaporating, leaving the salts behind. When the salts build up in the ‘pores’ of the stone, it gradually pushes the material apart, causing it to crumble.

If left untreated, this deterioration of the marble and plasterwork would cause parts of the fireplace to fall off. We needed to make sure work was carried out to conserve this dramatic piece of history for years to come.

The Drawing Room at Cragside, Northumberland, with its intricate ceiling and richly pattered carpet
The Drawing Room at Cragside | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Why we needed to work on the carpet

The chenille carpet in the Drawing Room is one of the first carpets in the world to be woven using engineering techniques invented during the Industrial Revolution. This huge Axminster carpet fills the room.

The carpet succumbed to some damage over the years as a result of historic moisture leaks, which caused the wool pile and underlying woven structure to deteriorate. This led to large breaks in the pattern where the weft was broken. If we didn’t work to conserve the carpet, the patches would get much bigger, damaging this historic carpet further.

Usually works to tapestry and carpet would take place at a conservator’s studio. However due to the sheer size of the Drawing Room carpet, conservators from the Rug and Carpet Studio carried out the work on site in June 2021. This meant that visitors were able to catch a glimpse at the vital conservation work taking place.

Making the project possible

The £100,000 conservation and repair of the Drawing Room and its fireplace and carpet has been made possible thanks to generous donations from the Wolfson Foundation, a grant from the government's Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England, and support from a private donor.

Learn more about the Drawing Room conservation project

2 March 2022

Scoping external works

Using the outcomes of all the surveys that we have carried out over the past months, our project team have been working with Trident Building Surveyors to develop a scope of works to improve the rainwater goods and drainage surrounding the Drawing Room. This work will also include further repointing of the external masonry. The aim is to help prevent water from penetrating the building and causing the salts that have caused damage to the marble of the Drawing Room fireplace.

Weathering the change at Cragside

As the first house in the world to be lit using the power of water, Cragside has a longstanding legacy of sustainability and invention.

As the damaging effects of climate change are seen across the estate, it's even more important that this spirit of innovation continues. Watch this video to find out what is being done to protect the building from heavy rainfall.

A family walking through woodland at Cragside surrounded by lush greenery with trees and purple flowering bushes in the background


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Our partners

Historic England

The public body that looks after England's historic environment.

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The Wolfson Foundation

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

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