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Our work at Kedleston Hall

Looking up at the state bed at Kedleston, where a member of the conservation team stands on a ladder to add the finished touches to the state bed display
Conserving the state bed at Kedleston Hall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire houses an impressive collection of paintings, furniture and artefacts, acquired by the Curzon family since the 18th century. To ensure the collection is around for future generations to enjoy, the National Trust is carrying out essential conservation work. Learn more about our work at Kedleston Hall.

The Museum at Kedleston Hall

Why are these objects here?

Kedleston Hall has over 1,000 objects from across the Asian continent. This collection was brought together by George Nathanial Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925) who inherited the Hall in 1916. Curzon travelled extensively across Asia and in 1899 became the Viceroy of India, making him the highest British representative in colonial India.

Where are they from?

Once known as the ‘Indian Museum’ and later the ‘Eastern Museum’, the collection includes objects from countries as diverse as Japan and Turkey, Korea and Nepal. The largest group of objects originate from India, and reflect the period when Curzon was Viceroy (1899-1905). The collection ranges from tourist souvenirs to diplomatic gifts, commissioned pieces and personal items.

What is happening now?

The museum at Kedleston was established in 1927 in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The mode of display and the labelling reflect the period in which it was created.

Research is now underway to conserve and inform a re-presentation of the objects. There are many things we do not know about this collection, numerous questions to be answered and stories to unravel. How and where Curzon acquired the objects is one important question. So too, is their cultural, religious, and artistic significance.

Over the coming months, different partners will help us re-present objects selected from the museum. By shining a light on small groups of objects we hope to explore different stories, spark conversations, and uncover new connections.

A view into the museum at Kedleston Hall with a large display cabinet in the centre
Lord Curzon's eastern museum | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Book conservation at Kedleston

The team at Kedleston Hall protect and conserve a unique collection of over 1500 historic books – that make up 50% of the collection at Kedleston!

These books, ranging in genre from poetry to travel, were collected by the Curzon family and are housed in the Billiard Room and Library. While the house was closed, the conservation team diligently cleaned, examined, and recorded the details of each inspected book. The books in the Billiard room were then covered in silk taffeta to protect them from dust, ensuring this special collection is conserved for the next generation.

Why books need conservation

All items in the collection need conservation and this includes preventive work that helps us monitor and care for the collection. There are 10 ‘agents of deterioration’ including relative humidity, light, pests, dust, mechanical damage and mould. The team continually monitor this as well as the routine cleaning of items (which can be daily through to annually).

How the books are conserved

The amount of light and humidity the books are subjected to is monitored and controlled, and the books are spot checked annually for dust and damage. When books are handled, extra care is taken not to put undue pressure on the spines. A log is then made of each book's position on the shelf.

The team clean and handle the books as little as possible, but take great care when they do so. Books are only cleaned if necessary, and any dust is removed using a pony hairbrush. Any signs of deterioration, such as insect damage or mould, are noted.

Unexpected finds

During the book conservation process, the team at Kedleston have discovered everything from pressed flowers and beetle larva to handwritten inscriptions and annotations, some addressed to Lord Curzon himself.

A member of the house team inspects books at Kedleston Hall
The team clean and handle the books as little as possible, but take great care when they do so. | © National Trust Images

Protecting Kedleston’s Marble Hall floor

The 18th-century floor in Kedleston's Marble Hall is one of the most significant floors cared for by the National Trust, decorated with Italian marble borders and honeysuckle-inspired detailing.

Unfortunately, due to the footfall from tens of thousands of visitors a year, the floor is seeing an increasing amount of damage.

How is the floor constructed?

The decorative marble is set on bricked sections and the Hopton Wood stone rests on a loose sand and lime mixture. This sits on oak boards which are supported by huge timber trusses and joists that span the room. These huge trusses are further supported by 12 cast iron columns, added in 1805. Engineers estimate that the combined weight of the floor is over 90 tonnes -- that's more than 7 double decker buses.

What is causing the damage?

The vibrations of hundreds of footsteps cause the sand and lime to sift out through gaps between the oak boards, leaving voids below the stone slabs. With nothing to support them properly they move and pinch against with their neighbouring slabs, resulting in cracking and breakages.

What investigations have been done?

Numerous investigations carried out by specialists have helped us understand the floor's construction and the impact that its current use is having on its future. In 1999, laser scanning specialists created an accurate record of floor levels. This process was repeated in 2016, which confirmed fears that the floor is moving.

Structural engineers confirmed that although the floor is structurally sound and safe for visitors to walk on, continuing with high volumes of use couldwill cause more damage.

Restoring and protecting the floor

In 2017, some areas of the floor were lifted to allow unstable stone slabs to be re-bedded. Lifting and repairing the floor entirely is not an option as it would cause considerable damage to the floor’s historic materials.

For now, we have cordoned off the central section of the floor to prevent further damage. This allows visitors a better view of the floor, and in the meantime, we are considering options to protect the floor and minimise further deterioration.

Thank you

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

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