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Decanting the Collection at Knole

Guest - Wednesday February 17, 2016 16:45
Knole, Kent

Knole, Kent

From 2011 to 2013, Royal Oak supporters raised $1.25 million to support the conservation of Knole’s ballroom and its contents. Knole is one of the Trust’s most spectacular properties – it’s a sprawling estate with hundreds of rooms, its own deer park and a profound history tied to some of England’s most important cultural figures. We are proud to help protect such a special place forever, for everyone.

The preservation work at Knole is ongoing, and the hardworking team at its conservation studio is maintaining a fascinating blog about their progress. We’ll be sharing some of their posts in the weeks and months to come, including this one. Stay tuned for more!

By The Knole Conservation Studio

Welcome back to the Knole Conservation Blog. As followers of the blog may already be aware, we are in the midst of an ongoing conservation project here at Knole. This has kept us pretty busy over the past couple of months with no signs of slowing down.

The project itself combines the construction of a new Conservation Studio with extensive work in the Showrooms to improve heating, lighting and the general display of the collection. It’s the Showrooms work that we’re looking at today. In order to gain safe access to all the necessary spaces, everything that lives in what we call the second half of the house (the Ballroom, Reynolds Room, Cartoon Gallery and King’s Room) must be removed to temporary storage.

The Cartoon Gallery at Knole. The room takes its name from a set of six large copies of Raphael's cartoons. The decoration of the gallery was carried out by the 1rst Earl Thomas Sackville.

The Cartoon Gallery at Knole. The room takes its name from a set of six large copies of Raphael’s cartoons. The decoration of the gallery was carried out by the 1rst Earl Thomas Sackville.

After a long period of preparation we began decanting the collection on 4th January. This has involved a gargantuan effort from everyone at Knole. This includes staff, volunteers, and contractors who came to help. We even had assistance from some of our neighboring NT properties!

The Cartoon Gallery. We have even removed blinds from the windows and have had to erect temporary coverings to protect the vulnerable red textile on the walls.

The Cartoon Gallery. We have even removed blinds from the windows and have had to erect temporary coverings to protect the vulnerable red textile on the walls.

The thing about National Trust houses (and all museums for that matter), is that we can’t just go around moving things on a whim. The value and fragility of the collection means that we need to keep a very careful track of where everything is going, what condition it was in when it moved, whether it was cleaned/needed cleaning etc. etc. As you can see there is a lot to do!

The Ballroom during the cleaning, covering and documentation process.

The Ballroom during the cleaning, covering and documentation process.

We inspected, cleaned, documented and labeled. When this was done we were finally able to get things moving. For four weeks we have steadily worked our way through each room. First removing furniture, then paintings, carpets, tapestries and eventually even the light fixtures. You won’t recognize the house now!

Unfortunately some things have to be left in the house while the work happens around them. This is very few items and is really only things too big or heave to be easily removed. The Kings Bed, some marble tables and table tops, a harpsichord and couple of large tables are all to be left where they are. Every other piece of our collection is all gone and has been placed either in temporary storage for the coming year.

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Left: The Reynolds Room after emptying. You can see gaps in the caffoy wall covering where paintings have previously hung. Right: The Cartoon Gallery with  everything removed apart from the heaviest 3 items.

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