The Nigel Seeley Fellowship

Knole, Kent will be the site of the first Nigel Seeley Fellowship, in the summer of 2016.

Knole, Kent will be the site of the first Nigel Seeley Fellowship, in the fall of 2016.

Guidelines for the 2018 Nigel Seeley Fellowship 

Details will soon be available for applications. Contact the Royal Oak office at (212) 480-2889 ext. 212 for more information.

Most recent application information from 2016 Fellowship:

“Addressing Problems in the Conservation of Gilded Wood at Knole.”

Application Deadline: April 29, 2016

Read more about the creation of the Nigel Seeley Fellowship


Download the application here

Knole: Located in Sevenoaks, Kent, Knole is a unique piece of cultural heritage that sits in a beautiful and well-used deer park just off Sevenoaks High Street. Built as an Archbishop’s palace and transformed into a lavish Jacobean country house by the Sackville family, six centuries of history are contained in one of the largest houses in England. Knole has been in the National Trust’s care since 1946.

During the last four years, Knole has been under-going a program of essential repairs. The Inspired by Knole project, running through 2018, includes building an on-site conservation studio and learning space to conserve and share Knole’s fragile collection; opening up new spaces in the house; restoring and improving the Brewhouse cafe; and transforming the visitor experience within the showrooms. This project will broaden the National Trust’s community engagement work, creating new opportunities for local people to engage with the property through volunteering, programmed activity, and an enhanced and more diverse visitor experience.

The new Conservation Studio will sit at the heart of Knole. This facility will be an important asset for the National Trust, Kent and the South East region. From the summer of 2016 to 2019, the studio will be conserving a large percentage of the collections from Knole House. Gilded frames and furniture form a very large component of these collections.

The Fellowship Assignment: 

The assignment will be an 8-week project focused on gilded furniture and frames from Knole. The main focus of the work at the Knole conservation studio will be a set of two 17th century chairs and six English carved and gilt stools, with stuffed seats covered in stamped crimson caffoy, the frames richly carved with cherubs heads at each corner, swags of foliage and acanthus scroll feet (possibly made by Francois Lapiere, 1693-95). The current conservation program presents a fantastic opportunity to understand and show how the furniture would have looked originally and how it should be presented in the newly conserved Ballroom when it reopens next year.

Through job shadowing and assisting, the fellow will be working collaboratively with conservators, a conservation scientist, and curators to bring together physical evidence – what can be seen and what analysis, historic inventories, and photographs will reveal. Once there is a full understanding, a decision can be made on how to proceed – whether the suite should be re-gilded whether an earlier surface might be uncovered and preserved; or whether a compromise between the two may be made.

The fellow will be engaged in:

  • Researching less aggressive interventions for gilded surfaces, especially with regard to cleaners and consolidants, with an emphasis on low toxicity and simplicity.
  • Developing protocols that can be carried out by supervised students, interns, and volunteers moving forward.
  • Stabilizing surfaces (not overly cleaned or re-gilded) and looking for the right aesthetic for Knole as it is re-decorated. The NT also recognizes that the new stabilization and drying out Knole’s environment may result in further change in surfaces and finishes and lifting of gilding. The environmental change also may affect pest populations. The Fellow will be researching this as well.

The suite of Ballroom furniture has been extensively restored in the past, the most recent restoration was carried out by the Rural Industries Bureau in the early 1960s. They regilded the suite and possibly reupholstered them – though the upholstery may be slightly earlier, from the 1930s. The current gilding was very poorly executed and now is in an unstable condition. The overall appearance and condition of the suite is very poor.

Fellowship benefits:

  • $4,000 stipend
  • $1,500 travel subsidy
  • $1,500 housing subsidy OR complimentary housing depending on project location
  • Opportunity to work in the UK with senior National Trust staff in fine art conservation. Experience working with specialist National Trust staff at Knole, Sevenoaks.
  • Participation towards developing significant skills working directly with senior staff of the National Trust’s conservation studio.
  • Visits to additional NT sites throughout the UK.

 Supervision and Location: The Fellow will be based at the National Trust’s Conservation Studio at Knole, Sevenoaks and work directly with Dana Goodburn-Brown and Siobhan Barratt, National Trust Conservation Studio Managers.

Equipment Requirements: All equipment necessary for the completion of the fellowship will be supplied by the National Trust.

Candidate Requirements

  • Knowledge of traditional materials and gilding techniques used to create gilded furniture and frames;
  • Familiarity with modern reagents and resins used today to clean and consolidate these surfaces;
  • Demonstrated specialization in treating gilded surfaces in an institutional and/or private practice setting, with at least three years experience;
  • Good organizational and communication skills;
  • American citizenship, with a passport remaining valid until March 2017

The Fellow will work as part of a team, and should have the ability to work well under pressure and communicate complex issues clearly.  The Fellow will submit written reports to both the National Trust and The Royal Oak Foundation.  The Fellow must be comfortable engaging with members of the public visiting the Knole Conservation Studio, and be willing to share his/her experience on The Royal Oak Foundation website.

The Fellow should carry health insurance.

Start Date: Beginning of October 2016 for 8 weeks

Who Should Apply: Applications are welcome from individuals at any career point, with at least three years of professional experience in treating gilded wood.  Applicants should hold graduate degrees or certificates in art conservation with a focus on furniture, decorative arts, and/or objects. Applications are also encouraged from gilders.

Fellowship Stipend: For the fellowship period, the fellow will receive an educational stipend of $4,000.00 to be paid in two installments. The fellow will also receive complimentary housing or a $1,500.00 housing subsidy depending on the location of the project, and a travel subsidy up to $1,500.00 for international and any train travel.

Fellow will be responsible for travel arrangements, food and other personal expenses associated with the fellowship. Each applicant must also pay a $35.00 fee, payable by becoming a Royal Oak Student/Young Professional member. You can become a member by visiting the website: When joining, write “Nigel Seeley Fellowship” in the comment field before completing the checkout process.

Application Deadline: The application deadline is April 29 and the Fellowship will take place during October 2016 in the U.K. Successful applicants will be notified in early June. Please allow necessary mailing time in order to meet the application deadline.

How to apply: Click here to download and complete the application. To submit your application, please email materials to Please include the downloaded and signed form with your email.

More about the Nigel Seeley Fellowship:

Established by Katherine Singley of Decatur, Georgia, the fellowship will provide training and educational opportunities for individuals with a professional interest in the preservation of historic interiors, finishes, and collections. It is named for the National Trust’s Head of Conservation, Dr. Nigel Seeley (1989-2002), under whom Katherine studied.

The fellowship will be awarded to professionals spanning careers from conservators, heritage craftsmen, collection managers, to environmental engineers, lighting specialists, and pest specialists.

Katherine, a conservator herself, believes The Nigel Seeley Fellowship will enrich young professionals’ lives by offering first-hand experience of the National Trust’s world-class techniques, houses, and collections.

“For conservators, there is a real need for an award like the Seeley Fellowship, one that is project-driven and involves problem solving and person-to-person interaction,” she said. “The National Trust for decades has set the bar internationally for the preservation of interiors and collections… Even in the age of electronic access to the information, there is still much to be gained by physically being present on a project and experiencing the Trust properties.”

Katherine also expressed her enthusiasm to name the fellowship after Dr. Seeley. “Dr. Seeley regarded historic interiors with their contents and finishes as ‘museums without cases,’ systems of interrelated and complex chemical reactions that could be triggered by changes in the open environment. Twenty years ago he was a driving force behind a philosophical and holistic change in the management of historic properties, in which stabilization of the building environment is equally as important as the treatment of individual objects.”

The fellowship joins Royal Oak’s established Damaris Horan Fellowship. Both fellowships provide talented Americans the chance to gain hands-on experience through the National Trust’s expertise and renowned educational training. Fellowships will be offered biennially, alternating years between each prize.

The 2016 Seeley Fellowship will kick off with the conservation team at the Sackville family home, Knole, Kent. Members and supporters will remember Royal Oak’s recent grant of $1.25 million to restore the Jacobean Ballroom. While the specific project is still to be defined, the fellow will join Knole’s conservation studio team to assist in one of the many projects to conserve Knole’s historic interiors.

Learn more about Royal Oak’s scholarship fund: Learn More