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.
By the Knole Conservation Studio
For the last two weeks the conservation team, along with a group of volunteers, have been busy cleaning a section of the caffoy from the Cartoon Gallery. This was removed by specialist textile conservator Zenzie Tinker, as part of the work to decant the second half of the house last winter.
Caffoy is a rich, red coloured wool fabric, similar to velvet, with a floral pattern stamped into the pile. It dates from the 18th century and was used for wall hangings and upholstering some of the items of furniture that we have in our collection. This particular piece covered the wall at the east of the Cartoon Gallery.
The back of the caffoy was lined with course linen. Interestingly, in the areas covered by paintings, large rectangular sections were cut out of the caffoy to reveal just the linen. This practice was a way of ensuring that the expensive fabric would not be wasted behind areas that would not normally have been seen. However, it did mean that over time, as and when the picture hang changed, sections of caffoy had to be added to fill in the exposed areas of the linen lining. There are 56 such pieces, some regularly shaped and ﬁxed neatly with stitching, others placed haphazardly, cut in irregular shapes and ﬁxed with tacks. This indicates that there were at least two different picture schemes, as well as the original plan, for that one section of wall.
While these small patches of caffoy have been taken offsite for specialist conservation work, the front and back of the main piece of textile has been carefully cleaned by the team here at Knole.
The caffoy was very dirty with a layer of dust, cobwebs and insect debris on the surface.
Following the advice and training of Zenzie and her team, the textile was divided into workable sized sections, roughly 35cm by 35cm, marked out with pins and white thread. We then worked on each of these sections in turn, making sure that we kept a careful eye on the timing so each area received the same level of cleaning, ensuring we didn’t get any patches that were cleaner or dirtier than the rest of the textile!
First, each section was vacuumed using a conservation standard vacuum cleaner with a small brush attachment. The suction on the vacuum was set to a specified pressure to avoid causing any damage to the textile fibres.
Next, a smoke sponge, made of vulcanised natural rubber, was used to remove soot damage and general dust.
Finally, the surface was vacuumed to remove any sponge residue.
You can see the results!
Next week, the back of the caffoy will be vacuumed to remove any dirt and dust before the whole thing is rolled and put into storage ready to be reinstated, along with the small patches that have been removed, in the Cartoon Gallery next year.
The other sections of caffoy which cover the walls in the rest of the Cartoon Gallery, as well as those in the Reynolds Room, will be worked on, in situ, by the conservation team before the second half of the house is open to the public next year.