Understanding medieval sites in South-East England- a Great Hall lecture

Thursday, 14 August 2014 7pm – 8:30 pm

Set against the backdrop of the magnificent Great Hall, this lecture given by Professor Matthew H Johnson of Northwestern University will report on archaeological surveys of medieval sites at four local National Trust properties.

Join us to hear the results of archaeological surveys at Bodiam, Scotney, Ightham and Knole. Over the last four years a team of archaeologists from the University of Southampton and Northwestern University have worked in partnership with the National Trust to try to understand more about these sites in terms of the medieval landscapes that surround them. Drawing on years of work, the lecture will challenge the idea that the sites were just military castles or pleasure palaces.
Southampton Survey2

A team of archaeologists from the University of Southampton and Northwestern University carrying geophysics in the park at Knole.

More Information: Knole, 01732 462100, knole@nationaltrust.org.uk

  • Booking Essential 0844 249 1895
    Please note that a book fee will apply to ticket bookings. This is 5% of the purchase price.
  • Suitable for Groups
  • Please come to the front of the house where you will be greeted by a member of our team
  • The Great Hall is wheelchair accessible. Please do get in touch if you have any access requirements we can help with for the evening
  • Our lecture will begin at 7pm. It takes about 10 minutes to get from the main entrance (off Sevenoaks High Street) to the car park and then to the Great Hall.

A horologoical overhaul!

The Conservation Team look after four working clocks in the show rooms. However Knole’s largest working clock actually lives outside, on top of Archbishop Bouchier’s tower. This clock is looked after by the Knole Premises Team. Like the Conservation Team the Premises Team is a mixture of staff and volunteers. Their role is to look after and maintain the fabric of the building, but there would need to be a whole other blog post just to explain everything it is that they do…so back to the clock.

Very little documentation has been uncovered on the history of the clock other than it was previously housed over the Great Hall and moved to its present position in 1744. The dials have undergone several changes. In photographs from the 1870s, the clock still had only one hand, a typical feature of early clocks. By 1912 it had two hands and a larger central blue portion on the face. The edges of the lead covered wooden board were painted to emphasise the hexagonal shape – a feature which does not exist in the current face which appears circular from a distance.

The clock in the 1870s

The clock in the 1870s

The clock after 1912

The clock after 1912

By the post-war period, the dials had their current appearance with a circular painted dial and the hexagonal shape not picked out in black.

Post WWI image of the clock

Post WWI image of the clock

Back in January the face from the southern side of the clock turret was removed. The deterioration of the face had stopped the clock from functioning and it was removed to enable the clock to start working again. The face had become quite distorted and the hands could not turn.We took this opportunity  to undertake a close examination of the face so we could determine how we would go about redecorating all the faces and rectifying the problems in the structure.

The clock face is on display in Stone Court.

The clock face is on display in Stone Court.

The clock face weighed 213Kg and was only held in place by the brass screws gripping the lead skin – molded over a wooden base – as the wood had rotted away and was suffering from wet rot. The face required a crane to lift it to the ground and this was done at the same time as scaffolding was being removed following extensive building work. We found no evidence of an earlier clock face on the timber – however there was evidence of an earlier lead covering. This unusual choice of a very heavy material has probably contributed to some of the structural problems shown in each face but more obviously in the southern side.

Paint research was commissioned in order to determine the extent and character of the current paint scheme. Analysis indicates that the painted and gilded clock face retains only its existing decoration over a lead base. The materials identified in this decoration scheme suggest that it was applied at some point after 1920. The ways in which the lead is joined suggests a pre-war date, somewhere during the 1930s.

The tower clock mechanism

The tower clock mechanism.

Following consultation with our clock conservators and other specialists, our proposal is to remove the remaining three defective dials, all of which are in a similar poor and defective condition. It is evident from the condition of the dials that the method of construction is unsuitable, not only because the wooden backboard has rotted, but also due to the weight in using lead to encapsulate it. New dials can be manufactured using a marine plywood backboard, with a stainless steel dial plate front and sides, copying the construction method of the existing dials.

The chosen dial design can then be replicated onto the stainless steel dial plate. We propose that this follows the earlier pre-war design where the octagonal shape is emphasized. We feel that this approach will restore the appropriate appearance to the clock tower, keep the workings in good order and reduce the impact the weight is having on the turret structure itself.

Scaffold going up ready for the conservation work to the clock to begin.

Scaffold going up ready for the conservation work to the clock to begin.

Watch this space for more updates on the clock!

The Conservation and Premises Teams

Thinking pink at the Royal Pavilion

Originally posted on Treasure Hunt:

The Long Gallery at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Long Gallery at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

At the recent ‘Objects, Families, Homes’ conference of the East India Company at Home project I heard a fascinating lecture by Dr Alexandra Loske about the rich array of colours and motifs in the interiors of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

Chinese famille rose porcelain lidded vase, inv. no. 1245511, at Polesden Lacey. ©National Trust/Lynda Hall

Chinese famille rose porcelain lidded vase, inv. no. 1245511, at Polesden Lacey. ©National Trust/Lynda Hall

Alexandra teased out how some of the decoration came from Chinese sources, such as famille rose porcelain and mandarins’ robes, while other elements came from European illustrated books about China and the ongoing tradition of imitation-Chinese – or chinoiserie – decoration.

The Long Gallery in John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion, 1826 (image from Austenonly)

The Long Gallery in John Nash’s Views of the Royal Pavilion, 1826 (image from Austenonly)

Out of these diverse and and sometimes unexpected influences the ‘design team’ – comprised of the Prince of Wales (client), John Nash (architect)…

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Photographic materials cleaning and re-housing project

Our mini photographic materials conservation project is underway. I say mini, there is a lot of work to be done, but its not quite on the same scale as our Inspired by Knole project.  We don’t have a £18m budget for a start. We’re about two months in to the project now and we’ve made good progress.

The Knole photographic materials collection is in two parts:

Part A: a mixed collection of albums, loose prints, glass plate negatives and lantern slides which date from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Many photographs feature Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville, his wife Victoria and daughter Vita, as well interior and external views of Knole. Several of our photographs were taken by Sevenoaks photographer Essenhigh Corke. It also includes some lovely personal scrap books that include photographs, annotations and watercolor sketches. The collection is a mixture of ownership by the National Trust and on loan from the Sackville family.

Some of our glass plate negatives, probably in their original packaging.

Some of our glass plate negatives, probably in their original packaging.

Part B: a new element of the collection, all items have recently been taken on loan from the Sackville family along with other contents from the Outer Wicket Tower rooms (new spaces we will be opening to visitors as a part of Inspired by Knole). Again it is a mixed collection of loose and framed prints, albums, carte de visites and cabinet cards, and cellulose negatives. They date from the late nineteenth century and early to mid-twentieth century and feature Edward Charles Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville (Eddy), his friends, and his family members, in particular his step mother Anne.

Condition of the collection:

A brief condition survey of Part A of the collection was carried out by Anita Bools (NT photographic materials advisor) in February 2012. Most of the objects looked at have been rated as follows: Condition = Fair Stability = unstable Treatment priority = desirable. A couple of the objects seen were rated poor and highly unstable. The collection has been kept in an environmentally controlled store room since the 1990s. Although some of the current housing of certain items is inadequate. A more in-depth condition survey of each individual item is required.

A more extensive survey of Part B of the collection was surveyed in December 2013 by photographic materials conservator and acting NT advisor, Sarah Allen. Overall condition of the collection has been rated as poor, stable / highly unstable and requires urgent treatment. The collection has been housed in a very poor uncontrolled environment for several decades, exposed to light, dust and there has been an active pest insect infestation.

The latest photographic materials taken on loan, in their previous storage location.

The latest photographic materials taken on loan, in their previous storage location.

So our mission is to condition asses every object in both parts of the collection.  Carry out basic cleaning and repairs, and identify those objects in need of more substantial conservation.  Then finally re-house the collection in the correct type of storage materials. We started off with sizing each object so we knew what type and size of storage housing to buy in for the collection. Now we have begun the condition assessments.

Every object is measured in mm and entered on the condition report spreadsheet.

Every object is measured in mm and entered on the condition report spreadsheet.

It is quite time consuming assessing each object, especially trying to identify each photographic process that has been used.  The more you see the easier it becomes to recognise the process.  Although we do have a little help to.

Two very useful reference books.

Two very useful reference books.

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Alex, Emily, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena

 

Hidden places and secret spaces

Originally posted on Osterley Conservation Team Blog:

Secret door in Library bookshelf opens to the Library annexe.

The secret door open to the secret passage in the Library at Osterley Park House (image: Laura Brooks)

I don’t know about you but I love to hear about hidden corridors and secret doors in old houses.  The very idea of a priest-hole sends my imagination running wild.  It is one of the things I enjoyed about family holidays and my parents dragging us off to some castle or stately home – the colourful and interesting pasts of these properties, and cleverly concealed doors and corridors that would have been used regularly once upon a time (most likely by the servants).  So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered Osterley had its own hidden and secret spaces that only the staff and volunteers knew about and used.

Now it’s your turn.  You are about to be ushered into the world behind the closed door.  Allow us to introduce you…

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National Trust launches coastal appeal in bid to buy Bantham beach and Avon estuary

Originally posted on National Trust Press Office:

A view from the coast of the golden sands at Bantham beach, popular with families and walkers

A view from the coast of the golden sands at Bantham beach, popular with families and walkers

A multi-million pound fundraising appeal is being launched today by the National Trust in a bid to raise money to acquire Bantham beach and the Avon estuary in south Devon.

One of the finest estuaries in South West England and the best surfing beach in south Devon, this coastline is a place that has captured the hearts and minds of generations of holiday-makers and local people.

If the appeal is successful the Trust would maintain the high-quality access enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every year and would work hard to further enhance the landscape along the estuary as a home for nature.

A view along the Avon estuary towards Bantham beach and Burgh Island

A view along the Avon estuary towards Bantham beach and Burgh Island

Joel Wakeling, a National Trust ranger, who is from south Devon said, “When I think of Bantham…

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The many faces of a Rembrandt

Originally posted on Treasure Hunt:

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

Four images of the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey (clockwise from top left): after cleaning, x-ray, before cleaning, infrared. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner

The results of the technical investigation into the Rembrandt self portrait at Buckland Abbey, which I reported on earlier, have just been announced.

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

The self portrait after cleaning. Inv. no. 810136 ©National Trust/Chris Titmus

For more than forty-five years the authorship of this self portrait was in doubt. But the newly discovered physical evidence supports the opinion of Rembrandt scholar Dr Ernst van de Wetering that the picture is largely by the artist himself.

Painting conservation adviser Tian Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

Painting conservation adviser Tian Sitwell inspecting the self portrait. ©National Trust/Steven Haywood

The self portrait has been cleaned and examined at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. This included visual inspection under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis.

X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian Cleckner X-ray image of the self portrait. ©National Trust/Brian…

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