Clandon Park: the Speakers’ Parlour


Clandon’s lone survivor.

Originally posted on Treasure Hunt:

The Speakers' Parlour at Clandon Park following the fire, showing the carpet being removed. Also visible is a large frame from which a portrait painting was cut, in anticipation of the fire reaching this room, which fortunately didn't happen. ©National Trust The Speakers’ Parlour at Clandon Park following the fire, showing the carpet being removed. Also visible is a large frame from which a portrait painting was cut, in anticipation of the fire reaching this room, which fortunately didn’t happen. ©National Trust

It has just been confirmed that the Speakers’ Parlour at Clandon was not damaged as severely in the recent fire as many of the other areas of the house.

The ceiling of the Speakers' Parlour propped up, and the chandelier removed. ©National Trust The ceiling of the Speakers’ Parlour propped up, and the chandelier removed. ©National Trust

This family dining room was named after the portraits hanging there of the three members of the Onslow family who were Speakers of the House of Commons: Richard Onslow (1528-71, ‘the Black Speaker’), Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt and 1st Baron Onslow (1654-1717), and Arthur Onslow (1691-1768, ‘the Great Speaker’).

View of the west front, showing the remains of the ground floor Saloon. The Giacomo Leoni-designed chimneypiece, with its overmantel relief of Mars and Venus, is visible through the second window from the left. ©National Trust View of the west front, showing the remains of the ground floor Saloon. The Giacomo Leoni-designed…

View original 232 more words

Summer’s here…nearly

After a long, cold winter the conservation team are taking every sunny opportunity to get out and do some of our more pleasant outdoor jobs. For those of you that don’t know Knole well we have a portion of our collection outside exposed to the elements 365 days a year. This includes a pair of prehistoric elk antlers that measure 7 foot from tip to tip, a lead fish tank and a considerably array of busts and other statuary.

When the winter is finished battering our poor outdoor objects we swoop in at the first sign of a sunny day to give them some tender loving care. Our first mission (as always) is to give everything a good dust and clean. We work our way along the loggia making sure that every piece is carefully dusted. You’d be amazed at the amount of dust a pair of antlers can hold onto over a year!

Cleaning elk and waxing Romans.

Cleaning elk and waxing Romans.

Some of the busts in particular have fallen foul of pigeons over the last year so we have been very carefully cleaning off their droppings where we find them!

For the antlers, this is all the help they get. Once they have been de-cobwebbed and dusted we leave them alone. Step two for the busts and lead work in Stone Court and Green Court is to provide some kind of protection against the elements. We do this by applying a thin layer of microcrystalline wax polish developed by the British Museum which protects and damp and dust. Long-time readers of the Knole conservation team blog may know that this is something that we regularly use inside the house as well as out. It provides a protective barrier layer and can be applied to almost any surface! We make sure we get into every nook and cranny on the detailed statues ensuring they have the best possible protection. With the application of this wonder substance we’re done!


Knole Conservation Team

Our Favourite Objects – Part 10!

The latest entry in our favourite objects series is from Hannah who is one of our wonderful conservation volunteers here in the house. Keep reading to find out what she thinks is best about Knole!

As Knole is such a big and beautiful house full to the brim of interesting objects the idea of choosing one favourite piece presented a difficult task, one which I tried to approach from a variety of angles. I looked for the most grand object, the oldest, the biggest, the most expensive, the most detailed etc. (the list goes on). Over my month of work experience back in 2013 my favourite object changed from week to week – from the portrait of Frances Cranfield hanging in the ballroom, to the stunning silverware in the King’s Room, to the royal bed in the Venetian Ambassador’s Room; and yet, there was something about each of these objects that did not quite stick.


He was once Vita Sackville-West’s bedroom doorstop!


Shakespeare at home at the bottom of the Great Stairs





 Every time I walked through to the Great Staircase however, my eye was caught by this funny little wooden doorstop, carved in the form of William Shakespeare. I was intrigued by its quirky appearance and when I finally got up close and saw the sentimental quote, ‘We shall never look upon his like again’ carved into a scroll in his hand, I was sold. I still look at him fondly whenever I walk through that part of the house and if there was ever a fire he is the first thing I would save. 


‘We shall never see his like again’ inscribed on Shakespeare’s scroll


He is not particularly grand, large or detailed but he is unique and will always hold a special place in my heart. To me he represents a love of literature and a tribute to those who create wonderful worlds for the rest of us to get lost in. As it turns out, choosing a favourite wasn’t such a difficult task after all.




Following Emily’s farewell post, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself as Knole’s new House Steward. My name is Lucy and I am already a familiar face around the property, having joined the Conservation Team in November 2010. Since then I have learned so much both from the team and this remarkable building as well as successfully completing a Master’s degree in Heritage Management in 2013.

I feel honoured to be able to play an ongoing part in the Inspired by Knole project as well as having the opportunity to care for the property on a daily basis. The next few years will be very exciting for us with lots to look forward to. Both the Conservation Studio and Hayloft Learning Centre will open next year, thanks to funding from the HLF. This will allow us to explore new ways of integrating conservation and learning not only for school groups but for lifelong learners as well. New spaces such as the Gatehouse Tower, previously unseen by the public, will be welcoming visitors for the first time and providing the Conservation Team with a brand new set of challenges.

This year we will begin preparing a new storage space to accommodate parts of the collection during the project work. The work will allow us to install improved lighting and conservation heating and give us an opportunity to display the collection in new ways. I’m excited about the redecoration of the Great Hall, due to begin this autumn, as well as assisting specialist conservators to dismantle the Spangled Bed this July, ready for conservation works to take place.

The team and I are looking forward to sharing our experiences with all our blog followers so please watch this space for updates!

Best wishes,


Au revoir

This is my last blog post as the House Steward of Knole. Its been an amazing four and a half years. I’ve learnt so much working with this collection and through the Inspired by Knole project. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to develop my skills and knowledge in conservation and learn new things. Archaeology is now passion thanks to all of Knole’s amazing discoveries in recent years. I’ll miss being a part of the team and project going forward and the exciting times ahead, but I’ll get to experience it all from (perhaps the less stressful) point of view of a visitor. After eight years I’m also leaving the National Trust. I’m off to British Museum to move the stored collections to new facilities in the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre. I wish all my colleagues at Knole continued success with the project and look forward to visiting when its complete.

I hope you all continue to enjoy reading about the wonderful work of the Knole Conservation Team, I know I’ll certainly be signing up as a new follower!


How do you wash your tapestries?

Three of the Spangled Bedroom tapestries that were prepared for washing back in November (Tapestrytastic!) safely made their way to Belgium. Siobhan our project conservator made the trip out to see the tapestries go through the washing process.

The De Wit Centre

De Wit Royal manufacturers, founded in 1889, have been restoring tapestries for over a century. At international level, it is one of the world’s leading restorers for museums and private customers. It has combined the use of traditional skills and state of the art conservation techniques to offer a facility that can deal with all aspects of tapestry conservation and restoration.

In the past tapestries were most commonly washed using temporary baths made from polythene and plastic pipes. It required large quantities of softened and deionised water as well as adequate drainage. The tapestry would be fully immersed in the bath and to facilitate efficient soil removal, mechanical action in the form of sponging was essential. In order for the whole surface of the tapestry to receive the same treatment, the tapestry would be rolled on a roller in the bath as the sponging progressed across its entire surface.

Though this method of washing is highly efficient at soil removal, there are drawbacks. The tapestry undergoes considerable physical stress as it is repeatedly rolled and rerolled. Mechanical action and sponging can damage fragile threads. The process is lengthy and drying can take between 12 and 24 hours allowing potentially fugitive dyes to migrate and spread.

Yvan Maes De Wit, the present director, represents the fourth generation of tapestry weavers and restorers at de Wit, and has been responsible for developing a unique system for tapestry washing using aerosol suction. This was patented in 1991 and is the only facility in the world that offers this service.

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

Diagram from the De Wit website showing the wet cleaning process.

This system uses a combination of aerosol spray and vacuüm suction. It is fitted with integral sensors to control pH, temperature, water flow and pressure. The facility consists of an enclosed chamber with glass panels. The base is a large suction table 5 x 9 metres. Ranged across the ceiling are 45 aerosol sprays approximately 1.75 metres above the platform. During the cleaning process the tapestry is held in place by continuous suction. When the aerosol is turned on the chamber fills with water vapour which is drawn down evenly through the entire tapestry.

Start of the washing process

Start of the washing process.

A low concentration of a non-ionic detergent is introduced to the aerosol system for as long as is deemed necessary for soil removal. This is replaced by softened and then de-ionised water during the rinsing process. In cases of extreme soiling sponging can be carried out from a gantry. The tapestry is still held under suction whilst being sponged, therefore there is no possibility of movement which would result in damage to weak areas of silk.

The aerosol/suction combination creates a very even and intense cleaning system with the advantage of the entire tapestry being treated simultaneously. The continuous flow through the tapestry means dirt is loosened from the fibres efficiently and then immediately drawn away avoiding the danger of re-deposition. There is no movement of the tapestry, therefore no mechanical damage from manoeuvring a wet textile can occur. The tapestry is never completely immersed in water thus avoiding dimensional change or shrinkage.

The washing control room

The washing control room

Another good property of continuously working suction is that fabrics that have undergone previous deformation can recover their shape. Irregularities in the fabric can be flattened out when it is dry and immobilised, on the suction table, before cleaning begins. This latter operation together with drying enables the old fabric to recover its original shape.

Finally the full treatment time is quite short. A tapestry measuring 45 m² can be completely dried at 30° in two hours owing to the process of uninterrupted suction over the entire fabric at the same time. If we consider that average cleaning time lasts one hour and rinsing 2.5 hours, the whole cleaning process therefore requires less than 6 hours. Any risk of hydrolysis of fragile fibres is thereby averted and the entire treatment can be constantly supervised throughout a normal working day.

Washing the Spangled Bedroom Tapestries:

Two of the tapestries, one large and one small were laid out on foam to support them on top of the mesh layer of the large suction table. The tapestries were sprayed from the top of the wash chamber, with a mist of soft water and conservation detergent while the suction from beneath drew though the wash liquid.  A sample of the wash liquid is collected throughout the treatment and tested for pH and conductivity.

Sample of the wash water

Sample of the wash water being collected.

The dirt in the tapestries is very acidic, so as the wash progressed this improves and moves toward a more neutral PH. Conductivity measures the ability of a solution to carry a current, the very black dirty water coming off the tapestry at the start of the wash had a high conductivity. This improved as the wash progressed and the water passing through the tapestry became clearer, carrying less particles and ions that could carry a current.

A video microscope mounted on a boom shows the surface of the tapestry and any especially weak areas can be closely monitored. This process lasted for around an hour. It was clear during this process that where there was glue residue on the reverse the water could not be pulled though the tapestry effectively.

Animal glue removed from back of tapestry.

Animal glue removed from back of tapestry.

Once the aerosol spray was turned off the front of the wash chamber was opened and the two conservators from De Wit were able to start gently brushing the tapestries with soft brushes to help loosen and remove the dirt and adhesive. They started by turning off the suction and rolling the tapestry on a large pipe to its centre, this allowed them to spray and brush the reverse of the tapestry rolling back as they went.

Mechanical cleaning of front of tapestry

Mechanical cleaning of front of tapestry.

Mechanical cleaning of tapestry reverse

Mechanical cleaning of tapestry reverse

They then brushed the other half of the reverse in the same way. After they had finished brushing the reverse, the suction and the aerosol spray were turned on for ten minutes to draw through the loosened dirt. After this the aerosol spray was turned off and the front was brush washed, then again the aerosol spray was applied to wash through the loosened soiling. The water used is approximately 26-28 degrees and the warmth allows the animal glue to be softened and removed. This process lasted for about 1 hour.

Following this the tapestries were rinsed for two hours. As samples of the water were collected you could clearly see how the washing process and rinsing had removed the soot, dirt and acidity from each tapestry.

Samples of wash water

Samples of wash water

The suction remained on during the drying process. Very large towels were laid across the top of the tapestries, which were then covered with a thin plastic for about 30 seconds. This process was repeated twice with the towels and twice with absorbent paper to blot a lot of the water out of the tapestries.

Drying the tapestry.

Drying the tapestry.

They were then left to dry at 30 degrees with the suction on for two hours. The complete wash and dry cycle was finished by 7pm. It was then left to rest overnight in situ. The transformation of the tapestry after cleaning was amazing – not only were the colours considerably brighter, with unsightly glue stains removed, but the tapestry was soft and pliable to touch.

The tapestries after drying.

The tapestries after drying.

After drying 4 After drying 5 After drying



Conservation of the bed hanging linings from the Spangled Bed continued throughout last year. Here’s an update from the National Trust textile conservation studio:

Humidification and wet cleaning

 Humidification of linings

The linings and satin were laid out inside a humidity tent created from a metal frame (a strawberry cage!) with a polythene sheet over to enclose the lining. A humidifier was set up inside to pump a fine water spray into the tent.

Lining relaxing in a humidity tent.

The linings were allowed to reach a humidity of 95% to allow them to relax. As the object was starting to relax glass weights were applied and it was then allowed to dry flat. Humidification resulted in the linings and satin to regain some of their lustre and body.

Wet cleaning of linings

After testing a variety of methods, detergents and buffer solutions, each piece of lining was washed in the wash table, pinned out flat and left to dry.

 An IMS : Acetone : Water (40:40:20) mix was used at the beginning of the wash to remove greasy soiling, followed by a wash bath with Dehypon LS54 (a conservation grade detergent) without a buffer and also with a buffer with a pH of 6.

The linings had an initial pH of 3.2 and was very acidic, so by introducing these different wash baths and using a buffer, which is a means of holding the pH at a steady level, we allowed the pH to be increased slowly.

Applying detergent and sponging the silk damask lining.  The lining sits on a mesh covered grid in the wash table to allow the wash and rinse solution to drain away, preventing it becoming too soft.

Applying detergent and sponging the silk damask lining. The lining sits on a mesh covered grid in the wash table to allow the wash and rinse solution to drain away, preventing it becoming too soft.

The soiling is very bound within the fibres, probably due to acidity, and proved difficult to remove through wet cleaning. Some dye loss also occurred although prior to cleaning it was noted that the ground of the silk was ‘cloudy’ where the dye had run from the crimson into the cream areas. This was probably due to the high humidity which, in combination with historic atmospheric pollution at Knole, had caused the silk to become more acidic and de-stabilised the dye. There is still some greyness to the object with striations of grey but overall the lining has improved immensely.

left to right – samples of water collected during wet cleaning process.

left to right – samples of water collected during wet cleaning process.

Removal of the silk damask and satin patches

It was decided to remove the patches to allow a more effective treatment of the satin.  Any necessary conservation treatment would have been worked through the patches causing damage and the patches would be lost as a future resource for research.

 The satin patches and the damask patches on the reverse of the satin were found to be adhered with starch paste. Damp blotting paper was placed over the patch and weighted in position. It was left for several hours allowing the glue to swell and soften. The patch could then be peeled away from the satin.

Humidifying the satin patch with dampened blotting paper.

Humidifying the satin patch with dampened blotting paper.

The patches were easy to remove and fortunately most of the adhesive came away with the patch and was not left on the curtains. The aim is to document and conserve most of the patches which will provide valuable information on some of the textiles used to furnish Knole or Copt Hall during the late 17th century.
Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above) and the patch removal complete  . Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above) and the patch removal complete

Once the satin was humidified and the adhesive softened, the satin patch could be peeled from the surface (above left) and the patch removal complete (above right).

Once the patches were removed, the satin curtain panels were humidified using the same method as for the damask linings.

 Adhesive treatment of the linings

Once washed, the damask linings had regained some of their handle and were less fragile. However they were much split and required an even, all-over support but could not withstand extensive stitching. An adhesive support was selected as the most appropriate treatment. Fine silk crepeline, a very fine gauze-like fabric, was dyed to match the damask and the crepeline was stretched out on polythene (which makes a backing film) and a 25% solution in soft water of Lascaux adhesive, (360HV and 498HV in a 2: 1 ratio) was applied with a small roller. This creates a fine adhesive backed fabric.

The damask panels were laid out and aligned and small ‘plasters’ of crepeline were used to hold distorted areas in place. Panels of adhesive crepeline were cut to shape and then applied using a roller system and laying the film evenly on to the reverse of the damask. The panels were turned face up and loose fragments were re-positioned.

Applying the adhesive coated silk crepeline to the reverse of the lining using the roller system.  The polythene backing is peeled away during the process.

Applying the adhesive coated silk crepeline to the reverse of the lining using the roller system. The polythene backing is peeled away during the process.

The adhesive film was then activated using a heat suction table and once cool the adhesive was set and the silk fixed to the support. Both linings had to be activated in two parts as they were too wide for the table.

Fixing the film to the lining on the right hand side, part of the two part activation.

Fixing the film to the lining on the right hand side, part of the two part activation.

The final stages of the treatment of the linings are to apply a dyed silk support to the reverse and dyed conservation net overlay using support stitching. This will take place once the proper right curtain linings have reached the same stage.

Note: All images © NT Textile Conservation Studio