The King’s Closet – now you see it, now you don’t!

The King's Closet.

The King’s Closet.

Over the winter as a part of the last phase of our external building works, roof repairs were carried out to the flat lead roof above the Kings Closet. We were concerned about plaster and dust possibly falling into the room and damaging the fragile textiles that hang on the walls and ceiling.  So the decision was made to remove the textile on the ceiling and walls.  However before the textile conservators could come in to take down the textiles we had to clear and pack all the other contents of the room. Most of the object have gone up to our store room, but there were a couple that we could not have removed to the store room, such as the very heavy cassone and the day bed.

Removal of the textiles safely and in such a confined space was a complex operation requiring the conservators to create ingenious solutions!

Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

A ants eye view of the ceiling textile. Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

The image above shows a purpose-built frame for the space so the ceiling textile could be detached and have a surface to rest on. Zenzie Tinker, textile conservator, and her colleagues spent several days planning and then taking down the textiles.

The removal of the tassel fringing begins. Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Zenzie gets up close and personal with the fringing! Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

The red ceiling fabric is a silk taffeta, probably late 18th century and was found to be an old window blind that has been reused. Not an unusual

Zenzie begins to remove the tacks holding up the ceiling textile.  Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

One end of the ceiling textile is unattached and resting on the specially built support frame. One half to go! Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Once the ceiling textile was fully detached it was carried out on a supporting dust sheet in to the Cartoon Gallery ready to be packed. Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Now to start removing the wall textile.

Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

As the wall textile is detached it is carefully rolled on to a supportive tube to prevent as much physical stress to the textile from occurring. Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

An unknown door was revealed as the textile came off. Another mystery to solve! Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

An unknown door was revealed as the textile came off. Another mystery to solve! Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Once on the supportive tube the textile can be safely transported out of the room. Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Just the textile attached to the door to go! Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

The textiles were extremely dusty and fragile, with holes and areas of insect damage.

The textiles were all taken up to our conservation store where they were surface cleaned and condition checked before being carefully packed for long term storage.

Where the textile has been protected from light and dust the original vivid green colour can be seen.

Image copyright of Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd.

Three different green wall textiles have been used in the room, one is late 17th century, another is coarser and c 1720-30 and there is a fragment that is c 1740-60.  Two different braids were found. The earliest is a flat braid, probably contemporary with the 17th century textile; the later is a woollen bobble braid which is probably 19th century.
All the textiles are now safely in store and will be reinstated once they have been conserved as part of the Inspired by Knole project.

Siobhan and Emily

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