Decanting the Collection


Welcome back to the Knole Conservation Blog. As followers of the blog may already be aware, we are in the midst of an ongoing conservation project here at Knole. This has kept us pretty busy over the past couple of months with no signs of slowing down.

The project itself combines the construction of a new Conservation Studio with extensive work in the Showrooms to improve heating, lighting and the general display of the collection. It’s the Showrooms work that we’re looking at today. In order to gain safe access to all the necessary spaces, everything that lives in what we call the second half of the house (the Ballroom, Reynolds Room, Cartoon Gallery and King’s Room) must be removed to temporary storage.

The Cartoon Gallery at Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent

The Cartoon Gallery. Every piece of furniture and painting had to be removed from the gallery.


After a long period of preparation we began decanting the collection on 4th January. This has involved a gargantuan effort from everyone at Knole. This includes staff, volunteers, and contractors who came to help. We even had assistance from some of our neighbouring NT properties!



The Cartoon Gallery. We have even removed blinds from the windows and have had to erect temporary coverings to protect the vulnerable red textile on the walls.


The thing about National Trust houses (and all museums for that matter), is that we can’t just go around moving things on a whim. The value and fragility of the collection means that we need to keep a very careful track of where everything is going, what condition it was in when it moved, whether it was cleaned/needed cleaning etc. etc. As you can see there is a lot to do!

Dec 2015 054

The Ballroom during the cleaning, covering and documentation process.

We inspected, cleaned, documented and labeled. When this was done we were finally able to get things moving. For four weeks we have steadily worked our way through each room. First removing furniture, then paintings, carpets, tapestries and eventually even the light fixtures. You won’t recognize the house now!

Unfortunately some things have to be left in the house while the work happens around them. This is very few items and is really only things too big or heave to be easily removed. The Kings Bed, some marble tables and table tops, a harpsichord and couple of large tables are all to be left where they are. Every other piece of our collection is all gone and has been placed either in temporary storage for the coming year.

Left: The Reynolds Room after emptying. You can see gaps in the caffoy wall covering where paintings have previously hung. Right: The Cartoon Gallery with  everything removed apart from the heaviest 3 items.



Stay tuned to find out more about our big move!

Knole Conservation Team




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