Dunham Massey Chairs

These are three chairs from a set of ten from the Green Saloon at Dunham Massey.

The chairs are upholstered in a rust / cinnamon coloured silk voided velvet which has deteriorated over the years. The chairs came to us very dusty and dirty with pile on the velvet missing and holes in the silk fabric.

Images of deterioration from chairs – pre conservation.

Our task with these chairs includes:

  • vacuum the surfaces with a conservation vac
  • support holes with a purpose dyed silk crepeline
  • for large areas of damage patch with an adhesive treated dyed silk fabric
  • make safe the damaged areas
  • support the braids
  • protect with a layer of dyed net

Check out for a detail of the conservation treatment.

Chairs after conservation

Chairs after conservation

The Great Hangings Project – Hardwick Hall

The Penelope hanging is a large 16th century appliquéd wall hanging made for the Countess of Shrewsbury at Chatsworth, and displayed at Hardwick since the late 16th c. Originally there was a set of five, although only four hangings now survive, each depicting noblewomen from history and mythology, flanked by personifications of the Virtues. Penelope was the faithful wife of Ulysses and the virtues of patience and perseverance which she embodies are represented by the figures either side of her.  These hangings are rare examples of the rich and sumptuous textiles used for interior decoration and have been studied and published by the textile historian Santina Levy.


From 1909 to the present they have been displayed in large glazed frames.  Due to their age and fragility their deteriorating condition the hangings have been a concern for some years.  A grant from the Wolfson Foundation has enabled the Conservation Studio to undertake the treatment of the ‘Penelope’ hanging as a feasibility study, to inform the future approach and display for the remaining hangings.

Penelope hanging details before conservation

This treatment involves stabilising the fragile and brittle silk with an overlay of conservation grade nylon net.  One of the keys to the success of this treatment is to match the dyed colour of the nylon net to the subtle differences in tone of the original silks.  The nylon net is stitched in place using a very fine polyester thread.  In areas which are too brittle to stitch through without causing further damage, such as the faces, a fine silk chiffon coated with adhesive has be used to stabilise the fragile painted silk.

details composite ac

Details after conservation of Penelope

Check out for detailed updates on the conservation treatment process.

Hardwick Hall Screens with Personifications and Motifs c. 1580’s

This screen panel is one double sided leaf from a four part screen. The embroideries date to the 1580’s and date from the same period as the Penelope hanging. Although mounting in the screens and the black velvet are early 20th century alteration.


The reverse panel is decorated with motifs, which possibly originate from a Church cope.  The front panel depicts four embroidered arches or portals, each with a needlepoint ‘mask’ at the apex of the arch.  In the top three arches is an appliqué and embroidered female figure (personification).

The materials used in the embroideries are of the finest and most luxurious dyed silks and wools, woven and embroidered with metal threads and silk floss.  When made they would have been very expensive.

Composite of screens before conservation

The embroidered details had suffered some damage, mostly in the form of loose and deteriorating metal threads, and the brittle silk used for the faces and hands was beginning to shatter.

Dyed net and Stabiltex have been used over the damaged areas, and a fine polyester Scala thread was used to secure the fabric and any loose threads.

The screens are currently awaiting alteration of the frames from a furniture conservator to allow more space and stop the embroideries from touching the glass.

Composite after conservation

Composite after conservation

Scipio – Hardwick Hall

James II bed – Knole, Kent

The James II bed, one of three state beds at Knole in Kent has a long history. It was comissioned on the 24th August 1688 during the short reign of James II, by the ‘Master of the Wardrobe’ in Whitehall – to supply ‘a bedd of greene and gold figured Velvet with Scarlet and white silke fringe…..two armed chaires and six Stooles as the same Stuffe as the Bedd’

After the Kings exile to France in December 1688 the bed was acquired by Charles, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638-1706) in 1695 and arrived to furnish the State rooms at Knole in 1701.

Dust, dirt, light exposure and relative humidity as well as previous conservation treatment carried out in the 1960s by the Rural Industries Bureau has meant that this 300 year old bed needed urgent and extensive conservation / restoration work to make it through the next 100 years.

Details of James II bed before conservation

Work on this project began cautiously in 2004 to establish the best treatment.

It was found that the glue could be removed, the fragile silk velvet could be washed and then supported onto new fabrics. This has revived the silk velvet and restored some of the original splendor.

We are working towards completing the bed in 2015. Check out for updates.

3 thoughts on “Projects

  1. Pingback: The James II Bed | The Knole Conservation Team Blog

  2. Pingback: Projects update | Textile Conservation Studio

  3. Pingback: Hardwick screens – a meeting of conservators | Textile Conservation Studio

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