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.
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.
The pieces that were worked on in the Studio are the upper inner valances, headcloth, upper outer valances and lower valances. The cantonnieres (narrow curtains which cover the foot posts at the end of the bed) were completed in 2004/2005, 6 head and foot curtains in 2008-2011 and the headboard in 2011.
Nine years after receiving delivery of the first parts of the James II bed for conservation, the bed was returned to Knole.
The curtains, headboard and cantonniers were sent back via our specialist couriers. The project still has another couple of years till it reaches completion, but we have decided that some parts can go back – leaving us some space in our stores.
Staff stood by waving the pieces off remembering the challenges they have faced in this project and the miraculous transformation that has happened to the parts of the bed that we have treated.