The lastest edition of the National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual is all about Knole in Kent and the article on page 35 by Edward Town and Elizabeth Fryman features research into the origins of the Spangled bed that we are currently conserving.
Spangled bed discoveries Part 1
Since late 2013 we have been working on the bed curtains from the Spangled bed from Knole in Kent. This series of posts will update you on the work we have done to date.
This beautiful bed, which is covered in delicate gold and silver spangles, has been a voyage of discovery it is thought to date from the 1620’s and appears to have been commissioned by Lionel Cranfield in about 1621 and eventually arrived at Knole through the marriage of his daughter Frances to the Earl of Dorset.
Head curtain detail showing original colour and spangles beneath the net covering on a side border. The border fabric matches that of the bed coverlet and headcloth and is a different design to the vertical appliqué panels of the rst of the curtain and the foot curtain.
Detailed documentation of the make up of each curtain, the materials, fabrics and stitching patterns found will mean that their original apprearence is becoming better understood. Careful examination is revealing the complexity of the structure of the curtains which, in conjunction with research on their history before they came into the possesion of the Sackvill family, may help provide a clearer understanding of their original use.
Coarse red net encases the curtains and work started in early 2014 to unpick this net and the stitch repairs which have been worked through all the layers. The linings are extremely fragile and are very rare early damask which has been dated to between 1585 and 1610. The initial plan was to remove the lining, wet clean them and mount them onto support fabric whilst further test are undertaken on the satin silk.
Conservators removing the heavy net layer (left) and the fragile and splitting damsk lining of the head curtain (right)
Spangled bed discoveries Part 2
Following on from our previous blog post about the conservation work we are undertaking on the curtains from the Spangled bed in Knole. Here is another update on some of the work that has been completed:
By April 2014 the coarse red net had been removed from the back of both curtains, previous stitch repairs had been removed and the curtains had been carefully deconstructed into their lining and crimson silk satin.
Removing the linings was a slow process due to their fragmentary nature and ‘crisp’ handle, and several areas required netting and tracings taken prior to removal.
This has revealed several fascinating finds. The curtains have been patched with six different types of damask patches, a linen patch and a plain silk patch. All of the patches appear to have had former uses. There is evidence of seams, lockstitches and darning repairs which are unrelated to areas in the curtain.
Proper Left Foot curtain – (viewed with the top of the curtain at the bottom of the page) showing seven types of different patches.
The position of the patches at the top of the curtains suggests that the curtains have been turned around with the patched damage having been originally at the hem. This is confirmed by the discovery of previous ring attachments at the bottom of the curtain, above the lower border. These would have been the original ring fixing points used to hang the curtains, and they may also be the original ring fixing from a previous use, thought to have been wall hangings (see image below, the white squares indicating ring attachment points).
There are several types and styles of seams throughout both curtains, including machine stitching, indicating there are several periods of repair and reconstruction.
Another yellow damask, of a different design to that used for patching the foot curtain, was also found at the heading of the head curtain as pieces, and attached to the right side lining panel as a narrow strip finishing as a wider panel at the hem. It suggests that the yellow damask was originally a full length panel seamed to the two colour damask lining and was cut away during a later period of repair and reconstruction.
The next stage of treatment is to construct a humidity chamber to relax the curtains and linings before wet cleaning is carried out following further tests.
Find out more about the Spangled bed from our National Trust Collections online.