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Otley residents visit Harewood House to honour Thomas Chippendale.

Chippendale 300

The statue of Thomas Chippendale in Otley by Graham Ibeson

Over 500 residents from the market town of Otley in West Yorkshire visited Harewood House on 5 June, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Master Carpenter, Thomas Chippendale’s baptism. Residents were invited from Chippendale’s birthplace to visit the House and Estate for free, as part of a celebration of the wider exhibition currently running across the Estate.

Happy Baptism Day Mr Chippendale – Celebrating the Tercentenary of the Baptism of Thomas Chippendale on 5 June in Otley and at Harewood.

In this third Blog from Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Adviser, we hear about Otley Day at Harewood House and the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner on 5th June.

Over the last few weeks, driving through the Yorkshire town of Otley on the River Wharfe, the Chippendale 300 bunting and banners strewn across the streets have proclaimed the tercentenary of Thomas Chippendale, one of the market town’s most famous sons. The celebrations really started on 5th June 2018, which marked the tercentenary of the cabinetmaker’s baptism at All Saints Parish Church 300 years ago. I set off early to Otley en route to Harewood, that morning in glorious summer sunshine and found an atmosphere of real excitement on market day.

I headed for All Saints Church, which is little changed since the 18th century, to see the new exhibition The Life of Thomas Chippendale, 2018, which runs throughout the month of June. There I found informative storyboards and visitors to the town, eagerly embracing the new Visit Otley Chippendale Trail walking map. And I met enthusiastic Otley resident Meg Morton, who was busy putting up posters for the Baptism Concert that evening, Musick for a Summer Evening with soprano Joanne Dexter and the Chippendale Singers. We considered together the current font with the announcement about his baptism, but sadly admitted that this was not the original font used for his actual baptism!

Chippendale 300

Otley resident Meg Morten enjoying the exhibition The life of Thomas Chippendale with Ann Sumner at All Saints Church on 5 June

Thomas Chippendale was the son of John Chippendale, a carpenter and joiner in Otley and Mary Drake the daughter of a local stonemason, who married in July 1715. It is thought that Thomas was born in a cottage where the Skipton Building Society is now on Boroughgate. In actuality, we know frustratingly little about his early childhood. I moved on to The Old Grammar School, where it is probable that the young Thomas received an early education. Outside is the statue of Chippendale by Graham Ibeson, the Barnsley sculptor. The building, originally Prince Henry’s Grammar School, is now the Stew and Oyster pub and upstairs there is a special splendid display of photographs of some of Chippendale’s most famous pieces of sculpture including Harewood’s famous wine cooler from the Dining Room suite. The pub hosted a light-hearted birthday party for Chippendale with a quiz and period folk music on the previous Saturday and guests dressed in 18th century costume.

Conservation in action

The in-house Conservation team at Harewood working on the Chippendale Wall borders during the Conservation in Action demonstration on Otley Day held at Harewood 5 June 2018

After chatting to some fascinated visitors, who had come especially to pay homage to the great man, I drove on to Harewood, just 7 miles from Chippendale’s home town, along with many other Otley residents. To mark the Baptism Day at Harewood House, where the Chippendale firm secured their largest commission, free entry was offered to the people of his home town. And they came in their droves to see the exhibition Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator, Decorator. Visitors looked at the exhibition which explores the remarkable achievements of Chippendale at Harewood including the innovative mirrored display of the superb the Diana and Minerva commode. They particularly enjoyed the conservation in action demonstration by our in-house conservation team who were working on sections of wall borders which were used to cover the edges of both paper and cloth wall coverings by the Chippendale firm where they met dado rails, architraves and door cases. These borders were extremely expensive. At Harewood each room had a different elaborate border which cost 20 – 25 shillings for 4 feet (1.2 m) which was the equivalent for one week’s wages for a cabinetmaker at the time.

During the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to lead a tour of the exhibitions for Otley residents who were enormously enthusiastic about Thomas and his workshop’s activity furnishing the rooms here at Harewood and the range of skills they observed in the superb furniture on display. There was a real sense of pride amongst those on my tour, during which we considered how early tourists and visitors from the preacher John Wesley to the pastel portrait painter John Russell had reacted to the lavish new interiors. At the end I asked some residents what they thought of the interiors and furniture by Chippendale today, 300 years after his birth? Originally some tourists loved the interiors while others were not so enamoured and that was just the same today!

Here is some of the feedback:
‘I loved all the glitz and glamour – all the gold’

‘We are here to support the old man from Otley’

‘I really admired the craftsmanship but overall it’s a bit fussy and over the top for me!’

‘I think it is more for looking at than reclining on’ (reference to the State Bed)

There was just time to dash home to change and then it was off to Otley again – passing All Saints Church where people were arriving for the concert, we were heading on for the Otley Golf Club where the Annual Chippendale Dinner was being held.

Chippendale 300

Beckie Burton, Collections Assistant at Harewood House Trust, with Ann Sumner at the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner 2018.

Always a lovely venue, that evening the weather was beautiful and the views were stunning, so guests enjoyed drinks on the terrace outside and admired the Baptism Cake, chatting to Adam Bowett the Chairman and Peggy Pullen, the in-coming Membership Secretary of the Chippendale Society. We awaited the arrival of our speaker, the Chippendale scholar Antony Coleridge, renowned since writing his book Chippendale Furniture: The Works of Thomas Chippendale and his Contemporaries in the Rococo Style. We enjoyed a good meal before his after dinner speech.

Anthony reminded us that his great great uncle was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who also had the same kind of love affair with Yorkshire that Anthony himself enjoyed, as he praised the great Chippendale commissions at Nostell Priory and Harewood House. After a fascinating survey of his experiences of Chippendale throughout his career he was thanked by Lord St Oswald, President of the Chippendale Society, who praised his passion for his subject and the eloquent way in which pieces of furniture were described, reminding us that Thomas Chippendale’s name was associated with exquisite furniture and perfection and that all of us, gathered together on such a beautiful evening in Otley for a very special occasion, were passionate about Chippendale’s achievements.

While coffee was served, I was fortunate enough to catch up with James Lomax, Honorary Curator of the Chippendale Society and co-curator of the brilliant exhibition in Leeds Thomas Chippendale 1718 – 1779: A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design. We chatted about the Society and achievements of the Chippendale 300 programme this year so far, over a piece of the Baptism cake, which was baked in Otley by the Patisserie Viennoise.

Chippendale 300

Ann Sumner enjoys an after-dinner conversation with James Lomax at the Chippendale Society Annual Dinner at Otley Golf Club

Ann: James, you have recently researched the history of The Chippendale Society which was founded in 1965 and I wonder have these annual dinners been held on his Baptism Day since the 1960s and has this for you been one of the most memorable occasions?

James: You could almost say that the Chippendale Society began life as a dining club! In 1963 a well-known Otley figure, Thomas Pickles, announced in the local paper that he was organising a dinner on 5th June to commemorate Chippendale’s birthday and invited anyone interested to apply for tickets. It was so successful, not least with the numerous people in the area named ‘Chippendale’, that it was repeated the following year. When the Society was formed in 1965 the dinner became an annual event and one of the main events on the calendar. We’ve always had a well-known personality to speak as our guest of honour and we were particularly keen to ask Anthony Coleridge this tercentenary year as he is without doubt the most distinguished scholar on everything to do with Chippendale whose magnificent study first appeared in 1968.

Ann: The Society aims to promote the appreciation and study of the work of Thomas Chippendale and the tercentenary year has been a busy one for you all. Tell us how the Society have specifically promoted the achievements of Thomas Chippendale senior and about some of the highlights for the Chippendale Society thus far in 2018.

James: The Society was well aware that the tercentenary was approaching and lobbied hard for a major exhibition! Fortunately Leeds Museums and Galleries were also keen to promote one of the area’s local heroes so we began a fruitful partnership which has resulted in the present exhibition. To date it has attracted nearly 40,000 visitors and has been a great success.

At the same time the Society took the lead in initiating a wider project intending to promote Chippendale. Thus the Chippendale300 project was born – a partnership of 14 different historic houses and organisations who all have their own programmes focussing on the great man. A Steering Group set up an excellent website which included a message of welcome from Prince Charles. Our events, exhibitions, lectures, workshops and publications are promoted on it and news stories. The programme continues to grow every day!

Ann: Today has been a great day in Otley, culminating in the dinner here. Tell us something about what we know about Chippendale’s family in Otley three hundred years ago, who were they and what do we know of his early life here?

James: We don’t know an awful lot about Chippendale’s life in Otley before he left for York and London, although a certain amount can be surmised. His family had been joiners, carpenters, builders and surveyors in Wharfedale for several generations and this was his essential background. He had no immediate siblings until his father married again and produced a new family who continued to live and work in Otley in this line of business until the 1960s. I did once see a white van inscribed with the words ‘Chippendale – Builders, Joiners, Shopfitters’.

Ann: We are here in Otley tonight and I’ve really enjoyed my day in the town and at Harewood. What would you recommend a Chippendale enthusiast see in Otley.

James: Your first port of call should be Graham Ibbeson’s statue of Chippendale in Manor Square beside the Old Manor once Prince Henry’s Grammar School where Chippendale might have gone to school. Then to the Parish Church where he was baptised, with some good early Georgian vernacular furnishings which were the sort of thing Chippendale’s family might have supplied. Then there is the site of his father’s premises in Boroughgate marked with a blue plaque where Chippendale might have been born, and in Bondgate there are the Chippendale Tea Rooms in the house owned by Chippendale’s uncle, a schoolmaster. And one can wander round the narrow streets of the old part of the town to soak up the atmosphere of an early Georgian market town which gave birth to a genius.

Ann: Today at Harewood we have opened our doors to Otley residents and I had the privilege to take a group on a tour of the exhibition Designer, Maker, Decorator this afternoon. Everyone seemed very proud of the Chippendale heritage and I wonder do you think this awareness has increased in the town over the last few months? Driving through I’ve noticed all the bunting!

James: It’s really very exciting to see how the people of Otley have pulled out all the stops to mark the tercentenary of one of its famous sons. It is great to hear of the birthday party thrown on Saturday, the sell-out concert and especially how many of them came to Harewood today and enjoyed your exhibitions. Throughout June there’s an ongoing festival, Celebrating Chippendale, in Otley with a host of different events and there is a concert going on even as we speak.

Ann: The Chippendale Society has done so much to raise awareness of Thomas Chippendale and his son Thomas over the past 50 years and particularly this year. What more can we look forward to in the second half of the tercentenary year?

James: The exhibition at Leeds Museum which ends on 9th June was a ‘warm up’ for the different events taking place over the rest of the summer around the country. At Harewood there’s a new display of one of Chippendale’s greatest masterpieces, the Diana and Minerva Commode and a long lost mirror from the White Drawing Room; at Nostell, Paxton and Burton Constable there are exhibitions exploring his work at these houses; an exhibition at Paxton House opened today and there are lecture series and study days at Dumfries House, Weston Park and Firle Place. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the V&A Museum have arranged new displays and the former are publishing (for the first time) all Chippendale’s brilliant drawings for the first edition of his great book, The Director. We are so pleased to hear that funding has been secured for the symposium comparing the Harewood and Paxton commissions on 29 September at Paxton which will be fascinating.

Ann: Thank you James so much for your time tonight which I really appreciate. It’s been a wonderful day with so much enthusiasm for Thomas Chippendale’s work 300 years after his birth.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

Examining our rare Axminster Carpet in preparation for conservation

Visit Yorkshire to see rare Axminster Carpets

Harewood House is well known for its outstanding art collections. Each object requires care and attention to manage and conserve it; from smaller items such as clocks and porcelain to the huge, intricate Robert Adam ceilings, every single part of the collection must be cared for and maintained.

Harewood’s Yellow Drawing Room carpet is centuries old and has survived for over 200 years. This particular carpet is one of only eight in existence which are still housed in the original Robert Adam design scheme making it an important object to protect and conserve. This is a complex carpet with needlepatch repairs and discolouration in places – while the pile has worn away the knots have survived well. It is a heavy textile which takes a great deal of specialist care to move. This winter, a team of textile experts from across Britain have been looking at the carpet in more detail. May Berkouwer, Textile Conservator and Consultant led the work supported by Dr Crosby Stevens (Textile Conservator).

In order for the conservators to have the space to fully inspect the carpet, it was necessary to move it into the Gallery, the most spacious room in Harewood House. First of all, the carpet had to be carefully rolled, moved and turned over. With age, textiles can dry out which causes the fibres to become brittle. This means that any movement has the potential to cause damage. Under the watchful eye of May Berkouwer, a team of 10 Harewood staff slowly, inch by inch, rolled the carpet for transportation before repeating the process, unrolling it again so that the carpet could be mapped right side up and from the reverse.

By mapping the carpet, the conservators will be able to assess not only the repairs but also the lining and what conservation work is needed to preserve this fascinating textile. A grid pattern was created with over 35 sections by May Berkouwer and her colleague Crosby Stevens. Each section was photographed and reviewed enabling a full spectrum of damage to be assessed and a complete record of previous restoration attempts to be compiled, creating a historical chronology for the carpet. Vacuuming took place and dust samples were taken and fastness tests carried out to test resistance of fibres to eventual treatments.

The results of the final report will start to help Harewood answer important questions about the carpets future and enable us to make curatorial decisions, with expert advice, as we apply for funding to cover the cost of conservation.

This year we will open with the carpet rolled with an update for visitors on the progress we have made researching the carpet.

See a time lapse of the carpet being rolled on our YouTube Channel

Wild at Harewood

Visit Harewood Estate to see native wildlife in Yorkshire

The importance of biodiversity and the continued challenges faced by climate change have long been in the headlines. Natural space is under increasing pressure from many conflicting uses and Harewood is no different. The grade 1 listed parkland, designed by “Capability” Brown, has remained largely unchanged since its creation in the late 18th century with Hebridean sheep still rearing their lambs here in spring. So how is biodiversity fairing here and what is are we doing to manage it?

In 2015, the British Trust for Ornithology publicised a document, Birds of Conservation Concern 4, which reviewed the status of birds in the UK. 30% of the 244 species assessed were assigned to the Red List of Conservation Concern. A quick cross check shows that more than 75 of the species listed as Red or Amber have been seen at Harewood, and almost 50 of them occur here regularly. This includes woodcock, lapwing, curlew, grey partridge, tree sparrow, skylark and cuckoo.

Work to conserve and protect our native bird life has been top of the agenda for many years at Harewood. The successful reintroduction of red kites to the Harewood Estate in 1999 has been one of the most prominent and best known. We’re pleased to say that the kites moved to the green list for the first time; this enigmatic and majestic raptor has been allowed to recover sufficiently to be down listed, one of the great British conservation success stories.

Clearly Harewood has an important role to play in the conservation of these species. Our farming and woodland operations are already factoring in safeguarding space for these and many other species. The creation of wetlands and hedgerows are just two examples of biodiversity projects which have enriched the local flora, fauna and wildlife at Harewood.

It’s not just birds you can find here, we have a near full complement of native mammals too! Harewood’s Deer Park holds both red and fallow deer, with the shy Roe also living in our woodlands. Autumn is the best time to see the rutt when male deer assert their dominance over the herd, with the red stags being particularly vocal. Pastures throughout the Estate support badgers, foxes and hedgehogs, while in our waterways lurk the elusive otters and water voles.

Spring is perhaps my favourite time to see wildlife at Harewood as the woodlands come alive with bluebells and snowdrops, and new shoots of green growth sprout from ancient oaks, beech and chestnut trees. Walking around the bridleways you can hear the drumming of woodpeckers and the mewing of kites and buzzards high overhead. Barn owls can also been seen hunting in the early evening as they find food for their already well grown chicks.

So biodiversity is doing well here, but the days of a country estate just being managed as somewhere idyllic for a privileged few to stroll around and enjoy the views are long gone. We’re a modern estate with business interests and a number of competing obligations. We have a successful farming company, managing the land in partnership with neighbouring farmers. Most recently, we invested in a major green energy project, which uses wood chip from our own woodland to heat offices and residences across the estate including Harewood House itself. This makes good business sense and it’s positive for the environment too. We are now managing our woodlands in a more hands on way that considers the needs of the wildlife that lives here.

Across all our operations were striving to protect and enhance our habitats and create a well-managed landscape that balances the needs of biodiversity and business in a sustainable way.

See wildlife footage on our YouTube channel

 

Winter in the Bird Garden and Farm

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm After a very busy summer season and the late rush of Autumn Glory during the October half term, it has suddenly become very quiet in the Bird Garden and Farm. Zucchini and Zebedee the alpacas have moved to a field on the Estate to give their enclosure on Farm a break. The pygmy goats have also moved with them.

Despite the lack of visitors and Farm animals, the workload has not decreased as we have now entered the busy closed season where we have begun our winter projects. This starts off with clearing all the leaves which have fallen onto the paths, paddocks and even in the penguin pool! No small task.

Several of the aviary sheds and roofs are being repaired or maintained and two aviaries are being completely replaced. We are going to extend the farm animal paddocks onto the South Front which is the large field below the Terrace to allow the farm animals extra room, the rabbits and guinea pigs will be getting new larger outdoor pens and the Chilean flamingos will be getting a new lakeside fence. All in all, there is much work to be done this winter!

If you visited us in the summer holidays you would have met our two young donkeys Lady and Max, who are our two most recent arrivals to the Farm. Since arriving they have settled in well and have become very friendly (although much of that is down to food I suspect!), allowing us to groom them, put them into head collars and lift their front feet for cleaning. We are still working on the back feet!

Another big character you might have already met is Molly our Moluccan cockatoo. Molly is actually a boy, but was originally thought to be female by his owners who very kindly donated him to the Bird Garden earlier in the year. He can be found in the aviary opposite the donkeys where he keeps visitors highly entertained by imitating their laughter and talking to them, as well as showing off his salmon coloured crest.

This year we have had a reasonably good breeding season with another Palm cockatoo chick fledging in October. This species is part of a European wide breeding programme and Harewood Bird Garden is one of the few collections that is successfully breeding them, a fact we are very proud of. It’s down the skill and care that the team and I provide which makes this possible.

The Eurasian eagle owl chicks are now are now the same size as mum and dad and I am currently in the process of finding new homes for the three of them. This species is in fact one of the world’s largest owls with a wing span up to 188cm (6ft 2 in)!

Our pair of brown lorys also laid their first eggs this year and although the chick sadly did not survive it was a promising start for them.

We will have a few new arrivals in the Bird Garden for the upcoming season including two Satyr tragopan, a Nepalese pheasant that will go into our Himalayan aviaries, a female Bali starling which his critically endangered will also be on show. We’re happy to report she has already paired up with our male. I hope to bring in a few more new species in the New Year.

As a licenced zoo, Harewood has a responsibility to support research, education and conservation. Earlier this year we have welcomed two students from Leeds University who carried out a study on the Humboldt penguin colony. They studied the bird’s behaviour and then introduced feeding puzzles containing the penguin’s favourite food (sprats) to assess their foraging capabilities and whether birds learned these skills from one another. They have now finished their study and we are eagerly awaiting the write up and subsequent findings.

Olivier Nesengimana, a Rwandan vet visited Harewood Bird Garden in August and gave our visitors, staff and volunteers an inspiring talk on his project ‘Saving Rwanda’s Crowned Cranes’. We have recently started supporting this project which aims to rescue crowned cranes that have been illegally poached from their native habitat in Rwanda and then rehabilitate them back into the wild. It truly is a fascinating and humbling project. To hear about how one man has made it his mission to conserve and protect this majestic bird is something we will never forget. His drive and determination to motivate the Rwandan people and the authorities is immensely inspiring and we look forward to supporting this project further in 2017.

We hope to team up with Leeds University again and look at other ideas that might help Olivier in his work, such as eco-tourism trips to see wild cranes in Rwanda. Olivier was recently in London for the prestigious Tusk Conservation Awards for which he was a nominee. The event is highly regarded in this field and was attended by the likes of Prince William and Sir David Attenborough. A justified accolade for this project.

Axminster at Harewood: Ethical Debate

Harewood House has an axminster carpet

Debate entitled: “What are the challenges of applying conservation ethics while balancing historical authenticity with aesthetic appearance?”

Chaired by: Professor Ann Sumner (Historic Collections Advisor at Harewood House)

Panel:

  • Caroline Carr-Whitworth (CC), (Collections Curator, Art for English Heritage)
  • Dr Crosby Stevens (CS), (Textile Conservator)
  • Dr Chrissie Freeth (CF), (Tapestry Weaver)
  • Frances Hartog (FH), (Senior Textile Conservator at the V&A)

Panel asked by Ann Sumner (AS) for initial thoughts and comments regarding the debate question*:

 *All following quotes are not verbatim but a summary of the most interesting and relevant points

Caroline Carr-Whitworth (CCW): (Talking about Brodsworth Hall’s conservation display) Current building works have allowed us to concentrate on conservation issues and particularly problems that have been caused by the works, as well as the building’s lack of maintenance over time that has led to water and light damage to the carpets etc.

  • Brodsworth have implemented a whole series of interpretation throughout the House, making use of boards that are currently up to protect objects against the building work. Differences between the interpretations at Brodsworth to Harewood: they are showing a carpet fragment from the store which had a pier table stood over it for many years so that the bit of the carpet underneath has retained a lot of its earlier (not necessarily original) colour.
  • Because Brodsworth has very faded 19th century interiors and it is perhaps difficult for people to understand the vibrancy of those interiors when first furnished, this fragment on display helps people to understand the colours as they would once have looked. The other picture shows another fragment of a carpet border that was trapped underneath a sculpture plinth which has also been put on display.
  • All the carpets at Brodsworth have been frozen washed, they also have carpets that have been chopped up and have had sticky tape stuck to the back of them etc. and these fragments on display for the first time communicate to visitors the type of conservation issues Brodsworth are dealing with. A very close parallel can be drawn between this and Harewood, where the carpet has been turned upside down to admit to the problems it has. It is good to highlight issues and involve the public in them.

AS: And it is also about engagement with audiences and what brings them in to a relationship with the carpet. The panel talked earlier at lunch about how people will look much differently at a painting or a piece of furniture to a carpet and I think it really helps with engagement to be able to talk about some conservation issues, things that might not have occurred to the public.

Dr Crosby Stevens (CS):

  • I went to the ICON conference recently and one thing that came up was the notion of encouraging visitors and going on a journey with them towards a greater historic literacy so that we can have more nuanced thinking about authenticity or originality. These discussions can then be opened up to the public and people will have more subtle views of what they are looking at and that can help us with decision making.

Frances Hartog (FH):

  • My overwhelming thought is that it is fantastic to find carpets that were woven for the original design of the room and are still there. What is extraordinary about these carpets is that they have survived. But they are organic, so they will deteriorate and whatever you do, whether you decide to restore or conserve, that aging process and the deterioration process will carry on.
  • You can slow it down by hopefully a couple of hundred years or so with good care but it just would seem an enormous shame to roll them up and put them into storage because to educate the public, they really enjoy seeing something that is original and these are real rarities. There are very few Axminsters still in existence in the original interiors they were woven for, so I feel that is their unique importance.

Dr Chrissie Freeth (CF):

  • Initially I thought of course its repairs have to stay, they are its honourable scars and part of its story, but then the more I found out about the carpet and the damage those repairs are doing to it I realised that, as they are threatening its longevity, there is a really strong case for it to come out. I would come and visit these carpets as an artist and craftsperson, to come and see the handiwork of my craft ancestors, to see what they have done, as it is their way of communicating with us and what they have left behind for us, a dialogue. If you were to have a replica that is a very different conversation that one would be having with very different people and for me that would be of much less value.
  • With regards to a project with the Stirling tapestries, whilst one tapestry was being woven behind the scenes in the studio another was being woven full-time in front of the public, full-time for people to watch and it had a huge public engagement impact and I think that is something that should be thought about here.
  • We have talked about authenticity and the weavers of the Stirling tapestries would argue that the authenticity lay in the experience of the makers because they were basically using the same techniques that were used to make the original tapestries, but with these carpets that would be quite different because presumably their making has moved on quite considerably from hand-weaving to machinery. Whilst there may be an argument for spending resources on making reproductions , would this not also be a great opportunity to invite some artists to come and reinterpret the room and carpets and come up with some more contemporary designs to be made rather than reweaving what is already there.

AS: We are certainly thinking about and have planned some contemporary responses. We’ve mentioned a couple of times now the question of historic repairs, can I ask you Crosby to say a little about this whole question of whether we actually remove historic repairs to reduce further physical and structural damage to the carpet, and what your experience was of actually finding out more about these historical repairs as we moved the carpet. The carpet was moved for the first time in twenty years and it really was a major undertaking for all of us in the department. It did very much reveal some fascinating background information to the history of the carpet and the repairs in particular.

 CS:

  • The main thing to say about the repairs is that if you take time to look at the carpet in detail you begin to realise that there are an awful lot of them. Some blend in quite well and some stand out, particularly that bright yellow yarn which in patches is very obvious. The less obvious ones just cover a very large amount of the carpet and it isn’t clear without further analysis how many of them are covering over original knots and how many of them are covering over holes. Any conservation treatment has to be very sensitive to what it is you are conserving. Are the repairs important? There is also the question of stability and characterisation of the carpet, which is a multi-layered object.
  • It is not at all unusual when you begin to look at textiles that you end up having different textures and different yarns from different periods.

AS: Caroline do you have any further thoughts about repairs and how you have treated them in your experience?

CCW:

  • At Brodsworth we have tended to take a very gentle approach in order to keep the whole history of the object. Whilst there have been a couple of cases, particularly with wall silks, in which if the later repairs are causing damage we have removed them, generally we have taken the approach of saying we are conserving the whole history of the object and interiors.
  • I wondered whether maybe the public can take a bit of inconsistencies, as long as the House is honest in explaining what it is they are looking at. It needs to be explained more, perhaps it is already by guides.

AS: We have introduced a carpet talk this year a few times a week with the hope that we particularly emphasise the context of these carpets. We have been really encouraged by the number of people taking the time to write comments in the visitor’s book and questionnaire. We are very pleased with the public engagement so far and feel we would like to emphasise the carpets a lot more. We also had an interesting day at Chatsworth learning about how they approach and interpret their carpets. It is early days but we are moving forward. Frances do you have any comments about this whole question of repairs and the different approaches in the museum setting to a country house?

  • FH: It isn’t entirely different because there are still the physical aspects of the carpet you are conserving but also why you are conserving it, and presumably it is for its aesthetic value. But there has to be a balance. I have never worked on a carpet where there has been a strict rule regarding how the conservation will go, as you need a very thorough survey and to decide what is damaging and what isn’t and if it isn’t, why are you removing it, is it aesthetically unacceptable. You can’t make fast rules and say you are going to remove all the repairs if they don’t all need removing. You have to think twice about whether you are going to solubilise them or can you just do it mechanically.
  • It is very difficult at the beginning of a project to stand back from the carpet and say exactly how you are going to treat it. The biggest problem with this particular carpet is its size, which makes it very logistically challenging. It is enormous and fragile.

CS:

  • I have only done an overview and started to look at individual areas in order to look towards a conservation map, but it is a big step in the work and decision making. There are a limited number of options to what we can maybe do. The key to its conservation depends on use. Is it going to be walked on a little or a lot or not at all, because there will be future damages to take into account. There will also be huge budgeting and financial considerations.

AS: This is perhaps why replica carpets have been suggested, not in the YDR where we wouldn’t anticipate walking on the carpet but maybe in the Music Room. There are aesthetic reasons why a replica might sound an interesting idea and how one would produce it would also be interesting. Crosby would you like to say anything about how a replica could be used? There is the question of would you want to go so far as to roll a carpet regularly and have it in store.

  • CS: The practicalities of rolling a very large delicate carpet are huge. You could conserve the carpet to whatever level and then roll and store it, or you could conserve it minimally, but either way it is very fragile and the process of actually rolling it is very tricky and difficult. It would need to be thought through very carefully how often you would intend to roll and unroll, where you would put it to be stored and the effects to the carpets. A good example is Axminster at Brodsworth which has a replica in the main entrance hall.

CCW:

  • But the original in store has so many holes in it and hasn’t been conserved because of its size. It has been rolled up for many years without being checked, which raises issues of why are we even keeping it in the store? But it is the original to the House.

CS:

  • You almost reduce their meaning by taking them out of the room because they are part of that decoration.

AS: We don’t have the right storage facilities and are currently looking for an option in which the carpet would return to the room and we would roll it as informed. There has to be a balance. We didn’t move it for twenty years but then how can you find out about its condition and record it if it isn’t moved? For a long-term solution we are looking at wanting to maintain the originals in those rooms. What would you say about the mapping process? It’s incredibly important to record all aspects of conservation.

CS:

  • You need to get to know the object extremely well and understand every part of it. Whether that is by drawing or computer programs etc.

AS: This is also fertile ground for contemporary practitioners to respond as part of that mapping process. Do you have any specific examples of works in which you have responded to in situ works and have engaged with visitors?

CF:

  • At East Riddleston there was a tapestry loom at the end of the corridor to which the public were very welcome to come very close and engage with what was going on. The item that was woven and subsequently hung in the area where it was woven was very much a response to the property, the research and the history of the House and the people who lived there as well as the very large textile collection on display. Historic houses are such a rich vein for artists and craftspeople to draw from.

INTERACTION WITH THE PUBLIC

AS: I am now going to throw over to the public to ask any questions they might have as a result of what we have spoken about.

Public: Have you done any dye-analysis on the carpets?

AS: No but that is certainly an area we are going to look into feeding back from this debate. It is clearly an important part of our mapping to include some dye analysis because we want to give as much help to the workshops as we can, as there are only a limited number that can consider conserving a carpet this size.

FH: But the dye analysis will be a nightmare with the repair. It’s very interesting historically to know what dyes were used but are you going to clean the carpets and how? Do you need analysis to introduce a wet treatment or do you just need to test them to find out whether they’re fugitive? You would tend to use synthetic dyes with repairs because natural dyes tend to fade quite strongly at the beginning and then as they age the fading becomes slower, whereas modern synthetic dyes tend to fade more slowly across in a straighter line, so the idea is that if you match the colours with the synthetic dyes now the fading should be more consistent. And they are light stable and wet stable so don’t cause a reaction.

AS: We’ve talked a lot about authenticity as well and what that really means. I do think we need to have a dialogue with the public to really engage them so that they understand what the principles are you’re actually using to ‘restore’ a room in a country house because there are many different criteria’s. To maintain those criteria’s along the whole of the house can be very difficult.

CCW: That’s exactly the question. If you think the public want to see how it was originally you have to remove that aged carpet and do what you think is a replica. At Brodsworth we have wondered whether we can digitally work out what the colours would have been but even that is incredibly difficult to do. You could maybe value and display your faded original with an interpretation through clever computer design or eyemats over the top etc. other ways of doing it other than replica.

CCW: I have to say that with our Study Day and this debate the main aim is to raise the profile of carpets and get visitors to appreciate them in their room setting, so that people aren’t surprised that they are rolled back and there is a barrier across because they understand that you are going to destroy them by walking on them.

CF: I think the general public understand even with their own carpets that they are precious and are easily damaged and need proper care whatever their age

AS: The hope is that with museum care and our conservation strategy here we wouldn’t want to walk on the carpets but external cases such as filming might happen, and these need to be looked at in your plan for the future.

CS: House-keeping staff may need to get over the carpets to other objects, or there might be functions in the room too.

AS: There are so many different levels but we want to have a management plan for the future that understands these as being major works of art in their own right. Our attitude has been to not touch them because we were told twenty years ago they were incredibly vulnerable and not to do anything with them, but that’s not actually a solution to the issue. You have to address the issue.

Public: Is cost a factor in this and how does the production of a replica compare to the cost of conservation work?

AS: Costs are absolutely key; we are an educational trust with museum accreditation and designated collections. We are very much looking to have a conservation project and when the replica was included in part of an original discussion about the carpets it was really a very expensive option, not a cheap option, assuming it would be woven to relatively authentic standards. If  you are going to get a replica one issue is that you have to think carefully about the original authentic object and where that is going to be stored, because once it is rolled it is probably going to be there for a very long time. Possibly having a replica is not really a financial decision but trying to understand what the right thing to do is as part of a consultation process. Asking peers within the profession is very important for us as well.

AS: Could I now have some concluding thoughts from the panel?

FH: My concluding thought was if you did roll them up and put them into storage, in reality would they ever be seen again and I think the horrible truth is probably not and then you think well, why have we got them?

CF: It’s a really good opportunity for some really exciting things and I do have to say I feel that what you’ve done as far as putting today together and also the questionnaire has been a really exemplary approach to tackling this question.

CS: For me I just want to say how much I have enjoyed looking at little areas of the carpet in detail and I think that is something you could light people up with: the detail, the precision of how they are made, exactly how the individual motifs are shaped, getting them to look closely at the carpet.

CCW: I think carpets are absolutely fascinating and not just the 18th century ones. I would want to hope you are looking at the carpets throughout Harewood including the 19th century ones and what evidence there might be in inventories etc. for bedrooms and servants quarters and whether through that you get a better picture of what was going on through the whole house and what you are doing in those rooms. I wonder whether the question of these two carpets needs to be put in that wider context of both the research of the whole house but also the conservation management and the presentation of it. To me you are zoning in on one thing when there are overarching questions.

AS: That is an interesting concluding moment, that what we hope to be doing going forward is a more holistic approach to our curation within the house, particularly around the carpets. It is undoubtedly true that we have been excited by the developments in Axminster and by the Yorkshire Year of the Textile and this has driven us forward to look at these two carpets particularly because we knew they were in need of attention but we have been looking at them in isolation.

Going forward we hope to produce a small booklet which will help our visitors look at other carpets in the house as well. How we engage our visitors by looking at the wording of our questions in the questionnaire, how to help people fully understand the conservation process and how we are going to be looking at workshops in the future and other engagement areas is really important.

Having a dialogue with craftspeople today and understanding just how inspiring our carpets can be is also so important. We have found just how fascinated the public are by the whole repair process. There is a huge amount of research for us to do going forward and we would really like to thank you all very much for attending and taking part in this debate.

Way Forward:

Harewood conducted a survey about the way forward for the Yellow Drawing Room carpet. Results showed that 53% felt conversation was the best route to take, 20% replica, 13% restore, 14% leave as it is. In total of 1577 responded between April to end of October 2016.

Natures Carpet:

natures-carpet-at-harewood

At the beginning of September we invited the artist Sue Lawty to lead on a family friendly workshop in response to the multi-coloured patterns of the original carpets as part of the Yorkshire Year of the Textile programme.

Our gardening team went foraging for leaves and flowers which had been separated by type and colour into different bags showing an extraordinary variety of colours.  All through the day families with young children and adults came and worked with Sue on the boards that had been put outside the Visitor Information centre. We had photographs of the carpets pinned up which provided inspiration and a starting point for everyone. There were no instructions that it had to be done this way as Sue encouraged everyone to make their own response be working on one little bit, and together, over the day, we made a beautiful carpet of flowers and leaves to create “Nature’s Carpet”.