We are pleased to be able to announce that after a long journey over five and a half years the Holly bedroom tapestries have been returned to their rightful place at Doddington Hall. The tapestries in the Holly bedroom can now be seen while the Hall is open every Wednesday and Sunday.
It has been an important project to conserve the tapestries, as the scheme at Doddington Hall is uncommon in both their quality and design. The verdure style of tapestry depicting country scenes and trees are not rare but the inclusion of figures of common tradesmen and the gentry are. There are many examples of high quality tapestries attributed to tapestry weaving studios, the Holly bedroom tapestries have not been attributed to a specific studio and there are fewer examples preserved of tapestries of this lower quality.
The tapestries have been on a journey since 2010 that has seen 1600 plus tacks removed and the tapestries taken down which revealed the brick and lime plaster walls for the first time since the 1760s. The tapestries were carefully vacuumed before being couriered to Belgium to be wet cleaned at a specialist conservation facility. Conservation started in January 2014. The conservation stitching and lining has recently been completed and has taken a team of three full time conservators two and a half years to complete.
It has been our job to put the tapestries back as Sir John Delaval created the scheme in the 1760s. The tapestries couldn’t be hung in exactly the same way, as originally nails and tacks were used to hold the tapestries in place against a framework of wooden laths. After all the time spent repairing the broken warps and missing weft another mechanism for hanging the tapestries had to be found. After conservation many tapestries are hung by fixing them at the top edge with VelcroÒ, the Holly bedroom set also needed to be fixed into corners, around doors and over the fireplace. The vertical fixes allowed the tapestries to be tensioned into the window edges, corners, around the fireplace and over the doors. This makes the scheme of tapestries look like they did before they were removed from the walls in 2010.
Rehanging the tapestries is a very physical part of the job as they are large and heavy to handle. The largest of the set of tapestries, the courting couple measuring 5.35m x 3.57m it is 19.1 square metres of tapestry. After wet cleaning but before conservation it weighed 23.3kg – 1.2kg per square metre.
After conservation stitching and lining the tapestry weighed 28.4kg or 1.5kg per square metre. The VelcroÒ, linen, wool, polyester and cotton threads and fabric account for an additional 300g per square metre of tapestry. As part of this additional weight it has been approximated that we have used 17km of polyester thread and 100 metres each of hard and soft VelcroÒ.
We hope you enjoy seeing the newly conserved tapestries.
The conservation team.
Alice, Sophie and Louise.
For images and weekly updates on the conservation project, follow us on Instagram at conservation_at_doddington.