As part of our two-week placement with Doddington Hall’s tapestry conservation team, we were asked to help spring clean the Tent Room. In this, the first of our two blogs, we have a brief look into the history of the tent room and how it came to be what you see today.
Image 1 – The Tent Room
The Tent Room houses a large Egyptian Khayamiya tent, one of only 15 examples in the world. Made in Cairo around 1900, the tent would have been hand sewn using a technique called applique, where panels of fabric are hand sewn onto a backing to create a design. This technique is still being used to make tents in Cairo today, although the skill is declining.
Image 2 – Applique decoration
The tent was given to Doddington Hall by Viscount Harry Crookshank, MP for Gainsborough and good friend of Col. Charles Francis Cracroft Jarvis. During the summers of the 1930s, Crookshank would pitch his tent on the lawn at Doddington to entertain local dignitaries and constituency members. It must have been quite a spectacle!
Image 3 – Portrait of Viscount Harry Crookshank which hangs on the staircase
However, following Crookshank’s death in 1961, the tent lay unused in storage until 1998 when it was re-visited by Claire and James Birch, it was in bad shape with some sections very rotten. Believing it to be Indian, they had it restored in Gujarat whilst they lived in India. The work was carried out by a cooperative of needle woman who had to overcome many issues including a massive earthquake disrupting the project, something our conservation team certainly haven’t experienced! The repairs were finally completed after an incredible four years of work. Once it was returned to Doddington Hall it was identified as Egyptian, rather than Indian, by the V & A.
Despite the extensive restoration work, the tent is too fragile to be erected outside again, however, it was too beautiful not to share. It has been installed in a former bedroom, allowing visitors to admire the detailed applique decoration and to get some sense of the scale. The tent room is a favourite with visitors and it is obvious why; since every surface is covered in pattern it is easy to imagine you are in a far-off land or fairy tale.
Next time; we wrestle with unwieldly cushions, take over the Long Gallery and realise that we are possibly not the only creatures to enjoy relaxing in the tent room…
Melinda Hey & Jocelyn Cook
Conservation and Restoration students, The University of Lincoln.
Want to see the Doddington tapestries for yourself? Check the hall and garden opening hours here.
For images and weekly updates on the conservation project, follow us on Instagram at conservation_at_doddington.