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State-of-the-art Conservation Studio Opens at Knole

The two-story studio is the latest project to be completed in the £20 million restoration


The revamp at Knole is the largest conservation project ever undertaken by the National Trust and is partially funded by a £7.75 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The studio has breathed new life into a beautiful barn that had been a dilapidated storage facility. It has taken two years and £2.5 million for the studio to be completed. The Knole Conservation Studio is home to six highly skilled conservators, specialising in everything from upholstery to leather and picture frames. Until 2018, the studio will be primarily focused on stabilising items from Knole’s collection. Objects will be given minimalist intervention with the emphasis on stabilising and preserving them for the future. It is the aim of the conservation team that anything they treat will not need further attention for 100 years. From 2018, the studio will also work on pieces from other National Trust properties, museums, historic houses and galleries and private collections.


Items from Knole’s collection that will be conserved include:

  • the famous seventeenth century Knole sofa, which sparked endless copies around the world. Still upholstered in its original but now worn red velvet, it was originally designed as a throne on which a King or Queen would receive their visitors
  • over 40 portraits from Knole’s oak-panelled Brown Gallery, a ‘Who’s Who’ of great names of the English and European courts, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
  • intricately upholstered and embroidered chairs, some dating to the time of James I, acquired from the Palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall
  • the Royal ‘Stool of Easement’, an early form of ‘loo’ from the French ‘lieux d’aisance’, thought to have been used by Charles II

​​The Knole Conservation Studio will be the first National Trust conservation studio to be open to the public all year round. Woven into the design of the studio was the ability to share the work of conservators with the visitors to Knole. Studio conservators and will be on-hand to answer questions and share their stories about the history of the collection. Visitors will also have a chance to “play conservator” on a stool from Knole’s collection with an interactive iPad to guide them through the decision-making process. There is also an interactive area for visitors to explore the materials, tools and techniques used by conservators.

The National Trust have made this video for an inside look at the studio: 

Icon Membership Manager, Michael Nelles, was one of the lucky people to attend Knole for the launch on 16th March. He said:

What an inspiring day at Knole – where conservation is firmly and prominently on the map in a gorgeous historic landscape.

"With their highly skilled conservators in the studio, conservation volunteers and the support of the National Trust behind them, it’s so exciting to see the public are able to experience conservation with an immediacy that can be hard to find – with the chance to pop into a conservation studio to take a look at the work in progress, and to chat to the highly skilled professionals involved."

Ros Kerslake, Heritage Lottery Fund CEO, said:

“Skills training is an integral part of the majority of projects we fund and thanks to the National Lottery, the new conservation studio will reflect that as part of the wider ‘Inspired by Knole’ project. Visitors will now be able to see a number of exhibits and rooms as well as watch conservation happening in real time.”

Hannah Kay, Knole’s General Manager said:

"We are in the final stages of the biggest building and conservation project that Knole has witnessed in the last 400 years. It is an enormous but exciting challenge and we are thrilled that we can now share the next chapter in the story of this fascinating house with our visitors and supporters.

“The new conservation studio will allow us not only to care for our own collections but to take in work from other Trust houses and external organisations in the future, and offer work-based training, which will make Knole a national centre for conservation excellence.

“We have a wealth of conservation expertise in the Trust and we can now share this with our visitors who will be able to see the latest conservation techniques in action for themselves and talk to specialists and volunteers about the work that goes into looking after some of the country’s most important treasures.”

Images: Michael Nelles (c)


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