Sometimes in National Trust houses we have the chance to move furniture around and alter the appearance of a room, to help visitors understand and appreciate the way a room would have been used when Nostell Priory was still a family home and working estate. We had such an opportunity with Nostell’s ‘Breakfast Room’. The room had previously taken part in Nostell’s Christmas opening, and had been decorated with a beautiful gold theme to match the yellow walls.
The Breakfast Room is the home of Nostell’s famous painting The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Brueghel, signed and dated 1602. The painting has recently been moved to a different wall in the Breakfast Room (it was on the west wall whilst it was on display after the fundraising campaign to save it and keep it at Nostell, but has now been moved to its original position on the north wall of the room). And so it was time for the room to have a (mini) makeover!
After the successful conclusion of the Brueghel fundraising campaign, the furniture was arranged so that visitors could walk around the room and see the picture up close. We wanted to keep this arrangement, so that visitors could really feel what it was like to live in the room. Being able to walk all around a room helps to bring it life, and there are many rooms at Nostell where the public are welcome to wander around the room (including the State Bedroom, Top Hall, Lower Hall, Butler’s Pantry, Museum Room, and the North Bedrooms).
Previous furniture that had been in the Breakfast Room over the years was amassed in the Top Hall, and we spent around half a day moving chairs, altering layouts, suggesting positions for tables, and deciding what furniture should be in the room and what should be relegated to one of the stores.
The Breakfast Room ‘does what it says on the tin’, although such rooms were a relatively new feature in 18th century country houses. A lady who stayed at Nostell in the 1760s desribes the 4th Baronet’s morning routine: ‘It was his constant custom to rise early in the morning; in winter, long before daylight, and to kindle his own fire. His letters were usually written before the family breakfast, which was always exactly at nine o’clock and he afterwards gave audience to a crowd of various descriptions of person, in succession, who were generally waiting for his assistance and advice.’
Unfortunately in April 1980 a fire gutted the Breakfast Room and destroyed many of the contents, therefore all of the furniture in the room was brought in after the fire. The flock wallpaper and yellow brocade curtains and 1980s replicas, made to measure after consulting 18th century accounts of the decor of the room.
Finally after some hard work and creative thinking, we went from a bare room…
to an attractively styled room where visitors can wander amongst the furniture and imagine what it would be like to be lord of the manor!
I’d definitely like to have breakfast in the Breakfast Room – but would it be cereal, toast, croissants, kippers… the list goes on!