Spotlight on: State Beds

If you read the National Trust magazine, then you will have read one of the articles in the Autumn 2012 edition. It’s an article about the huge variety of state beds within Trust properties, which got us thinking about the different styles of state bed we have here inside Nostell.

Today’s spotlight blog post brings together our state beds for a closer look at them – large and small! (You’ll see what we mean about small state beds when you reach the end of the post…)

The state bed in the Crimson Bedroom is incredibly striking, and was certainly created to impress as this room has always been used as a guest bedroom. It’s a George III ebonised and parcel-gilt four post bed with shallow domed canopy, close-covered with crimson silk on turned fluted front posts and block feet, with crimson brocade upholstery. There is a reason why the crimson material is still so bright and colourful…

Bed

Crimson Room state bed

…and the reason is that the material is modern! It was made specially for the Crimson Room bed when the room was damaged by the fire at Nostell in the 1980s. The design followed a drawing for the hangings of a bed in the Nostell archives. The state bed itself may have been desighed by James Paine, as we have drawings of a bed very similar to this one by Paine in the archives.

The State Dressing Room was originally designed to be the State Bedroom, and was meant to host the most important guests who visited Nostell. The room changed to being the State Dresing Room in the late nineteenth century, when a four-poster bed was put in the room next door (the present State Bedroom).

Bed

State Dressing Room bed

The bed in the State Dressing Room is a George III green painted and parcel gilt four poster bed. It was designed and made by Thomas Chippendale, and cost £54. The bed is upholstered in modern hand-painted chintz, because the original material was smoke-damaged during the 1980s fire. The State Dressing Room is a really good example of how whole rooms were made to match the bed – if you look carefully you’ll see how chair and stool covers have been made out of the same material as the bed hangings, to create a matching suite.

The grandest bed in the whole of Nostell Priory is the one in the State Bedroom. State beds were created so that if a member of royalty came to visit houses and country estates, the landowners had somewhere suitable for them to sleep. As royalty did not come to every house in the countyry, state beds were not often slept in. This meant that state beds became a status symbol, because if you could afford to buy a highly decorative bed which quite possibly may never be slept in, then you were indeed very rich! Thus, a state bed was often a way to show off your wealth to your friends and acquaintances. During a house party at Nostell in 1936, this room was slept in by the Duchess of Westminster.

Bed

State bed in the State Bedroom

Nostell’s state bed is a nineteeth century green painted and parcel-gilt lit a la polonaise with an oval fluted canopy and domed interior. It is covered in buttoned eau-de-nil cloth, with hangings of flower-printed corded cotton. The material is extremely fragile, and so the curtain and blinds in the State Bedroom are never opened in order to prevent deterioration due to light damage. It is a beautiful bed, and the domed top is rather impressive!

When you move off the state floor and up to the second floor of the house, the beds become less extravagant. (This does not mean that they are not beautiful, as I think they are much more pleasing to the eye, and are certainly more inviting to sleep in!)

Bed

Peacock Bedroom bed

In the Peacock Bedroom is an early Victorian bird’s eye maple bed, shown in the above photograph. Some of the other furniture in this room (wardrobe, desk, dressing table, mirror) were designed to match the bed. The drapes would definitely have been necessary to hang around the bed to keep the draughts out, as the North Bedrooms are very very cold!

The two photographs below show two further four-poster beds in the North Bedrooms which we are researching to find out more about them. The rooms were slept in until the very late twentieth century by the family, and have relatively modern hangings. In the first photo (the Big North bed), you can see how high the bed is off the ground – it’s the highest at Nostell. A small set of mahogany steps would have been used to get onto the bed, which have unfortunately been lost. These days you would need to take a running jump!

Bed

Big North Bedroom bed

Bed

Blue Bedroom bed

What is particularly interesting about the Blue Bedroom bed is that the fabric of the bed hangings were modelled on the fabric of one of the beds in Nostell’s Dolls’ House. Other pieces of furniture in the room were also modelled on those in the Dolls’ House. Look out for a future blog post where I’ll compare the two rooms in more detail.

We think that the beds in the North Bedrooms are much more inviting to sleep in than the grand state beds shown previously!

However, it’s not only the main house at Nostell that boasts state beds – the Dolls’ House does too! The interior of Nostell’s Dolls’ House is decorated in the mid-eighteenth century style, and contains almost all of its original furnishings.

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Yellow Bedroom bed

The Yellow Bedroom bed is possibly similar to what the Crimson Bedroom looked liked when Nostell was built (1735 onwards), as the Crimson Room used to be known as the ‘Amber Room’. Unlike the human-sized state beds, the ones in the Dolls’ House are only around five inches high!

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Red Bedroom bed

The Red Bedroom in the Dolls’ House has undoubtedly the grandest miniature state bed (and comes complete with a grand lady, too!)

Although it’s unlikely that our Dolls’ House was definitely modelled on Nostell Priory, it’s fun to find similarities between the rooms. However, the Nursery Bedroom (below) in the Dolls’ House was the inspiration for the Blue Bedroom inside the main house. The fabric provided inspiration for the bed hangings and curtains, the dressing table and mirror were copied, and so was the colour scheme for the walls. Even the fire place is uncannily similar!

Bed in a Dolls' House

Dolls’ House Nursery bedroom

We hope you’ve enjoyed this spotlight tour of Nostell’s state beds. Which is your favourite state bed at Nostell? Let us know!

The House Team