Nostell Priory and Chippendale on BBC4!

Last Thursday (10th January) BBC4 screened a great documentary called ‘Carved with Love: The Genius of British Woodwork’. It’s a three-part series, and the first focused upon ‘The Extraordinary Thomas Chippendale’. And the most exciting part is…

…lots of it was filmed here at Nostell!

Nostell is home to one of the largest (and we like to think, best) collections of Chippendale furniture in the country. The programme highlights many of our pieces such as the medal cabinet in the Library, the gentleman’s dressing table in the Crimson Bedroom, and our Chinoiserie collection in the State Bedroom, amongst many others. Our House & Collections Manager, Chris, also gets a starring role!

Catch it again on BBC iPlayer – it’s available until 7:59PM Sun, 3 Feb 2013.

Here’s the all-important link:

Enjoy watching!


I Spy With My Little Eye…

A few months ago, one of the regular readers of the Nostell Priory Conservation Blog requested that we have a post focusing on the escutcheons and handles that are a feature of our furniture. Escutcheons are the metal fastenings which surround the keyhole of a door, for a combination of protection and/or decoration.

More than happy to oblige, I spent some time walking around Nostell and taking photographs of some of the more interesting examples. Most were supplied by Thomas Chippendale.

It’s amazing what you see when you take time to look!

Prizes if you can guess which pieces of furniture they are from! (No prizes really…)

The three below hail from the Crimson Bedroom. They are a great example of how something so small can be quite beautiful.


Carved brass escutcheon

Chinese cabinet

Chinese cabinet escutcheon

Drawer handle and keyhole

Ornate handle and escutcheon combination

From the chinoiserie furniture in the State Bedroom come the two examples below. The escutcheons are rather insignificant when you look at the lacquer decoration surrounding them. I particularly like the leopard/cheetah!

Chinoiserie furniture

Chinoiserie handle and escutcheon


Chinoiserie cheetah/leopard, and escutcheon

Delicate double round handles in the Saloon, no escutcheon around the lock. Maybe this drawer wasn’t used very often? It’s from a beautiful lady’s writing table.

Writing table

Lady’s Writing Table

I’m sure you can guess the object below…



Below is the super small door handle on the false door in the Library. It would have to be unnoticeable so that it wouldn’t detract from the overall effect when the disguised door was closed.

False door

Library false door handle

Also in the Library, the huge writing desk…

Writing desk

Chippendale writing desk in the Library

The lower cupboards around the room also have no escutcheon (see below). This could be so that visitors’ attentions focused on the wealth displayed in the shelves upon shelves of books, rather than on other little details.


Library cupboard

The Medal Cabinet, with a military row of vertical drawer handles:

Cabinet drawers

Medal Cabinet row of drawer handles

What’s this piece of furniture, with no escutcheon around the lock? The picture next to it might give you a clue…


John Harrison longcase clock

It’s the John Harrison longcase clock! John Harrison is the gentleman in the photo to the left of the clock. Did you guess correctly?

An absolutely gorgeous ecutcheon below, extremely elaborate and decorative!


Elaborate Chinese escutcheon

And finally, for something completely different…

LionRoar! This chap is carved around the very large keyhole of a wooden chest. The whole chest is intricately carved, interesting to examine, and very heavy to move! It dates from the late 17th century.

We hope you’ve enjoyed having a closer look at some of the details on the furniture here at Nostell. If you have any requests for future blog posts, please let us know and we’ll write one for you!

State Dressing Room – Conservation in Action

We’re very keen to share our conservation work with visitors, so that they can see the ‘behind the scenes’ work that we do to look after Nostell Priory and its collection. With this in mind, as part of our new ‘Conservation In Action’ programme, a lot of our conservation work is done in front of visitors so that they can have a look and ask questions when they see us around during their visit. Visitors especially like seeing us working along the main visitor route in the state rooms on the first floor, and moving from a room which is pristine to one which is chaotic with stepladders, vacuums, brushes, and lamps strewn about! This week is was the turn of the State Dressing Room, which was ready for a deep clean.

Angie talks to a family about the conservation work they are seeing

Julie vacuums the carpet with a special low suction vacuum cleaner

The State Dressing Room all messy with equipment everywhere

Nostell’s State Dressing Room was originally designed by James Paine as the main State Bedroom where the most important guests would stay. A four-poster bed was introduced to the room next door in the late nineteenth century, and what was the State Bedroom became known as the State Dressing Room. The wallpaper (see the photograph below) was supplied by Chippendale in 1771, and had a brightly coloured pattern of a multitude of birds in bright pinks, blues, and greens on a white background. It is now much faded.

We have to get into the smallest of spaces. I’m in between the State Dressing Room bed and the wall, in order the clean the dado rail in the alcove

Julie cleans the fireplace – let’s hope she isn’t sucked up, Mary Poppins-style!

The fireplace is quite intricately moulded, and has to be cleaned very thoroughly as fireplaces are where pests like to lurk

When cleaning the floorboards underneath the bed with a dolly mop there’s only one thing for it – get as low as possible!

View under the bed when cleaning

Dirt accumulated from one half of the floorboards underneath the State Dressing Room bed. We use removeable cloth heads for the mops, so that they can be washed easily. It took three of them for the floorboards to be completely cleaned!

The feet of the bed aren’t actually on the floor – there is a second set of feet behind them with castors on so that the bed can be rolled, rather than lifted as it extremely heavy!

The ‘Dome Bedstead Japan’d Green and Gold’ was specially designed for the room, and cost £54. It was made with ‘its feet posts as Near as posable together to give as much room as posable to pass by’. Chippendale did not supply the fabric, which may have been bought earlier by the 4th Baronet. The current material was made for the National Trust in 1982 after smoke from the fire which gutted the Breakfast Room damaged the existing Edwardian material.

Let there be light!

Drum roll… and we have a finished, clean State Dressing Room. Who knows which room we’ll be found in next?

Clean and tidy State Dressing Room – a job well done!