Introducing Peeling Back the Years

Just before Christmas, while investigating the decoration in the 4th Duke’s Bedroom, we discovered a large fragment of handpainted Chinese wallpaper underneath three, later layers of wallpaper.  This wallpaper was hung here in 1752, and has been hidden since the room was redecorated in the late-18th century.  It is an important discovery as this is one of the earliest surviving Chinese wallpapers exported to Europe.

The story of this discovery, and how the history of the room was unraveled will be told in ‘Peeling Back the Years’.  The 1771 Inventory shows how this wallpaper was first identified, and the original invoice will reveal how it was purchased and hung.  A video is currently being made following the story of the discovery, conservation and recreation of a large section of the wallpaper which will be on display.  We are also creating a display of materials used to make and conserve Chinese wallpapers, some of which you will be able to handle, to show how we care for them today.

‘Peeling back the years’ explores the many Chinese wallpapers and silks at Woburn which represent the different types, showing how the designs changed during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the different approaches to decorating in this style. 

The V&A museum are lending an early-19th century wallpaper photographed in Lady Ermyntrude’s sitting room in January 1884 which is currently being conserved so that it can be shown.  Endsleigh House Hotel is lending another 19th century wallpaper hung when Endsleigh was built as a family fishing lodge.  Woburn is also collaborating with the National Trust Wallpaper Trail and comparisons will be made between the Woburn wallpapers and those at Belton House, Felbrigg Hall, Ightham Mote, Penrhyn Castle, Saltram and Uppark.

The original Chinoiserie scheme in this room is linked with many other beautiful Chinese and oriental influences throughout the house and garden, and the 18th and early-19th century fascination for all things Eastern.  A trail through the house will show the progression of the Chinoiserie style through the different rooms and periods alongside the collecting taste of the Dukes of Bedford.

A second trail links the wallpapers and interiors with the Chinoiserie features and Oriental plants in the award winning gardens.  The trail will lead through the Chinese influenced covered walkway to the Chinese Dairy, the pavilion on the rockery, the restored Aviary, the pavilion at the centre of the Maze and the Camellia House.


Her Grace, The Duchess of Bedford and Lucy Johnson (Historic Interior Consultant)

Exhibition Curators

> See The Exhibition Page


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