This week Mark Sandiford finished the conservation work on the large fragment of Chinese wallpaper discovered in the 4th Dukes bedroom. The paper is very delicate and he has stablised the areas where it was lifting from the paneling. The maintenance team have removed the remaining modern tacks from the walls and the floor and we will now move into the next stage of preparing the room for the exhibition.
Daisy Hull spent the day with us and started work on a series of drawings which will show the room at each stage of redecoration. We are searching the de-accessioned records to see if we can find any images of the standing corner and large cupboards that were here from circa 1780 (the outlines are visible on the walls) so that the drawings from these two decorative schemes are as accurate as possible.
We have finished our preliminary investigation into the Duchess’s State Bedroom. There is still a lot to learn about what has happened to the walls in this room and when. We can see the chestnut split beams of the early panelling with one set of nail marks presumably from the Chinese wallpaper hung here in 1752. But the room has subsequently been plastered with gypsum and lime, we think around 1840 when an expensive French wallpaper was hung here, removing all traces of the Chinese wallpaper. We have opened a small window by the door so that visitors will be able to see this.
We have exhaustively searched for fragments of this wallpaper, above overdoors, behind the overmantle and on the wall beside the fireplace. We opened up the recess revealing the original cupboard built into the wall which had been boarded over. It was lined with a thick, plain paper and inscribed at the back ‘A Tompkin, painter decorator, London SE, Sept 20' and ‘Closed up January 20th 1902'. Sadly there was no sign of the Chinese wallpaper, but we were able to see the original dado level and that the original wall surface we are looking for has been removed. We will have to content ourselves with the scrapings of the Chinese wallpaper that we found on 8th January which had fallen through the gap of the overdoor and are currently being conserved.
Alan Wood who worked at Woburn for over 29 years visited this week to tell the stories of the rooms he redecorated and he recalled finding an inscription bearing the date 1820 and a painters signature from Vauxhall in the Holland Library. Just off to Ightham Mote to look at the similarities between the wallpaper in there and the fragments we found in the 4th Duke’s bedroom, more on this next week.
Her Grace, The Duchess of Bedford and Lucy Johnson (Historic Interior Consultant)