Published: February 26, 2016
LEEDS, ENGLAND — With its beautiful, hand-painted wallpaper covered with colorful, exotic birds, it must surely be one of Leeds’s most lavishly decorated rooms.
But if it wasn’t for a unique piece of very expensive home improvement by a former resident, Temple Newsam House’s fabulous Chinese Drawing Room might have looked very different.
Now, after several weeks of painstaking protection and preservation work during the house’s seasonal open hours, the drawing room, along with the rest of the Tudor Jacobean mansion, is almost ready to open to the public for the spring and summer.
Also known as The Blue Drawing Room, the stunning room was almost entirely decorated by Lady Isabella Hertford, who lived at Temple Newsam in the 1820s.
The extravagant wallpaper was a gift from the then Prince of Wales, a close friend who had visited Lady Hertford in 1807.
Twenty years later, when she came to put it on the walls, Lady Hertford decided it needed to be more lively, and pasted on birds cut out from her copy of John James Audubon’s famous book Birds of America.
For Temple Newsam House’s new curator Rachel Conroy, working on the drawing room has proved the perfect introduction to life at the 500 year-old house. Conroy, who has previously worked at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff as well as Sheffield Museum, said, “It’s such an extraordinary room and it’s made all the more special because it’s largely been decorated by a former resident of the house and most of the furniture which is still on display was chosen by Lady Hertford herself.
Work on the drawing room, which is on the house’s ground floor, has seen all the items removed, blinds raised and carpets exposed.
Specialized cleaning has taken place using delicate brushes and miniature vacuums to remove surface dirt. And antique furniture from the room has been waxed and polished, ceramics dusted, mirrors shined and intricate carvings brushed clean with tiny paint brushes and cotton buds.
Temple Newsam House returned to regular opening hours on February 12, and it is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 5 pm.
For information, +44 113 336 7461 or www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Temple-Newsam.aspx.
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