50 shades of chintz

Over the last few months there has been a project going on behind the scenes deep in the stores to try to inventory our rather large amount of stored textiles.  We’ve slowly been working through this mammoth task with the help of our textile volunteer Katherine to find out what we actually have in the store and what rooms they link to.  There have been some highs, lows and many finds of questionable taste, but we’ve been learning a lot about how the textiles used at Polesden really added to the opulence of the rooms. 

One of the biggest challenges has been matching together the sets of different chintzes.  So far we have around half a dozen subtly different styles as sets and another dozen as single objects.  With limited space it’s been quite a challenge to see what we have and match up the sets. 

Glazed cotton chintz from a set including curtains, pelmets and cushions

Glazed cotton chintz from a set including curtains, pelmets and cushions.

A big high was a beautiful bedspread in pale pink silk satin embroidered all over in silk flowers and foliage with a gold lace edge that must have looked quite spectacular on a bed.  Another was the discovery of the original lace blinds for the saloon.  They’re now in a very fragile state, but the lace pattern would have really added another layer of opulence onto a room that was already described by Beverley Nichols as ‘a room of exceptional hideousness, smothered in gilt and crimson velvet’. 

Embroidered silk bedspread with a gold lace edge.

Embroidered silk bedspread with a gold lace edge.

The edge of the original blinds for the saloon.  These would have been in a gold colour adding to the opulance of the room

The edge of the original blinds for the saloon. These would have been in a gold colour adding to the opulence of the room.

Taste and quality are things that are either sides of the spectrum.  Along with some of the more questionable chintzes, there have been some textiles that definitely come under the banner of ‘questionable taste’.  One such set is the nylon curtains/valances set made for the maids’ bedrooms in a colour that can only be described as being somewhere around the spectrum favoured by Dame Barbara Cartland and Pepto-Bismol.  On the other side, we have also found the original fine cream silk curtains for the corridors and a pair of blackout curtains in a beautiful black silk, proving that even the functional items had a quality that went above and beyond anything in any normal house. 

All of these finds will be making their way onto our inventory, so keep an eye on the National Trust collections website (http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/) for more updates!

Helen Taylor

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