Last Wednesday six of the house team left Polesden in the capable hands of our Head and Assistant House Stewards for a day away from the office. Clandon Park is just down the road from us and needed to borrow some of our womanpower to rehang their Green Drawing Room.
The Green Drawing Room wallpaper was darkened from soot damage and has been cleaned by a conservator in situ. It dates from the 1740s and was discovered hidden behind layers of damask during restoration work in 1968.
Wallpaper of this period was block printed by hand on sheets of paper, either square or in this case measuring 21 x 23 inches – known as elephant size. These squares were then pasted together to create a continuous design. The Green Drawing Room wallpaper is pasted onto hessian stretched on frames, with beading tacked on around the edges. This allowed the wallpaper to go with the family if they moved. This exemplifies the relative value of wallpaper, which between 1712-1836 was taxed per square yard. In this case the wallpaper is printed to look like silk damask (another luxurious choice in country house wall coverings) by using a brash baroque design in two green tones. The choice of beading round the edges also enhances the fabric-like appearance as this was often used with stretched silk damask.
Prior to conservation all of the pictures in the room had to be removed to access the underlying paper. In a rare case of what comes down must go up, the pictures then needed rehanging – this is where the Polesden team came in. Under the direction of Emma, Clandon’s House Steward, we used scaffolding and a pulley system borrowed from Petworth (another NT property) to rehang all the least accessible paintings. This required more hands than you might think as Emma wanted to ensure the pictures did not drag against their newly conserved wallpaper. To the untrained eye the pulleys look a little like abseiling equipment! We attached them to the room’s picture rails and were able to pull the pictures to the correct height and attach them to their chains without having to support their weight.
We had a great time away from our day job – it was a really fantastic opportunity for us to learn how to use the equipment, as well as being wonderful to see Clandon Park and work alongside their team!
Have you visted Clandon Park recently? What do you think about their newly restored wallpaper?