Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, is a beautiful National Trust property a few miles in from the North Norfolk coast near Cromer. There are very elaborate red silk curtains and pelmets in the Drawing Room and the project was to conserve them for the forseeable future. Considerable work was needed repair and support the fabric and to save the least damaged decorative drops.
There was extensive woodworm damage to large numbers of the wooden balls that form the shape of the drops
Where possible the existing drops were saved by carefully wrapping with fine net to hold the threads in place. Where the damage was too extensive I worked with wood turner Tom Kittle to recreate the original drops. As you can see from the photos the “balls” were not completely smooth but had a ridge around the centre which makes the finished effect a two-tone colour as the light hits them and is reflected differently:
Once the new “balls” were ready it was time to start covering them and to make the button tuft shapes to separate them in the final drops:
The actual work to conserve the fabric of the pelmets was carried out by Melanie Leach. It involved layering the silk fabric onto a backing fabric and covering it with fine net tulle, then carefully – and invisibly – hand stitching it all in place. A very skilled and time consuming process:
Finally, everything was ready to take the completed pelmets back to Felbrigg Hall and to rehang them in the Drawing Room. Even with all the careful conservation the pelmets were still quite delicate and needed careful handling. Add to that the fact that we were working in a room full of valuable furniture and paintings and it became an interesting experience!
Lastly, once the fabric pelmets were safely fixed, the ornate gold tops were put back and the conserved pelmets can be see in their full glory:
As part of their mission to educate the public the National Trust commissioned a film to record the work involved in this project. It was filmed by Matt Knightley, a young and talented producer. I think he has done a great job capturing the range of work involved in the conservation and rehanging of this beautiful feature. Please watch the video; it’s an interesting insight into the application of modern skills in an historical environment.