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Oratory Curtains Tyntesfield National trust

We were asked to work on this piece, alongside the national trust conservator and the team at Tyntesfield.  It had to be worked on in situ as it is a closed collection and to reduce costs.

The curtains come from the oratory and have been hanging for a lengthy period, though probably not the original, those would have been made by Crace and sons.

The Crace family had been prominent London interior decorators since Edward Crace (1725–1799), later keeper of the royal pictures to George III, established a business in 1768.  John Gregory Crace, Edward Crace’s great-grandson, was the elder of two surviving sons of Frederick Crace (1779–1859), interior decorator to the then Prince Regent and a collector of maps and prints.  As most of the main downstairs’ rooms were decorated by the Crace family, the originals may have just disintegrated over time, or been moved to other rooms, we also found 3 which had the ornate embroidery, cut from the bottom to shorten them.

The curtains had suffered, light damage, water damage, and general wear and tear, especially due to the stone window surrounds and a metal radiator beneath them.

The curtains where photographed, for the archive before any work is done, and then the stained and damaged lining was removed and binned, as it has not historical value and was beyond repair.

The curtains were vacuumed with a conservation vac to remove generations of dirt, and any areas of mould removed.  The we added custom dyed read supporting fabric around the areas, where the holes had developed, and weakness was found. We also used damp conditions to reshape edges and the tie backs, who had become rigid in shape with age and dust. The areas with the most damage was also netted with custom dyed conservation net to prevent further damage. This is sewn down using monofilament, so it not obvious what has been done, unless close. The whole point of conservation is to protect, but it should be removable if needed, without causing any further damage.

After months of work, as working in historic houses is difficult, we had to stop in winter as the building is heated for itself, not for us and sewing when cold is not appealing. Also, light is an issue, due to having to protect the rest of the collection. We must use natural daylight lamps for short periods of time.

Finally, we relined the complete set of curtains, with a heavy weight lining fabric, normally you leave lining loose at the bottom, but in historic houses, we seal them to prevent moth infestation and other creatures crawling up inside. 

The curtains where finally rehung by the collections team, for the enjoyment of the thousands of visitors which come every year.,

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