Learning

Current Restoration Projects

State Dining Room Restoration

Since January 2021, conservators have been hard at work on a scaffolding deck restoring and conserving the gold leafed painted ceiling in the State Dining Room. The curved coving features delicate floral decoration intertwined with fish, animals and insects in a fantastic display of artistry depicting the natural world while the central (flat) part of the ceiling and four roundels in the coving show scenes from classical mythology.

Six months of painstaking work by the contractor Messenger BCR and conservation partners Chroma Conservation have brought the badly damaged ceiling back to its original condition and the result is a wonder to behold.

The conservation team started work by repairing flaking paintwork so that subsequent cleaning did not damage any fragile original material. With the painted decoration secure, the whole ceiling was cleaned with a 5% ammonium citrate solution, gently removing years of accumulated grease and dirt.

By mid-February, the surface was already looking better but there were substantial areas of damaged paint and many surface cracks that required filling. The large octagonal paintings and the smaller inset decorative panels were all removed for cleaning, which enabled a check of the underlying structure. We also wanted to be sure that the original octagonal paintings, replaced in 1817 by those we now see, had not survived under the surface!

A layer of 'isolating varnish' was applied before repairs and redecoration so that the original surface and paints were preserved and that any work completed in this programme could be reversed if necessary.

We are currently fundraising to finish the restoration of the Dining Room and to start the work on the Small Dining Room. To find out more about this project and how you can support us, please contact Nick Morris

State Drawing Room Restoration 2020 -2021

Last year we had intended to start an ambitious two-year project to complete our work with the restoration of the final three rooms of the suite of historical State Rooms - The State Dining Room, The Small Dining Room and The State Drawing Room.  With the outbreak of Covid-19, we have had to adapt our plans. We have instead focus on the restoration of the State Drawing Room, with plans to restore the other two rooms at a future date.

The State Drawing Room is being restored to how it would have looked in 1805 when it was sketched by a lady called Betsey Wynne, a frequent visitor to the House with her husband Captain (later Admiral) Sir Thomas Fremantle who fought at Trafalgar with Admiral Lord Nelson. 

The project started in June 2020, we have completely replaced the oak floor, which, with over two hundred and fifty years’ wear and tear needed complete replacement for safety reasons and we have restored the ceiling and returned the colour scheme to how it looked in 1805. 

In order to establish the exact colour scheme for the ceiling, we commissioned a detailed analysis of the historical paint schemes, which revealed three shades of pink and extensive gilding. From our archive, we can see that the room was described as having Orange Silk Damask hanging on the walls so we have restored the room to this colour scheme. The original fireplace designed by Piranesi was sold in 1922. In 1958 Mr. Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López, President of Banco Santander between 1950-1986, acquired this piece in London for Banco Santander's head office in Santander, Cantabria-Spain, and since then it has been part of the Banco Santander Art Collection. By kind permission of the bank, detailed high quality recording were made of the piece by Factum Arte. Carving reproduction was done by local craftsman Colin Urch.

North Hall Restoration - 2019

Completed Summer 2019   

Stowe House Preservation Trust completed the the final stage of  of the restoration of the North Hall in August 2019.

In 2014 we restored the magnificent 1730s William Kent ceiling and now after further research and analysis we have restored the floor and walls.

After consultation with expert advisors and from reviewing the findings from detailed analysis and images,  as well as the rediscovery of the Laocoon statue that would have been originally in place here, we  made the decision to restore the room to how it would have looked in the 1840s, when Queen Victoria visited the house.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Stowe House for three days in 1845, causing much excitement and festivities.However, it was this key event that was the final tipping point in the finacial donwfall of the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos - three years later, the family were forced to sell everything on the estate in a great auction to try and pay off their debts! 

From paint analysis we can see that the room has been decorated up to 16 times and that the walls were altered on several occasions.

In the 1840s the walls were painted in a pale stone colour, with a lighter shade of stone applied to the woodwork.  Given the way that paint wears over time, it is not possible to select the exact shade from a palette therefore an element of judgement is required to get as close to the colour as we can.

Trying to discover what the floor covering was in the 1840s has been a much harder process. The current floor was thought to be put in by the school in the 1960s and we have no records of what was removed.

Therefore, we have had to compare various contemporary images, documents and  written accounts (many of which are in the Huntingdon Library in America) to work out what was in place.

A press image from Queen Victoria's shows a black and white checked floor but we know from contemporary sources written at the time that carpet was actually in  place during her visit.

‘The floors are all completely cover’d with carpets, even the North Hall’

Elizabeth George  journal entry—23rd January 1845

The 1848 auction sales catalogue also point to this: ‘The floor was also covered with a carpet of marble pattern, manufactured expressly for this Hall and the adjourning corridors.’

However photographs of the house from the 1870s onwards show a white stone floor and it is this that we will be returning it to, placing a hard wearing limestone following the current layout.

The Stowe House Preservation Trust is an independent charity formed to fund and manage the restoration of Stowe House.  We are currently fundraising to restore the State Dining Room, for details on how to support us please contact- houseinfo@stowe.co.uk