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Bed fit for a king restored in Norfolk

Maria Jordan and the team working on the spangled bed in the studio. Pictures: National Trust

Maria Jordan and the team working on the spangled bed in the studio. Pictures: National Trust

Archant

It was a bed fit for a king - and specialist textile workers at a facility in Norfolk have spent more than 10 years restoring it.

Maria Jordan working on the spangled bed in the studio. Pictures: National TrustMaria Jordan working on the spangled bed in the studio. Pictures: National Trust

Two state beds, including one commissioned for King James II, have been conserved in the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio in Oulton Street, near Aylsham.

The studio, in a converted barn, is the trust’s only specialist textile conservation treatment facility.

The 17th century James II bed and 400-year-old spangled bed are among the most important pieces of Stuart furniture in the Trust’s care and are two of three state beds from the collection at Knole in Kent.

Dust, dirt, light and fluctuating humidity have meant that these historic beds needed urgent and extensive work if they were to survive and so a huge project to conserve them was conceived, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Taking the King James' bed down. Pictures: National TrustTaking the King James' bed down. Pictures: National Trust

The James II bed arrived at the studio in 2003 and it has taken the team 15 years to painstakingly clean and conserve the textiles in stages.

Studio manager Maria Jordan said: “Everything needed work on the James II bed, from the valances (sheets) to the headcloth, headboard and curtains. We’ve removed adhesive from previous treatments, textiles have been wet cleaned and finally the silk has been supported and infilled with new woven silk to match the original.”

She said 14 people worked at the studio with experts from across Europe and the world contributing.

“I cannot estimate how many people would have worked on these beds in the last 15 years,” she added.

The King James' bed being tested. Pictures: National TrustThe King James' bed being tested. Pictures: National Trust

“The James II bed was commissioned for the monarch but he never got to use it, as he was deposed. His ciphers were carved and gilded on the bed, so the new monarchs William and Mary did not want to use it.”

The 17th-century spangled bed arrived at the studio in 2014. It was made for Lionel Cranfield in the 1620s during the reign of James I.

The team has just carried out a trial run in the studio to ensure both beds will fit back together at Knole, where they will go on display in 2019.

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