A Coronation Conserved

A year of exhibitions and events celebrating the role of one of the most influential women in the history of the National Trust’s Ickworth continues throughout 2018.

Robes worn to royal coronations by Theodora, the 4th Marchioness of Bristol, will be going on display at National Trust Ickworth House for the first time after painstaking restoration by a team of experts.

Theodora lived at Ickworth after her marriage to Captain Frederick Hervey in 1896 and is widely credited with being a great moderniser of this grand home, nestled in the Suffolk countryside.

From taking what was then the bold step of installing electricity, to overseeing a brand new kitchen and taking the lead on the creation of new and modern bedrooms for the servants, Theodora was seen as progressive woman whose vision and commitment helped make Ickworth what it is today.

But she was also a woman of great connections, and it was through these connections that she was invited to the coronations of both King George V and King George VI. To continue the celebration of Theodora this year Ickworth will be displaying, for the first time, the robes she wore to both these coronations where she would have mixed with royalty and some of the great names in English society.

The robes, which have been in storage, are incredibly delicate and are currently being carefully and painstakingly restored by a team of experts at the May Berkouwer Textile Conservation Studio in Sudbury.

Elea Walker, Ickworth Conservation Assistant recently visited the conservation studio to see the progress of the robes.

“It was fascinating to learn about the complexity of conserving the robes,” she said.

“They are made up of several separate parts and materials, including velvet which is a tricky material to conserve because any work carried out on it can show easily.”

Sophie Court, Ickworth House Steward said being able to display the robes was dependent on the restoration work: “One of the main reasons we have been unable to display them before was because of their weight – being displayed on a stand would exert undue pressure on many of the weak seams.  Now however, these have been repaired and we are very excited to have these on display for the first time. 

“As part of the display we will also be showing memorabilia from scrapbooks that Theodora collected. The cost of all the conservation work involved is £6,000, and it is thanks to our visitors and supporters that we are able to complete work like this.”

Visitors to Ickworth will be able to see the coronation robes on display on the Museum Landing of the Rotunda from 15 June until the end of October 2018. 

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