See Ickworth’s Collection in a New Light

Visitors to the National Trust’s Ickworth will experience the Italianate-style building in an entirely new way when an innovative new house and lighting exhibition is unveiled this January.

The 200-year-old building in Bury St Edmunds is currently undergoing a major £5million conservation project to repair and re-tile its famous domed Rotunda roof using more than 40 tonnes of specially cut and shaped slate tiles. 

Shrouded in scaffolding whilst the specialist conservation work takes place, the interior of the Rotunda has been plunged into darkness, creating the opportunity for the team there to find a new way to shed light on the collection inside. More than 2,500 collection items have been moved out of storage whilst the conservation work takes place. 

Some items are on display alongside a rare silver mirror dating back to 1777 and once owned by Third Earl of Bristol, which has recently been acquired by the National Trust and returned to the Ickworth collection. [2]

Working with London-based design studio The Decorators and lighting designers Studio Dekka, Ickworth will be embracing this darkness to amplify key items from its collection. 

Temporary bespoke scaffolding structures will showcase treasures including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, chairs, books and miniatures and innovative, theatrical lighting will be employed to amplify the experience. [3]

Spotlights and floodlights placed in the entrance hall, stairway, dome and first floor landing will transform these spaces and allow the property’s unique art and architecture to be seen in a wholly new way. Using Venetian inspired colours and influenced by the classicism and architecture of Ickworth’s Pompeiian room, the areas lit will include the striking glass dome, or oculus, in the Rotunda roof. 

Chloe Woodrow, House and Collections Manager at Ickworth said: “This installation will focus on one central idea, that Ickworth, with all its architectural and artistic treasures, is truly a home of great art, both past and present. 

“As first the Fourth Earl of Bristol’s grand Palladian vision, and then the ongoing work of his son, the First Marquess, who finished construction of the building, this iconic structure of light and dark was always intended to display great works of art.”

One of the most photographed buildings in the National Trust, Ickworth’s Rotunda will be covered in scaffolding for much of this year, whilst the conservation work is undertaken. 

The conservation project, called Ickworth Uncovered, is the biggest investment the National Trust has ever made at Ickworth and will see the Rotunda roof re-tiled by a team of craftsmen whilst work on the east link roof will prevent rainwater leaking in and protect the collection housed inside.

The addition of lightning protection to the roof and reinforcement of the underground vaults, means the National Trust is conserving Ickworth’s Rotunda from top to bottom.

Xavi Llarch-Font, Director of The Decorators said: “Ickworth Uncovered and the new house exhibition is a real moment in time in Ickworth’s history. 

“We have been given a chance to create a highly theatrical and dramatic conflict, embracing the newly-found darkness that scaffolding around the Rotunda brings, without compromising Ickworth’s beauty. 

“Even if you are familiar with this extraordinary place, you will see things that you have never noticed before.”

The new presentation inside the house has been made possible thanks to a grant of £85,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Anne Jenkins, Director of England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Ickworth Uncovered provides visitors with the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal to the fascinating conservation work and enable them to explore the enviable collections and buildings of Ickworth, whilst learning new stories and discovering unseen treasures. We’re delighted that National Lottery money has opened up these doors to a host of new audiences.”  

In addition to the new experience inside, later this year Ickworth will be displaying a newly commissioned artwork to mark the conservation project. 

To be created by internationally renowned artist Pablo Bronstein in collaboration with David Kohn Architects, the artwork will be inspired by the grandeur of the neo-classical Rotunda and will reflect elements of art and architecture in an outdoors setting. 

The artwork has been commissioned through the Trust New Art programme, which sees contemporary art opportunities brought to National Trust places all over the country and has been made possible thanks to a £30,000 grant from Arts Council England. 

A grant of £50,000 from the Wolfson Foundation has made the work to the vaults possible, allowing the National Trust to invest also in the conservation of the quietest, most hidden parts of Ickworth. 

The conservation work is due to be completed in the summer of 2020 and the new internal experience will be unveiled to visitors for the first time on Saturday January 18. 

For further information on the project and opening times visit