Temple Newsam’s new Curator Rachel Conroy unveils the Chinese Drawing Room : A Jewel of the North

Leeds’s most lavishly decorated historic room has just been reopened to the public following a painstaking restoration and preservation over the winter months. Famous for its panels of fine Chinese export wallpaper, the Chinese Drawing Room was almost entirely decorated by a former resident, Lady Isabella Hertford who lived at the house in the early 19th century.

The Chinese export wallpaper had been given to her as a gift by the Prince of Wales in 1807, and had been in storage for many years until its installation at Temple Newsam in the 1820’s. The Chinese Drawing Room, also known as the Blue Drawing Room is papered as large panels with a silvered border of chinoiserie fretwork and on a terracotta pink background.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was quite common for the Chinese export wallpaper suppliers to also send birds and butterflies to be added to the scene once in position. However Lady Hertford had taken this to an all time extreme of cutting birds out from what was then a very fine and pretty book and what is now one of the most valuable books ever made. Audubon’s famous book Birds of America.

A first edition copy of the book recently sold at auction for a record £7.3 million pounds

Temple Newsam House’s new curator Rachel Conroy, said: “It’s such an extraordinary room and it’s made all the more special because it’s largely been decorated by a former resident of the house and most of the furniture which is still on display was chosen by Lady Hertford herself.”

The Chinese drawing room is located on the ground floor of the house. During the restoration, the room was emptied and all the blinds and carpets were revealed. Cleaned by specialists using suitably delicate brushes and restoration standard miniature vacuum cleaners to lift and remove the surface dirt.

The fine collection of antique furniture in the room has been checked over, waxed and polished, the fine Chinese and Japanese ceramics were dusted, and the giltwood mirrors cleaned and shined.

Temple Newsam House will move return to regular opening hours on February 12, which will see it open Tues to Sun, 10.30am to 5pm.

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