Rare carpet restoration at Cragside costs a pile

A Victorian carpet at Cragside in Northumberland is to get a £78,000 makeover by a textile conservation studio in Norfolk

One of the carpets at Cragside which will cost £78,000 to restore
One of the carpets at Cragside which will cost £78,000 to restore

The cost of cleaning and restoring a carpet from a Northumberland home would floor any householder.

The bill for work on the Victorian carpet from the dining room at the National Trust’s Cragside house near Rothbury will be £78,000.

But although it may cost a pile, this is no ordinary carpet.

When Cragside owners Lord and Lady Armstrong decided to carpet their dining and drawing rooms in the 1870s, they did not spare any expense.

They ordered two Chenille carpets, which may have been hand-woven to fit the rooms. Chenille carpets started to be made by hand in Britain in the 1840s, with the process later becoming mechanised.

But now the dining room carpet at Cragside is beginning to show its age and later this month it will be lifted and taken to a textile conservation studio in Norfolk for more than nine months of restoration. “It is a very lush and luxurious carpet of a very thick and interesting construction,” said textile conservation expert Ksynia Marko. “It is an important carpet and a rare survivor.”

There are no more than a dozen Chenille carpets left in National Trust properties nationwide.

“Chenille carpets are not like the usual hand-knotted carpets,” said Ksynia. “The pile of the carpet is looped, so that it looks as though it is made up of very long furry caterpillars.”

The Cragside carpet has a formalised floral motif, which would tie in with Lord Armstrong’s liking for formal carpet bedding plant displays in his garden.

The carpet in one of the rooms at Cragside Northumberland thats costing £78,000 to be fully restored and cleaned
The carpet in one of the rooms at Cragside Northumberland thats costing £78,000 to be fully restored and cleaned

The part of the carpet which is woven with dark brown dyed material is gradually disappearing, exposing the underlying foundation.

Ksynia said that if no action was taken then holes would develop and the carpet would unravel.

“It is our textile heritage that we are conserving, which we are losing day by day,” she said.

But it is becoming harder to find the yarns to carry out the conservation work. The Chenille carpet in the drawing room is in better condition but will still need attention to deal with dampness caused by potted palms.

Staff and volunteers at Cragside are currently working around the clock to open up the house after its hibernation during winter.

While the doors have been closed over the winter period, they have been cleaning and restoring the collection to ensure the ground floor of the house is ready for opening for free for February half term.

One of the jobs involves the annual task of book cleaning. With more than 8,000 books on display, each volume is removed from the bookshelves, opened and brushed down to remove the dust into a specialist vacuum. Felicity Wheeler, Cragside collections supervisor, said: “With approximately 17,000 objects in the collection, this is a very busy period for us.”

One of the areas currently undergoing a transformation is the Japanese room situated on the ground floor. Until now, visitors could only peer through the door, but now staff are working to rearrange the room so visitors will be able to enter the room.

Felicity said: “Visitors will now be able to step inside and see the beautiful Japanese prints which decorate the walls of this magnificent room. The prints were donated to the Armstrongs by Yorisada Tokugawa, an uncle of the Empress of Japan, who stayed here with the family just after the First World War.”

The house opens fully for the season on March 1.


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