Detective work in re-instating a chimneypiece at Temple Newsam House

Temple Newsam House has a long-standing display development initiative to restore its true identity. Three room restorations, funded in part by the Wolfson Foundation/DCMS Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, were completed recently. The chimneypiece detail of one of the rooms, Sir John Ramsden’s Dressing Room, presented an interesting challenge. During Temple Newsam’s “art museum” phase this room, like most in the house, had had its historic interior removed, and mostly disposed of. During the excavation and analysis of this room the nature of the 18th century chimneypiece was revealed. It had long ago been removed, but the hearth, besmirched with many layers of wax, and other coatings, remained. Cleaning of the hearth revealed the fossiliferous nature of the stone.

This led to the re-discovery in the cellars of a chimneypiece lintel, of a bolection section, that was made of exactly the same material. What is more, the length of the lintel matched the width of the hearth exactly. From that point it was clear what needed to be done. The chimneypiece’s legs and blocks were missing, no doubt smashed during removal.

The detective work began in order to determine where the stone came from in order to acquire, if possible, enough to make up the missing parts. Suggestions from peers and colleagues pointed towards the Peak District, which led first to contacting a planning officer from that area, and ultimately a meeting with the Director of The National Stone Centre, Ian Thomas, in the Peak District National Park, along with the lintel. The information gained from that meeting was crucial. The stone was called Mandale limestone and the information gained took me to the quarry outlet for the charmingly named Once-A-Week quarry, near Bakewell. On arrival it was clear immediately that Mr. Thomas had directed me to exactly the correct source.

Robert Aagaard Chimneypieces made up the missing parts and installed them.

The Temple Newsam accounts give details of a John Thorp of Bakewell invoicing Temple Newsam House on 26 October 1719 for the supply of four marble chimneypieces, including “in the study upstairs, £5 and 10s” which probably refers to this one.

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