Bed (time) Stories

The Hinton House State Bed pictured when it was first purchased in 1981.


26 Years after its purchase in 1981, work is finally starting on the restoration of the Hinton House State Bed of 1710, now situated in the Crimson bedroom in Temple Newsam House. 
It was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Poulett for a visit by Queen Anne to Hinton House. It remained in situ until 1910 when it was purchased by Lord Anglesey for his home,Beaudesert in Staffordshire. Before it came to Leeds it passed through the hands of 6 antique dealers and one museum.
The placing of such a large object in so many different situations has meant that the bed has been rebuilt, re-hung and remade many times. Much of the original silk, velvet and gold that formed the drapery of the bed has been lost or degraded. On some of the original valences the silk has turned to dust which clings to my face and neck and brings me out in a rash. The current configuration of the bed includes four awkwardly sized posts. As it stands now the posts threaten to ruin the canopy.
It is clear that desperate work is needed to save the bed but with such a chequered past working out what is best for it has been hard. It has also stalled restoration. In effect the Hinton House Bed has been many beds, so which one do we restore it to? Following convincing structural evidence and a quarter of a century of research by historians on state beds the decision has now finally been made to restore the bed to its first form as a so called, “Angel” or “Flying tester” bed. This means that instead of being supported by posts, the canopy is suspended and hung by a chain from the ceiling.
What is striking is how many people it will take to complete this project. Conservators, curators, technicians, upholsterers, master carvers and weavers will all be working on the bed. Then, if you take into account the timber men, silk worm farmers and a whole host of others I can’t even begin to imagine how many will have contributed to this project. In 1710 it was no different. A state bed was probably the most expensive item you could purchase for a house, precisely because of all the people it would have taken to make it.
The further exploration that will occur as the bed is restored and conserved means that we will uncover not only more of the stories of the bed, but also some of the stories of those who made and remade it.

By Conservator Ian Fraser

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Clare says:

    Wow. The question is: can the ceilings at Temple Newsam take it? We had lots of fun at the City Museum trying to weigh up (literally) whether or not those Giant Irish Deer antlers would bring the ceiling down or not…


  2. Ian says:

    I am working on the prototype structures that will support the tester, and I think it will be no problem. There are some big oak beams to fix into in the void above the ceiling.


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