Conserving the beds

Conserving the beds

A conservator working on Queen Anne's bed
The conservation of the state bed collection has spanned 50 years. During this time conservation techniques have evolved from restoring the beds to look like new, to conserving and preserving them to prevent deterioration. Below, textile conservator Emma Henni describes the work undertaken to conserve Queen Anne's State Bed.

Queen Anne's bed

The conservation of Queen Anne’s Bed began in 2006 in preparation for it to be displayed in 2013. It had been put into storage in 1992 when it was deemed too fragile to remain on display.

Over the course of 5000 hours, 16 textile conservators worked tirelessly to ensure that this important piece of history would be able to withstand display in the Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber exhibition.

Two curtains, 10 valances, a headcloth, headboard, counterpane, bolster, tester, cornice, four finials and five mattresses were all conserved as part of this project - and it’s not finished yet! The two foot curtains still remain to be treated which will take about a year each.

Groundbreaking textile conservation method

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Queen Anne’s bed conservation is the groundbreaking work that has been pioneered to preserve it for future generations. Textile conservators at Historic Royal Palaces developed a new way of producing a protective net overlay for the velvet using digital photography. Taking photo imagery of the original velvet pattern they printed directly onto protective netting which was then applied to the surface of the original fabric and lined up with the pattern – the result, invisible netting!

Once the textile conservation was complete, the reassembly of the bed began. This enormous task required many hands, plenty of scaffolding and the removal of a chandelier so that it could fit in its room and be displayed in all its splendour for the first time in 20 years.

100 years of conservation

At Historic Royal Palaces, we're celebrating 100 years of conservation work across our palaces. We've created a special blog to help our visitors find out more about what modern conservation is, how modern conservators build on the skills pioneered at Hampton Court over the past century, and how we are developing innovative techniques that will ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the palaces and their precious contents.

Visit the Conservation 100 blog >

You may also be interested in...

100 years of conservation

The Conservation 100 logo

We've been conserving the objects and interiors of our palaces for more than 100 years. In 2013 we're celebrating this milestone by telling the stories of our work.

Visit our Conservation 100 blog