Following several weeks of painstaking protection and preservation work by Leeds Museums & Galleries during the house’s bookings-only season (November to February), the drawing room, along with the rest of the Tudor Jacobean mansion, is getting ready to open to the public for the spring and summer.
Also known as The Blue Drawing Room, the stunning room was almost entirely decorated by Lady Isabella Hertford, who lived at Temple Newsam in the 1820s. The extravagant wallpaper was a gift from the then Prince of Wales, a close friend who had visited Lady Hertford in 1807.
Twenty years later, when she came to put it on the walls, Lady Hertford decided it was lacking in nature and pasted on birds cut out from her copy of John James Audubon’s famous book Birds of America.
Today, first edition copies of Birds of America have been known to sell for up to £7.3m.
Temple Newsam House’s new curator Rachel Conroy, said working on the drawing room has proved the perfect introduction to life at the 500 year-old house.
“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,” said Conroy, who has previously worked at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff as well as Sheffield Museum. “My previous roles have been in a more of a traditional museum environment, but Temple Newsam House is so different because it’s actually been a home where people have lived alongside their families.”
Temple Newsam was sold to Leeds City Council in 1922 but as an empty shell with all its original contents being sold or retained by the family. However, in the past decade Leeds Museums have been successful in finding and bringing back many of the furnishings and objects to the house.”
Work on the drawing room, which is on the house’s ground floor, has seen all the items removed, blinds raised and carpets exposed.
Specialised cleaning has taken place using delicate brushes and miniature vacuums to remove surface dirt. And antique furniture from the room has been waxed and polished, ceramics dusted, mirrors shined and intricate carvings brushed clean with tiny paint brushes and cotton buds.
Temple Newsam House will return to regular opening hours on February 12, which will see it open Tues to Sun, 10.30am to 5pm.