The conservation of the King’s Bed at Knole took 13 years and up to 200 volunteer needlewomen. Cynthia Hurrell remembers her involvement.
Volunteer, King's Bed conservation project, 1970s
Interviewed by Christine Nevard and Veronica Walker-Smith
Conserving the Cloth of Gold King's Bed textiles, led by conservator Philippa Lawrence (centre)
C.H.: I had a great friend who belonged to NADFAS in Tonbridge and they’d been approached obviously by somebody at Knole and asked anybody who felt themselves to be suitable needlewomen, to work on the King’s Bed. And she knew that I was teaching textiles, and was trained and loved needlework; and she asked if I’d like to come and join them. I could only come of course in the school holidays because otherwise it wasn’t a suitable time. So that’s how it started. And I’ve always been interested in it, and this was a wonderful project, just wonderful.
And how long were you involved in the project?
C.H.: I would think 2 years probably, but as I say, it was on and off, you know, it could only be in the holidays. So it wasn’t continuous and every time I came they’d worked on a lot already, and there was another piece, which was nice. We were couching the metal design on to the silky backing which was supported and had a very fine net over the whole thing. And we were couching through, with very fine silk thread and putting the design back on to the length of the hanging. Yes, couching, as you know, is just up and over – a thread on top of a fabric – it can be cord or anything, just happened that this one was done with this beautiful metal.
What did you enjoy most about being involved in the project?
C.H.: Oh I think putting my bit in to make something beautiful again, because it was so sad that it was deteriorating so much. Because the furniture here is wonderful, isn’t it?