From today, rare hi-tech Victorian shutters will finally let in the light at one of Yorkshire’s finest country houses once more having been returned to working order as part of the English Heritage revamp.
The new-fangled Francis & Co. patent Victorian revolving window shutters were just one of the many mod-cons adopted by the wealthy Thellusson family when they built their grand new home in between 1861 and 1863.
Packed with all the latest conveniences Victorian technology could offer, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens was intended to be the ultimate residence for the Jones’s to keep up with.
But as the fortunes of the family waned, it gradually fell into disrepair. When the house came into the care of English Heritage, the interiors were conserved ‘as found’ to preserve the original decorative scheme as well as later additions and alterations across the generations.
Now painstaking work by the charity’s conservation specialists has been carried out to the Hall along with its contents.
Roof lanterns in the kitchen have been made watertight, French doors and windows have been repaired and re-decorated and the house’s historic heating system has been adapted to ensure effective temperature control to protect the interiors.
As well as the shutters, window pelmets have been repaired and replica glass has been handmade for the lanterns in the kitchen.
A painting by renowned society painter Sir Thomas Lawrence, dating to 1804, and featuring the grandmother and father of the builder of Brodsworth, Charles Sabine Thellusson, has been cleaned and conserved in English Heritage’s paintings studio.
All together, 1,164 objects in 27 rooms in the house were moved; 94 metres of historic carpet was rolled for cleaning and 320 chandelier pieces were individually cleaned.
Caroline Rawson, Collections Conservator at English Heritage said: “Most of the interiors and furnishings at Brodsworth are original to the 1860s and the declining fortunes of previous owners have taken their toll on the condition and appearance of everything.
"The challenge for English Heritage has been to showcase the faded grandeur of the property and to keep further deterioration to a minimum. This was a complex and vital conservation project and the work that’s been carried out will help to safeguard Brodsworth Hall for future generations.”
Cynthia Bennett, English Heritage volunteer at Brodsworth Hall for fifteen years, said: “The beauty of Brodsworth is that the rooms have not changed much since they were decorated by the original inhabitants of the house but we have had to keep the shutters down because they stopped working properly – a far cry from the cutting edge Victorian technology they used to be.
"It’s fantastic to have the shutters working again, we will be able to let light into the Hall and already our sneak peek has revealed colours and patterns that we didn’t know were there.”
The conservation work at Brodsworth was largely carried out in situ in order for visitors to experience conservation in action and get a sense of the skill and care of English Heritage’s specialist team.