Investigation and documentation project: 18thC upholstered furniture at Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent


This early 18thC chair forms part of a large suite some of which is on display in the Reynolds Room at Knole, Sevenoaks in Kent, UK. It is upholstered in a stamped, solid cut red wool pile cover, embellished with silk trimmings.

Client brief/Role of object

Annotated inventories at Knole suggest some of the upholstery elements on this suite of furniture may be from a later period. One of the aims of the investigation was to find evidence on the frames to determine how much of the upholstery is original to the frames. To date two chairs and three settees have been examined.

Investigation and extended documentation

A number of non-destructive, non-intrusive examination techniques, including x-radiography were used. No materials were removed, no samples were taken. The investigation was undertaken on site at Knole to minimise handling of the furniture. The x-ray images were viewed alongside the furniture to assist with interpretation of the information revealed in the images.

Interpretation of the evidence to date

To date, interpretation of the information and evidence suggested some of the original upholstery layers have survived. Not all upholstery layers were accessible for examination during the examination nor revealed in the x-ray images. Based on accessible information, two possible seat structures have been documented in line drawings. The investigation and documentation project continues.

Such investigation projects often reveal information which may assist in building an object biography/profile; for example, the object’s original construction, its past use, notable repairs and any significant upholstery intervention. Inclusion of investigation and documentation outcomes displayed alongside the object in the exhibition gallery may provide effective support in regard to interpretation.

Further Information

Gill, K. 2012. Images can speak louder than words: Communicating conservation effectively. Congress proceedings The Decorative: Conservation and the Applied Arts, 24th International Congress of IIC, Vienna, Austria, September 2012.

Gill, K. 2011. An evaluation of a portable X-radiographic unit for the examination of fragile upholstered furniture inside historic houses. In: K. Lohm, (ed.). The Forgotten History: Upholstery Conservation. Conference proceedings held in Vadstena, Sweden, Linköping University, May 2005. Sweden: Linköping University, 276 – 286.

Gill, K. 2007. Evaluating X-radiography as a tool for examining upholstered furniture. In S. O’Connor and M. M. Brooks (eds.). X-radiography of textiles, dress and related objects. Oxford: Elsevier, 175 – 184.


Reproduced courtesy of the National Trust. Kate Gill Textile and Upholstery Conservation Services © 2012.

Investigation and documentation undertaken by Kate Gill between August 2011 and February 2012.