Hatfield House restoration

Welwyn Hatfield Times editor brushes with the past as historic rooms are renovated

IT’S not often you get the chance to get up close and personal with a 400-year-old iconic and ornate plaster ceiling, but that opportunity arose last week.

Maintaining a centuries-old property is a full-time job for the team at Hatfield House, but during the winter months the team can tackle larger restoration work projects.

And so it was I got an invite along to see what’s been happening this year in readiness for the season ahead.

Alison Macdonald, from the building department at Hatfield House, showed me around.

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Both the famous Marble Hall and the Grand Staircase next door are undergoing extensive refurbishments.

In the hall, the precious tapestries have been removed to allow decoration work to be completed.

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A box of pieces from the decorative mouldings, which have been collected up over a number of years, are being carefully refitted.

The Marble Hall is being completely rewired and new conservation lighting installed.

But it is in the staircase that some of the most interesting work is being carried out.

Experts from London-based Hare & Humphreys – a conservation and restoration company, which holds a Royal Warrant for decorating and gilding to HM the Queen – have been working on the ceiling of the Grand Staircase, which was erected when the house was built in 1611.

It was specially decorated prior to Queen Victoria’s visit in 1846 and conservators are bringing it back to all its 19th century glory, complete with gold leaf.

Work is due to be completed next month.

The rich golds and russets will be complemented by a deep red silk paper which will line the walls and provide a sumptuous backdrop to the tapestries which are being moved from the hall to the place they originally hung.

Paintings from the staircase will make the opposite journey back to their previous home, the Marble Hall.

Hare & Humphreys has been established for 25 years and carries out all types of restoration and gilding work around the UK, particularly to fine interiors such as those inside Hatfield House.

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