Used as a small dining room by the Wykeham Martin family from 1822, this room was redesigned by Lady Baillie in 1926 as a schoolroom, where her daughters received their very early education. In 1938 Lady Baillie and her designer Stéphane Boudin reorganised the use of rooms in the New Castle, and the schoolroom was transformed into a Library.
During World War II, the Castle also served as a field hospital run by 10 Company Royal Army Medical Corps to treat wounded servicemen, and the Library was used as a ward for recuperation. The room was emptied of its fine furniture and the bookcases were boarded over with the books still in place – the faint nail markings left on the front panels of the bookcases can still be seen today.
With its beautiful, cream-white paneling picked out in a rich red Moroccan glaze, the Library still houses hundreds of books from Lady Baillie’s personal collection and from the library of her father, Lord Queenborough. However, by 2015, the condition of the Library’s original décor had aged and deteriorated considerably. The Leeds Castle Foundation launched an extensive restoration project in the same year, with the aim to return the room to the full splendor of Stéphane Boudin’s decorative schemes of the 1930s and 1940s, a time when the Castle was at its peak as a party house for the influential and famous.
Detailed historic paint analysis was carried out to ensure that the correct colour palette was chosen to recreate the original scheme. Executing the project with meticulous precision, expert craftspeople then redecorated the walls, ceiling, woodwork, shelving and fireplace to return the room to its former glory. A variety of fixtures, fittings and furnishings were also conserved, such as repairs to windowsills, reupholstery of seating and an extensive treatment to a fine early 18th century bureau bookcase.
With cream and ochre tones, the decorative scheme of the Library is now beautifully harmonised with the neighboring Dining Room, which was restored in 2015 during the same restoration project.