From 1926, Lady Baillie and her designer Armand-Albert Rateau transformed the Castle rooms from the high Victorian style of the previous owners, to the refined interiors of a luxurious country house. One room in particular, The Thorpe Hall Drawing Room, provides visitors with a glimpse into the glamorous lifestyle enjoyed by Lady Baillie and her many weekend guests.
The room was created with exquisite pine paneling, large doors and an Italian chimneypiece acquired from the great parlour at Thorpe Hall near Peterborough, who had sold the furnishings to pay death duties. The paneling, which dates from 1653, first arrived at Leeds Castle painted in a shade of pea green. This paint was painstakingly removed and the panels had to be reassembled like a large jigsaw puzzle. To accommodate the panels, the room’s ceiling had to be lowered and a new door was cut through the wall at the bay-window end of the room. In 1937, Lady Baillie’s new designer Stéphane Boudin redesigned Thorpe Hall once more and altered the room’s soft furnishings.
By 2015, the original sofas, damask and other soft furnishings had suffered from decades of light and environmental damage, resulting in severe wear and deterioration. It was then, in 2015, that the Leeds Castle Foundation embarked on a mission to restore Thorpe Hall to its former glory.
Throughout the restoration, we made it imperative to preserve the soft furnishings and interior design features first introduced by Lady Baillie. Therefore, the first task was to track down the original manufacturer of Thorpe Hall’s damask. Thankfully, extensive research carried out by the Curator led to the discovery of Lady Baillie’s archived receipt from the original manufacturer; Tassinari & Chatel. The French company (who also manufactured the silk in the Castle’s Yellow Drawing Room) still exists today, and fortunately they were able to reweave a damask to the exact same design and colour.
In addition to the restoration of the silk damask, the Heritage team is currently leading extensive object conservation in Thorpe Hall. A writing desk from Lady Baillie’s collection has been carefully conserved and displayed for the public to see, the room’s wooden flooring will be entirely reconditioned and the team will also be enhancing the room’s lighting scheme.