‘Behind the Scenes’ at Blenheim Palace

‘Behind the Scenes’ at Blenheim Palace

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Discover the real ‘Behind the Scenes’ at Blenheim Palace, in a fascinating limited edition tour for 2018. ‘Restoration & Conservation’ will be the theme of the guided tours which will begin in the New Year as part of the extended opening season experience offered to visitors at the Oxford World Heritage Site.

The ‘Restoration & Conservation’ tour will be exclusively available from 5th January – 28th February, running twice per day excluding Sundays. The new tours will tie in to the annual deep clean of Blenheim Palace which will now be on full to visitors during this period. The tour will give an in-depth look into what is being done in each of the State Rooms.

Kate Ballenger, House Manager at Blenheim Palace: “Each year, when the Palace is usually closed, the Operations team, accompanied by various specialists, complete the ‘deep clean’. This process is much more than just cleaning, it is the careful review of the entire collection followed by a thorough cleaning programme alongside the ongoing conservation and restoration work.

This tour of the Palace gives insights into both the deep clean and the conservation and restoration that is happening at present and has happened in the past.”

The new tours will look at two very important aspects of running a 300 year old Palace, including restoring a piece of art, building or tapestry to its original condition, as well as the preservation and repair of the historical and cultural site and its artefacts. The tour will also examine the theme of renovation, exploring how Blenheim Palace must also modernise and remain as a comfortable family home and appealing to visitors.

From the necessary continuing restoration of the ‘Capability’ Brown Cascades and Bladon dams, work which will total approximately £2m when completed to keeping the Palace safe for its inhabitants and visitors, the tour will look at which projects are undertaken, when and why.

The fascinating tour will also look at the most impactful projects including The Eyes in 1928. Painted for the 2nd wife of the 9th Duke, Gladys Deacon, these have a great visual impact on visitors. Exposure to the elements over 80 years had caused the painting and plaster work to degrade to a point where they were barely visible.

From clocks to paintings each piece of work often requires specialist and niche attention, with specialists sought from all over the world to complete the painstaking tasks of restoring priceless pieces of history.

The job of cleaning the China collection used to fall to the 10th Duchess and her unfortunate administrator, Archie Illingworth – he used to dread the call, ‘Mr Illingworth, today we are going to clean the China!’ The Duchess would wash the China and it was Archie’s responsibility to dry it.

One of the recent renovations is the Bouchain Tapestry, the priceless 18th century tapestry depicting one of Britain’s most important military victories is 25ft wide and almost 15 feet high. The giant wall hanging is made of wool and silk and was woven in the Brussels workshop of the Flemish weaver, Judocus de Vos.

Part of a set of 10, the tapestries are the most accurate and detailed contemporary records that exist of the campaign, not least because the 1st Duke, John Churchill, provided accurate battle plans and portraits of the principal characters. After being painstakingly removed from the walls of the Palace’s Second State Room, the tapestry was carefully rolled up before being transported back to the city it was originally created in for renovation. It took a year to completely renovate!

From keeping the rain out, Blenheim Palace has over 7 acres of roof, to protecting ceremonial robes, the Marlborough’s Coronation Robes were beginning to deteriorate in the sunlight, there is much to learn and lots of exciting facts to discover.

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