A new series goes behind the velvet rope at the country’s most beautiful and historic homes, meeting the people saving our priceless heritage.
Every year millions of us flock to the homes and gardens of one of Britain’s most important cultural institutions: the National Trust. But out of sight of visitors, there lies a hidden world. Behind closed doors, dedicated teams of volunteers, experts and curators are battling to keep our priceless heritage alive.
Who are the men and women who built these magnificent places, and what does it take to conserve the works of art, precious furniture and delicate fabric of the buildings themselves?
An Elizabethan masterpiece, Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire was commissioned by the formidable Bess of Hardwick in the late 1500s. Now, for the first time ever, two of the Hall’s star items are going on loan for a tour of North America. The first treasure - one of the finest surviving portraits of Elizabeth I - is known as the ‘Sea Monster’ painting for its depiction of mythological sea creatures on the queen’s dress.
It’s down to property curator Liz and senior paintings conservator Rebecca to make sure Elizabeth is safe and fit to travel, while still looking her best for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
She’s to be joined on the transatlantic crossing by the ‘Sea-Dog’ table, named after the strange and wonderful creatures that adorn each leg, and considered to be the most important table in England. To ensure it survives the journey the table must be taken to pieces and given a full health check, under the careful eye of conservator Gerry.
Thirty-five miles from Hardwick, in a leafy Staffordshire valley, lies Biddulph Grange, home to Victorian horticulturist and Midlander James Bateman. Bateman created a wonderland in the grounds, with plants and objects collected from, and inspired by, countries from across the globe. But at the heart of the garden, one of the most important parts is missing: an ornate wooden bridge, that originally stood in the centre of the China Garden…
Finally, in Lincolnshire, a house with a world-renowned library is having one if its’ most striking 17th century portraits conserved and cleaned. Belton House was built by MP Sir John Brownlow, and the portrait is of his daughter, Margaret Brownlow. But it’s the story of another figure fading into the background of the painting that cultural curator Charlotte and national paintings curator John are hoping this deep clean may uncover.
Begins Friday at 9pm on BBC Two.