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Hidden Treasures Of The National Trust | Series 2 Preview (BBC Two)

Every year millions of us flock to the homes and gardens of one of Britain’s most important cultural institutions: the National Trust. Behind closed doors, dedicated teams of volunteers, experts and curators are battling to keep our priceless heritage alive.

In this second series we meet more of the people who are saving the past for all of us, discover the hidden histories of the objects within them and learn what it takes to conserve them.

Episode one looks at two houses which belonged to people who refused to live according to the conventions of their time - and who created homes that were just as unusual.

Tucked away on the Devon coast is a unique 16-sided building called A La Ronde. Built in the late 18th century for two unmarried cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, the house is as exceptional as the Georgian women who created it.

Taken on by the National Trust in the 1990s, today a huge conservation project is under way at A La Ronde. The crowning glory of the Parminters’ creation is the Shell Gallery, a single round room at the very top of the house, the walls of which are covered in over 26,000 sea shells. But after over two centuries of wear and tear the gallery is in dire need of conserving.

Now the huge task of piecing back together this nautical jigsaw falls to conservator Rachel Lawson and her team, in time for the last surviving female owner of A La Ronde, and descendant of the Parminters, Ursula Tudor Perkins, to see the finished gallery.

Sixty miles along the coast from A La Ronde is Kingston Lacy, the ancestral seat of the Bankes family. When William John Bankes, keen explorer and art collector, inherited Kingston Lacy in 1834 he set about transforming the house with new interiors inspired by Venetian palaces filled with extraordinary artworks.

But Bankes was never able to see his vision fulfilled as he went into self-imposed exile after he was charged for a second time with homosexual acts, at a time when these relationships were punishable by death. But Bankes continued to collect, and sent his new purchases back to Kingston Lacy from all over Europe.

Today a whole wall of Bankes’ priceless art collection is in jeopardy, with a broken picture rail in danger of collapsing and sending Old Masters to the ground. Outside in the grounds, the 2,000 year-old Philae Obelisk is in need of repair. A 90-metre-high Egyptian souvenir from one of Bankes’ expeditions along the Nile, it took him several years to get it back to Kingston Lacy, where he installed it in pride of place in the gardens.

Alongside the more famous Rosetta stone, the obelisk would eventually help decode hieroglyphs, but today these important carvings are obscured by lichen and moss, and old repairs are failing. It’s down to specialist stone conservators Douglas Carpenter and Richard Ball to try and preserve this important artefact for future generations.

Airs w/c 6th May on BBC Two.


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