Past events

A summary of visits and conferences arranged by the Icon Historic Interiors Group

Conferences

Details of our past Spring conferences held at Corpus Christi College Cambridge are listed below.

From Pre-Raphaelites to Arts & Crafts: April 2019

The tenth annual conference examined the various artists and craftsmen associated with the two style, to disentagle popular misconceptions through a series of fascinating talks given by curators, historians, conservators and paint analysts focusing on the interiors and artists of both movements. We also enjoyed a rather fabulous private tour of the Grade II listed Church Rate Corner, one of the last Baillie Scott houses.

Gothic Revival - The Past Re-imagined: April 2017

The ninth annual Cambridge conference continued the sections chronological appraisal of historic interiors  through the centuries by focusing on the Gothic Revival Period. The highly decorative interiors of churches, country houses  and civic buildings reflected the designs and forms  of the Medieval period. The conference considered  the influence of the Cambridge Movement  and its effects on church architecture and interiors as well as the importance of the interiors of the Palace of Westminster. The wide range of topics covered church organs, textiles, wallpapers, frames and wall-paintings.

The Great Exhibition of 1851: April 2016

The eighth annual Cambridge conference focused on the the Great Exhibition of 1851 held at the Crystal Palace in London. The Great Exhibition was the first international exhibition of manufactured products and was enormously influential not only in technology but also in decorative art and design. The proposed international exhibition called for an enclosed space of unprecedented size, which was provided at breakneck speed using new technologies. Within the exhibition, one could find an enormous array of exotic and highly decorative objects from around the world. Scientific advances introduced new techniques which created objects of great beauty.  This fascinating topic looked at the making of the Crystal Palace and its legacy, taxidermy, metalwork and the reform of household taste.

Revolution! Technology in the 19th Century Historic Interior: March 2015

The seventh annual Cambridge conference examined the technological advances which influenced the development of the historic interiors in the 19th century. Topics ranged from the introduction of heating and lighting to the changes in  the manufacture of decorative elements such as paints and wallpapers. Papers were presented by a wide range of multi-disciplinary speakers who discussed the developments in technology and the design opportunities they provided.

Regency Interiors (1795-1837): March 2014

The sixth annual Cambridge conference examined the distinctive and often exotic interiors of the Regency Period (1795-1837). Papers considered the stylistic and technical developments of wall papers, furniture, frames, decorative surfaces and textiles during this period with reference to recent research and conservation projects.

Vice and Virtue in the 18th Century: March 2013

The fifth annual Cambridge conference focused on the decoration and fittings of diverse 18th century public interiors such as churches, theatres and spas, and consider the issues surrounding the conservation and use of these examples of living heritage.

The Country House in the 18th Century: April 2012

The fourth annual Cambridge conference focused on the architecture of English Country houses at their finest period, technical and artistic developments, including the role of the Grand Tour on decorative interiors and their furnishings, economic influences of the period and historical and current methods and costs of maintaining country houses and their historic contents.

Historic Interiors in Secular Buildings 1600-1700: April 2011

The third annual Cambridge conference examined the historic interior in Secular Buildings (1600-1700). The conference focused on the transformation of the interior which occurred during this turbulent period in British History in terms of structure, function, decoration, lighting, heating, furnishing and aesthetics - and the buildings relationship to its gardens in both the grand and vernacular properties.

Historic Interiors in Secular Buildings 1300-1600: April 2010

The second annual Cambridge conference focused on the structure of secular buildings and the variety of decorative interiors and furnishings. The talks included the relationship  between the building and its contents, the function of kitchens, the use of textiles, plaster work, wall paintings, furniture and the paintings within the overall decorative schemes.

Visits and Social Events

Pub Quiz: October 2019

Our first Historic Interiors themed pub quiz was held at The George Coaching Inn, Southwark and included prizes. Fun had by all. Watch out for the next one!

An Evening Exploring Frederic Leighton's Private Palace of Art, its History and its Conservation: February 2019

We hosted our AGM and invited guests to spend an evening exploring the wonderful Leighton House Museum, South Kensington following the £1.6m restoration programme.

We welcomed Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator, Museum and Dante Vanoli, Project Architect, Purcell to introduce the building and the project. Our group members Helen Hughes and Allyson MeDermott were also on hand to discuss the architectural paint research and wallpaper conservation carried out during the project.

A Bed of Roses – The Mystery Bed: January 2019

In 2010 a dismantled antique four-poster bed was left for collection in a car park in Chester. It was later sold at auction as a 'profusely carved Victorian four poster bed with armourial shields'. However, its now owner thought the oak looked much older and was impressed by the quality of the carving. He then embarked on an exploration of the object's past, employing an unusually broad array of archaeological, forensic and art historic analyses which produced startingly variable, and sometimes contradictory, research findings - even from the same methodology.

When all of the evidence is collated what can we conclude - it is a fifteenth century royal bed, or a revival from the age of antiquarianism?

The Historic Interiors group hosted a one day symposium at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Kensington to discuss the bed. We were joined by speakers from the British Museum, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Langley Collection, University of Lincoln, Thunen Institute Hamburg, Dr Jonathon Foyle and Helen Hughes. 

We were also delighted to see an article in the National Geographic following the event.

Slavery & Architecture: A walking tour of Bristol: July 2018

A walking tour of the city assessing Bristol landmarks with a view to revealing often hidden associations with the slave trade, the wider slave economy and the Black presence in Bristol and conclude with a private tour of the Georgian House. The tour was led by Dr Madge Dresser, Honorary Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Arts & Cultural Industries at the University of the West of England. 

Old Sessions House - A late 18th century Magistrates Court: July 2017

Historic Interiors Group AGM held on Monday 31st July 2017 at 75 Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, London followed by a visit to Old Sessions House - A late 18th century Magistrates Court

Historic Interiors Members were given a unique opportunity to visit the interiors of the Old Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green, EC1R.

The building contains a spectacular Domed Entrance Hall, two former court-rooms and the site of former prison cells in the basement. From the 1930's it was used as offices before becoming a Masonic Hall. The building has an exciting future. The history and development of the building will be presented by the owners Ted & Oliver Grebelius, the local conservation officer and several conservators who have been involved in the project.

Joined Up Thinking: Textiles and this Historic Interiors Spring Forum: 2014

A joint event hosted at the Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, London full of talks and posters followed by a social evening. The forum included talks on the Queen's Ante Chamber wall hangins at Ham House (May Berkouwer), Tale of Two Arts and Crafts Houses (Helen Elletson), A house Lost in Time (Emma Slocambe),  Inspired by Knole (Siobhan Barrett) and Conservation of Westonbirt House (Jenny Band).

 

Wine & Cheese Evening and Tour of Historic Southwark: 2013

A one hour walking tour through the fascinating but sometimes neglected area of Southwark was followed by wine and cheese at the Grade I listed 17th century George Inn.

Study Day at Ham House: 2013

Study day to focus on the extraordinary in situ survival of the late 17th century  Queen's Antechamber wall hangings at Ham House. Following a brief tour of the house to set the context for the Queen's Antechamber, May Berkouwer from May Berkouwer Textile Conservation gave a presentation  about the recent conservation work to the wall hangings and discussed the evidence revealed during the course of treatment to rediscover previous interventions and gain more knowledge about associated silk damasks dating from the 17th & 19th centuries.

Breakfast at the Reform Club, Pall Mall: 2011

A morning at magnificent 1880's Reform Club including private breakfast in the Library followed by a talk on the conservation programme.

Visit to Stourhead, Warminster: 2006

An Autumn visit to Stourhead, one of the finest and most carefully restored  interiors in Britain.

Visit to Tyntesfield, Somerset: 2003

A two hour tour of the then newly acquired National Trust property tailored to meet the interests of the Historic Interiors group members, concentrating on the buildings decorative interiors. In addition there was an opportunity to visit the nearby studios of Bush & Berry Conservation.

Decay and splendour in one of the many bedrooms

The Historic Interiors section visit to Tyntesfield on the 5th of July this summer proved to be a great hit.  The outing was well subscribed to with almost forty individuals attending, a surprising number considering that it was the first such visit undertaken by the section.

After a recent high profile campaign, the most successful instigated by the National Trust to date, Tyntesfield was saved for the nation.  Located to the south of Bristol, Tyntesfield is a Victorian country estate, remarkable for the level of survival of its interiors and contents.  In many ways it is a time capsule, encompassing the culture and routine of country house life in the nineteenth century.   But it is not only for its architecture, interior decoration and fittings that Tyntesfield holds interest.  Externally, the estate buildings have been retained in their entirety, representing a rare example of all the buildings - such as the stables, home farm, etc. - which made up the working of an estate at this time.  This unity and high level of retention was made possible to a large extent by the Gibbs family who resided at the property over four generations.  A fortune made from the shipment of solidified bird droppings, or guano, from South America allowed William Gibbs to purchased Tyntesfield in 1843.  However, it was not until twenty years later that William employed the architect John Norton to transform the house into the building which can be seen now. 

The UKIC members were met by Mary Greenacre, Historic Properties Co-ordinator, for Tyntesfield and the Property Manager, Ruth Gofton, outside Tyntesfield and given an informal introduction.  Two groups were then formed and with the aid of volunteer guides, we were taken on an extremely interesting tour around the interior of the property and the attached chapel.  A walk around the exterior elevations was made possible towards the end of the tour.

The National Trust intends to use the conservation of Tyntesfield as a means of promoting links with the community and as an education tool for the general public and students of conservation.  The philosophy for  the presentation of the property is still evolving  as the Trust hopes to live with the building for a time before deciding the best way forward. Conservation surveys of the contents and historic interiors are currently being undertaken to determine the level of conservation appropriate for their presentation whilst still ensuring the stability of the objects. The Trust is keen to hear the views of the many different interested parties and to this end the opinions of the UKIC members were sought on how they would like to see conservation and display policy directed. 

In this manner, not only was the visit a visually stimulating experience for those who attended, but individual members were able to contribute to the discussion of various aspects of the decoration, such as the textiles and wallpaper.  It is greatly hoped that this collaborative approach can continue to be fostered so that all those with expertise may be able to assist in the conservation of this unique architectural asset.

Following the tour, attendees returned to Bush & Berry Conservation Studios for tea.  This gave members an opportunity to see how this chapel has been recently converted for use as a conservation studio for large easel paintings as well as view a number of current projects.