After years of work, Lord Bute’s Sitting Room at Cardiff Castle has been restored to its former glory and will open to visitors next week.
Photographs of the room in 1910 were used to re-instate furniture and fittings, including some pieces which were moved to the Bute family home in Scotland and have now been placed back in their original setting at Cardiff Castle.
Of all the items put back into the Sitting Room, the most striking feature which could not be displayed were the wall coverings, which were removed by the Bute family in 1947 and subsequently went missing.
Exactly what these wall coverings were remained a mystery for many years but research by the Castle Curator, Matthew Williams, revealed that rare Burges-designed wall hangings decorated the walls but only a few examples of the originals remained.
The original wall hangings were some of the first ever commissioned by William Burges back in 1866. In medieval times, textiles were one of the highest status items a Lord could have, so it was highly appropriate that such wall hangings were commissioned for the medieval-inspired decoration of the Sitting Room. However, the original wall hangings were removed by the Bute family in 1947 and the surviving pieces have become too delicate for display. They are now kept in the castle archives so replicas were needed to decorate this room.
Volunteers from Malvern Hills Decorative and Fine Arts Society stepped up to the challenge but it has taken 7 years of painstaking research and needlework to create the wall hangings that can now be displayed.
The replica hangings are identical to the originals in every way. The fabrics, colours, techniques and design are true copies of the Victorian textiles. Even the wool fringing was specially made for the hangings to match those designed by Burges.
Elizabeth Hunter, co-ordinator of this project explained, “So many people with so many different abilities have come together on this project. They have dedicated themselves to the work for 7 years to complete the hangings and we’re all so pleased to see them in their rightful place in the Sitting Room today.”
Cllr Nigel Howells, Executive Member for Sport, Leisure and Culture, supported this by saying, “We have carried out an enormous amount of work at the castle over recent years. It’s a pleasure to open the Sitting Room to castle visitors and the hangings add tremendously to the décor of the room. We could not have done this without the wonderful work of these highly-skilled and enthusiastic volunteers.”
The Sitting Room was used by the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Bute for reading, writing letters and attending to paperwork. In the 1950’s and 1960’s it was used as the Principal’s Office when the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama were based here. Since them it has been closed to visitors until recent restoration work was completed. The Sitting Room will be open from Monday 15th November and can be seen on a Premium Tour of Cardiff Castle, available daily from 10am to 4pm.