Published: 00:00, 18 March 2017
A historic Kent attraction reopens to the public today after a £20 million renovation.
Knole House in Sevenoaks has undergone major building work, including the creation of a new conservation studio and improvements to its showrooms so the collections can be better displayed.
Extra rooms have been opened to the public for the first time and urgently needed conservation work has been done to paintings, textiles and furniture.
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The project, largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has taken 14 months to complete.
Among the items taken down for a spring clean was A Prospect of Dover Castle, by John Wootton, which dates from 1727, and is one of the largest paintings at the 600-year-old stately home.
It hung above the fireplace in the Great Hall and needed many staff to handle it carefully to ensure it did not suffer any damage.
Some items are still in the house, however, including the King’s Bed, which could not be moved.
Others will be in the Great Hall which has been turned into the Great Store, with a chance to see key pieces.
The house has three galleries – the longest of which is the Cartoon Gallery. These were made so long partly to lead to other treasures and partly as exercise in bad weather.
The ballroom dates from 1467, when it was the main living room. The King’s Room has a magnificent royal state bed and rare silver furniture.
Knole House was built by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1456 and was later owned by royalty. Henry VIII hunted in its extensive grounds and Elizabeth I also visited.
From 1603, Thomas Sackville made it the aristocratic treasure house for the Sackville family, and over more than 400 years, his descendants rebuilt and furnished it.
The family gradually withdrew into the heart of the house, leaving some rooms unused and treasures covered, but the lack of modernisation was good for visitors, as it meant many collections survived.
Today Knole and its 1,000-acre grounds, is mostly cared for and opened by the National Trust.
For more details visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole
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