Dunham Massey Hall Chapel Silk

Dunham Massey Hall Chapel Silk
March 23, 2016 Jenny Newman

Dunham Massey Hall Chapel Silk.

Humphries Weaving were commissioned to replicate the silk for the chapel at Dunham Massey Hall involving custom dyed silks and a challenging process of design development. The project took a year to complete, from initial site visit to supply of the silk which has subsequently undergone a programme of installation in the chapel itself.

The principle fabric in the room is the original silk reredos, embellished with sacred embroidered monogram, which stands behind the alter table. This is complimented by an Edwardian weaving in another similar version of the same design used as the alter frontal, stool coverings and wall hangings in the room. A programme of conservation work was carried out on the original reredos by Ksynia Marco of the National Trust so it was decided this should remain in the room. The degradation of the Edwardian silks in the room was however more apparent with the colouring having faded from a deep blue to almost lilac in shade and so the process of restoring the silk to its former glory began.

It is understood from the house archive that the reredos was manufactured c. 1720 with the other silk decoration being a reproduction from 1908-1909. The 1720’s silk provided a more naturalistic representation of the design than that of its Edwardian cousin which does not have such a delicate attention to the foliage and so it was felt by the curatorial team that we should match the design to that of the reredos.

Our challenge was to recreate the design without removing the reredos from its hanging position, as it is so fragile. The Dunham Massey Hall archive contained some original pieces of the Edwardian weaving which had been carefully looked after. We were presented with a partially made funeral pall to trace the pattern from, giving the basis of the shape placement and layout. Then, using images taken on site began to piece the design together by replicating each shape and positioning each organic form in its rightful place. Once the drawing was completed by hand we translated this into our design software to be read by our Jacquard loom which totalled more than 20 hours of drawing time.

Dunham Massy Hall Silk Archive

A piece of the Edwardian Silk from the Dunham Massey Hall archive

Whilst working on the design layout there was some question as to which way we should apply the satin and sateen weaves that form the damask structure. In traditional damask weaving the lustre of the satin would feature in the ground of the design utilising the deep blue warp colour whilst the sateen is used in the figure of the design showing the paler blue weft tone. It was noted that the reredos had in fact been turned at some stage, showing the reverse of the cloth as the satin and sateen were swapped over and the question was whether we should match this structure or that of the Edwardian silk. It was decided that the conventional structure should be used to present the damask as it would have been in c.1720. A sample fabric was manufactured which showed the construction in conjunction with the design.

Dunham Massy Hall Chapel IHS reversed

An example of how the silk had been turned around, here you can see ‘IHS’ is backwards

 When colour matching the fabric there were two options; either match the existing reredos or match to the Edwardian silk. Although the Edwardian fabric was likely to have been developed to imitate the reredos it was felt that the colour match should be to the reredos as it stands today to blend with the original 1720’s silk. This meant we required to custom dye shades especially for the chapel. The fabric is a deep shade of blue but the Edwardian silk was referenced by the supplier as purple in the house records.

Dunham massy Chapel Colour Reference Cards

Colour reference cards are used to match to the fabric on site in the Chapel

Ordinarily when colour matching a project such as this we would extract yarn from the woven piece to establish the warp and weft tones, however in this case we could not do that because the reredos was to remain in place. It was difficult to get an exact match, particularly with the conservation net covering over the reredos but we were able to agree a shade with dye and yarn books before commencing the colour development of the silks with our dye technician on site in Sudbury. To refine the two exact shades of sumptuous blue required, we developed a total of 18 dye recipes, 7 for the warp and 11 for the weft, before one warp and one weft colour were selected as being a perfect match. This led us to dying a singular cone of each to create a small woven trial showing part of the design and also the colour giving a true idea how the silk shades intertwine to create the pattern and structure. Once the pattern, colour and structure were agreed we then began production of the fabric; dying the silk yarn, warping the threads, knotting the warp into loom and weaving the fabric. We paid particular attention on loom to the iconic circle in the design housing the I.H.S monogram to ensure that it did not look out of proportion. Once woven, we carefully inspected the pure silk fabric for any blemishes and the fabric was sent directly to Dunham Massey to be upholstered and installed.


Visit the Dunham Massey project page to view further work carried out at this property, or other National Trust locations.

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Dunham Massey National Trust