April 11, 2015 Jennie Chancey

Kedleston Hall

The Marble Hall. It is absolutely stunning in person!

We had a wonderful, quiet Sunday morning (well, Cathy drove the sitter home while I chilled out with my baby on the couch!), then I happily took up Cathy on her offer to see Kedleston Hall, which is another of Derbyshire’s stately homes that features jaw-dropping Robert Adam architecture (perfectly preserved upstairs) and the wonderful Indian collection of the late Lord and Lady Curzon. The exhibit in the lower hall includes the spectacular Peacock Dress worn by Lady Curzon in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. Cathy has an ongoing project to reproduce this amazing gown (and the ideas for its debut continue to percolate–oh, what fun!). The upstairs of Kedleston is resplendently Georgian and feels like stepping into a film set (all we lacked were the appropriate 18th-century costumes and fabulous towering wigs!). The photo (by Cathy) at the top is of The Marble Hall. It is absolutely stunning in person.

Looking up at the ceiling of the Marble Hall with its gorgeous pillars.

Looking up at the ceiling of the Marble Hall with its gorgeous pillars.

Even the statues in the niches of the Marble Hall had been decked out for Christmas!

Even the statues in the niches of the Marble Hall had been decked out for Christmas!

The domed ceiling of the Saloon, inspired by The Pantheon in Rome.

The domed ceiling of the Saloon, inspired by The Pantheon in Rome.

Because the house was decorated for Christmas, we got to enjoy trees and lights and even famous paintings set around an Advent theme. This portrait of the Holy Family was set up in the Saloon.

Because the house was decorated for Christmas, we got to enjoy trees and lights and even famous paintings set around an Advent theme. This portrait of the Holy Family was set up in the Saloon.

During parts of the year, certain rooms in the upstairs are closed to the public or are shrouded in semi-darkness to preserve paint and fabrics. This meant we wandered through the gloom in the anterooms, trying to let our eyes adjust so we could see the splendors before us. I would really love to return during another time of year to see these in all their glory!

The Dining Room, set up for a holiday meal with candles and greenery.

The Dining Room, set up for a holiday meal with candles and greenery.

The State Bedroom has recently been redone to restore its original colors and copy the fabrics that were used on the walls and in the drapery of the bed and windows. We had to be content with a candlelit view!

The State Bedroom has recently been redone to restore its original colors and copy the fabrics that were used on the walls and in the drapery of the bed and windows. We had to be content with a candlelit view!

A cozy nook in the State Bedroom with a writing desk and tools.

A cozy nook in the State Bedroom with a writing desk and tools.

Looks like someone is ready to enjoy breakfast by the fireplace. (Photo by Cathy Hay)

Looks like someone is ready to enjoy breakfast by the fireplace. (Photo by Cathy Hay)

And now what you’ve really been waiting for … the famous Peacock Dress!

The full-length portrait of Lady Mary Curzon in the Peacock Dress. This hangs in the stairway hall at Kedleston.

The full-length portrait of Lady Mary Curzon in the Peacock Dress. This hangs in the stairway hall at Kedleston.

The dress is kept in a temperature-controlled glass case in low light to preserve it from further decay (it is quite delicate with all the fine materials and beading).

The dress is kept in a temperature-controlled glass case in low light to preserve it from further decay (it is quite delicate with all the fine materials and beading).

Back view of the gown...

Back view of the gown… (Wish there was a way to get photos without the glass reflecting!)

A view of the train in all its intricate glory.

A view of the train in all its intricate glory.

Here’ s a bit of the description of the embroidery and construction from Cathy’s site:

The embroidery itself is composed of gold and silver plated threads and wires, with a section of a beetle elytra (wing cover) forming each peacock feather eye.

The dress is often described as being made of “cloth of gold”, a term that has two meanings. It can mean a fabric literally woven using gold and silver threads, but in this case the second meaning is accurate: a fabric heavily embellished in goldwork embroidery.

The hem is accented with almost a hundred white silk roses. The original roses were replaced in the 1950s, according to records at the Museum of London.

Be sure to read Cathy’s site for all the juicy details — this is one jaw-dropping creation!

One more closeup of the train to show all those silk roses and beetle wings!

One more closeup of the train to show all those silk roses and beetle wings!

After enjoying our self-guided tour of the house, Cathy and I seated ourselves in the lovely restaurant (formerly the kitchen of the great house) to enjoy afternoon tea:

Kedleston Hall Tea Room

And before we left, we stepped into the Kedleston chapel to see Lady Curzon’s tomb. She and Lord Curzon had a happy marriage, and he was devastated when she died at the very young age of 36 (of failing health related to her many trips to India). Lord Curzon commissioned a beautiful tomb effigy of his wife (and his effigy was added later, after his death):

Curzon tomb

Here’s a bit on the history, which I found on The Story of a House: Mary Curzon, Vicereine of India:

The sculptor, Sir Bertram Mackennal, created a stunningly beautiful and touching effigy of Lady Curzon which, per her husband’s wishes “expressed as might be possible in marble, the pathos of his wife’s premature death and to make the sculpture emblematic of the deepest emotion.”  Lord Curzon’s effigy was later added to lie beside that of his wife, as his remains do in the vault beneath.

It really is a moving piece of work, and the intimate chapel is just the right setting for it. Lady Mary left behind her a wonderful legacy of care of others as well (quoted from the same source):

Lady Curzon became a proponent of the artisans and manufacturers in India and wore Indian fabrics making them fashionable throughout India as well as London, Paris and the capitals of Europe.  She placed orders for her friends and strangers alike, and assisted the silk weavers, embroiderers, and other artists to adapt their work to Western tastes and modern fashion.  In addition, she helped revive native arts that had been all but forgotten, providing employment to many artisans.

She also had a strong interest in medical reform and led the movement to establish hospitals for women and appointing female doctors.  The Lady Curzon Hospital in Bangalore is one of several established during her time in India.

A fitting end to a quiet Sunday. Next time I’ll share my photos from the Symington Collection at Snibston!

Tagged: , , , , ,

About the Author

Jennie Chancey I launched Sense & Sensibility Patterns in 1998 with my original Regency Gown pattern. I never dreamed I'd one day have over two dozen patterns on the market and would be leading tours yearly in the UK! Enjoy my blog, and let me know if you'd like to travel with us!