In 2009 we recognised the need to conserve the Shell Gallery. Ally Rae, from the British Museum did a re-survey of the condition of the shells which she did in 1991. We consulted conservators specialising in all the different materials which make up the decoration, which includes, in addition to shells: feathers, watercolours, wall painting, card, vellum, ceramics, bone, mica, coral, lichen, and medals. Tests were done on the plaster (the decoration is set in to lime plaster). Then a full photographic survey to museum standards was done so we have a condition record. We then needed to decide to what level conservation work was done. To make this decision we needed to understand more about the whole property and write a presentation plan. We commissioned a Conservation Management Plan of the buildings, a Garden Conservation Plan to understand the registered park and grounds, a Setting Study to inform local planning decisions, and agreed our Spirit of place – a shared understanding of what is unique, distinctive and cherished: the enduring qualities that make a place special.
As a property with our specialist colleagues we went through a Master planning’ orExperience Design’ process to scope – What are our plans for the next 5, 10, 15 years? What will our visitor offer look like? What do we want our visitor experience to be?
That’s how we shaped this project vision, and how it grew from conservation of the Shell Gallery to a bigger project – an understanding that it is not just about the house.
• The ‘A la Ronde Project’ will be creative, innovative and exciting for visitors, for volunteers and for staff.
• It will conserve and secure the unique decorative environment, respond to the challenges of access and understanding and ensure that the engaging but fragile site is provided with the best possible conservation and care.
• The project will ensure that A la Ronde is ready for the future.
What is the project?
• Conservation of historic interiors and contents
• Conservation and enhancement of the structures and landscape of A la Ronde
• Innovative and creative interpretation
• To work more closely with academic and artistic communities as part of ensuring A la Ronde has future relevance as well as historic importance
• An innovative and engaging public programme and interpretation on line and on site to support and share conservation and development work 2019-23
• A new visible conservation store
• A ‘Conservation Hub’ – a working space where visitors can engage directly with conservators and staff working on the shell gallery conservation project
• Refreshed presentation of historic interiors based on continually developing and improving understanding of the context of A la Ronde and the collections
• Updated collections documentation which informs new interpretation
• A permanent programme of research to ensure the A la Ronde on-line Compendium and other resources continue to develop
• A planned outreach approach to partnerships and community engagement which establishes relationships particularly with the Parminter Trust and local Colleges
• Established, consistent academic partnerships
• A vibrant and robust research programme shared by academic partners, volunteer research team and staff
• Identified long term local community partners
• A new suite of volunteer roles which will support the staff team and be integral to delivering the vision
• A volunteer training and development programme
What we have done:
• Forward planned the scope of the project over the next 3 years
• Tested applications for HLF and other grant funding
• identified and remedied water ingress around the bases of the chimneys (defective lead at back of gutters)
What we are doing this year – Get the roof in good condition – wind proof and watertight before conservation work on the Shell Gallery can start. Scaffolding will be up late Spring but we don’t know what this will look like yet – the design of the house is complex and we are working with contractors and a structural engineer to plan this.
This will mean in addition to applying for grant funding and income from property reserves, we have £100,000 to raise.
How can you help?
• Every time you use your member card when you visit us, we get a credit of £2.50
• When you buy or donate second hand books, make a donation or buy a raffle ticket (which is match funded by the National Trust Centre) that money stays with the property to fund our conservation work
• Every purchase you make in the shop, and enjoy refreshments in the café you are contributing to this work