Away from the glitter and glamour of the better known state rooms at Tredegar House, the Spring Clean goes on. The Derelict Room, as you may have guessed, was not always known as such. This was the Chintz Room for some time and Godfrey Morgan, the Second Baron Tredegar, used it as his library-cum-study. We think it was quite an important room. It is at the top of the stairs directly above the New Hall entrance and has spectacular views looking past the stables and up the Oak Avenue to the brow of the hill. Indeed, the BBC once set up a film crew in this room to use the exterior view for an episode of Doctor Who set in the Palace of Versailles!
In 1974 when Newport Borough Council (as it was then) took control of the House many of the rooms were in a dreadful condition, and the evidence of that is still to be seen in the derelict Room. Decades of schoolchildren and a few vandals have left their marks here. This room does form part of the Tredegar House experience however. The House Curator, Emily Price, feels that visitors should see the whole story – warts and all. Most visitors appreciate seeing it.
The room is a very interesting one and raises questions about the House and the chronology of its development. The room had changed considerably over the years, even before the Sisters of Saint Joseph used it as a classroom. Some of the decoration is older than other parts. Internal walls were erected through the upstairs rooms at some point to create a passageway (previously the only way to one room was to walk through another – enfilade), but we were not certain when. In one corner, where the Sisters had removed an old wall cupboard there was evidence of an old wallpaper which we guessed at being Regency Period.
However, last year, some experts from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester had a look at it and dated it to about 1740. A rare surviving example of an early paper with an even earlier design that was originally used in fabrics. Although it was always roped off we now made sure it received the extra care it needed. It was in a fairly bad state. It needed cleaning and preserving and so paper conservator, Laura Caradonna, came in to work on it. It looks much more presentable now, of course, and we take care to keep direct light away from it.
The paper is also partially covering one of the walls put up to create the upstairs corridor and this has made us rethink the date of these alterations – much earlier than we had thought. Many of these changes may have been made when Tredegar House was the home of the Dowager Lady Rachel Morgan (nee Cavendish, daughter of the Second Duke of Devonshire) and her son William.
Hopefully, the National Trust will allow this controversial, but fascinating room to remain open to visitors when the House opens again at Easter. Perhaps we should start giving it a different name though.