Wed 11 May 2022
Breathing New Life into Burton Constable’s North Wing
Jane Sampson (edited by Philippa Wood) // Conservation Housekeeper
Jane Sampson (edited by Philippa Wood)
Burton Constable’s staff have been busy behind the scenes to conserve the Hall’s stored collections of historic frames and music. Conservation Housekeeper Jane takes a look at progress so far
When the Humber Museums Partnership released their funding grant to discover the Hidden Histories of the Humber region, Burton Constable embarked on a new project to create a space for exhibition, research, and conservation in rooms previously used only as stores.
House technician Gary's work to restore and conserve the historic rooms has been mirrored by Conservation Housekeepers Debbie and Jane's work to check, re-pack and better store the historic collections. An enterprising partnership project between curator Philippa and staff from Music department at the University of Hull has allowed us to record music possibly not heard since the 19th Century - with the recordings soon expected to serenade visitors to this stately home!
Musical Burton Constable
The musical world of Burton Constable has been partly explored by researchers who have commented on the significance of the music collection for its size, condition, and content.
The musical heyday at Burton Constable arrived with the 19th Century family, Thomas Aston Chichester Constable and his wife, Marianne Chichester. The couple married in 1827 and were soon joined by Marianne’s sister Eliza, to live with the family at Burton Constable.
Music brought huge joy to the family, and we are hugely lucky to have a vast collection of bound and unbound music in our collection. From Polka dance music, patriotic choruses and grand sonatas, the music contains unique pieces as well as well-known popular compositions of the age. Dance cards and instruction books tell us how lively the house would have been with music and dance at balls hosted by the family.
Personal bound music volumes contain a wealth of different music and song styles. The collection comprises of handwritten and printed music, many of which have inscriptions and comments marked in by the owners.
Over the next few months, we shall be working with our research volunteers to learn more about the history of the Burton Constable’s music collection as well as Hull and the East Riding’s own history of music and how it relates to our collection.
Until now, this precious collection has been in store and inaccessible to visitors and research. 2022 has seen the beginning of a project to rediscover this music and create a new exhibition space as part of the work.
The North Wing has been multifunctional over the years, but we are working to provide a space for visitors to discover and experience the collection.
The start of the year saw Burton Constable’s Historic Buildings Manager working to prepare the North wing rooms and corridor for the installation of the new project. Meanwhile the house team cleaned and prepared the North Wing rooms for the arrival of new boxes, shelving and cabinets that will safely store the collection. Staff and volunteers worked to photograph specific pieces of music in readiness for the next exciting phase.
As well as instrumental pieces for a multitude of instruments such as the harp, piano, cello, violin, cornet and guitar, the collection also contains songbooks with popular 19th Century pieces to sing around the Grand Piano - including God Save The Queen, suitable for this year's jubilee too! The long reign of Queen Victoria shaped art and music, Strauss, Mendelssohn, and Chopin were all personal favourites of the Queen and feature in the Burton Constable 19th Century collection. We hope our research will broaden our knowledge of Burton Constable in this period as well as the generations before and after.
The Staircase Hall is Alive with the Sound of Music
A Performing Partnership
In March, through a fantastic collaboration with the University of Hull, we were delighted to welcome musicians to Burton Constable for 3 days of recording on instruments which included our own beautiful Erard piano. Overall, we will have eighteen pieces of music that will be available to play to visitors as they explore the hall, just as would have been heard centuries ago.
Improving Storage, Protecting Collections
As well as carrying out research to discover more about our music collection and the people who played it, we are also working to improve the storage of both the music and of our framed collections - empty and otherwise!
We are creating a new storage room to store the Hall’s prints, frames and paintings that are not on display. New racking will be installed, and the team are working to make an inventory of the frames and framed prints that are currently being stored in the North Wing rooms and across the site. By the end of the project, we will have a space where our collections can be safely stored as well as the ability to allow for research, conservation work and visitor access.
Frames and Music Collections Before Work Begins
What's the Plan?
The aim is to have this project completed by Autumn 2022 and in the meantime, we shall be sharing regular news and updates about the work bringing it together.
Our hope is that our visitors, volunteers, and local community will assist in the creation of the new exhibition space, forge new partnerships and help discover new histories about Burton Constable and the Humber.
Visitor feedback and comments will be read with great interest, and we shall be putting together ways in which you can put forward your knowledge and ideas about this project in the near future - watch this space!