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Chinese Room

Visits made to Brighton Pavilion in the late 1820s inspired Marianne, Lady Clifford Constable and her sister Eliza to create the Chinese Room. The walls were hung with new Chinese wallpaper, stencilled designs were added to doors and walls, and silvered bells hung from the cornice and doorway. The sum of £89.18.0 was paid to Thomas Brooks (1778-1850) of Hull for carving the fantastic gilded dragons set to either side of the window bay. The painted glass lantern is suspended from another scaly-winged dragon, and a smaller pair of mythical creatures serve as curtain tie-backs beside the entrance door. Marianne designed the elaborate dragon chair, which was carved in 1841 by the talented Thomas Wilkinson-Wallis (1821-1903) whilst he was serving his apprenticeship with Thomas Ward of Hull. The silver stars were added to the ceiling and the Boudoir beyond by Thomas Meggitt (1779-c.1859) in 1856.

Towards the end of his life as he became increasingly infirm, this room served as William Constable’s lodging room, and besides the ornate tester bed (now in the Gold Bedroom), contained ‘two chests of drawers, one green table, one night table, one washing table, four chairs, one arm chair, one chamber clock, one large glass, fire furniture and screen’. The ‘large glass’ may be the surviving rococo overmantel mirror. For the walls of the ‘family bedchamber’ William Reid of London supplied ‘8 1/2 quire of strong under paper at 1/6’ and ‘24 sheets of fine India paper white ground trees and birds at 18/-’. This Chinese wallpaper was finished with a ‘reed and ribbon’ border.

Following the establishment of the Burton Constable Foundation in 1992, the first conservation project undertaken was the repair of the nineteenth-century Chinese wallpaper. This involved the painstaking removal of the paper from the wall. The paper was washed and then backed with hand-made Chinese lining paper before re-hanging. During the removal of the wallpaper a strip of the eighteenth-century ‘reed and ribbon’ wallpaper border was discovered beside the window bay.

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