Our remit was to re-drape and re-dress a 17th century bed in a sympathetic manner to the drapes and bedclothes, which would have been on the original bed in the ‘Paradise Room’ at Bramall Hall, Cheshire. This Room is so called partly because ‘Paradise’ was the name given to a favourite room or bedchamber in the middle ages, and also because some of the bed hangings of an earlier age used in this room depict scenes of Adam and Eve’s fall from Paradise.

These drapes and bed are no longer at Bramall but are on display at Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire, the home of the Bromley-Davenports who purchased the bed and hangings at the 1877 sale of goods from Bramall Hall. Of these hangings, the only authentic drapery which existed at Bramall in the 17th century is the valence round the tester which was embroidered over a period of 25 years by Dame Dorothy Davenport, wife of William Davenport V, who inherited the Hall in 1585. This valence is believed to have been worked from 1610 until 1636, the last date embroidered at the end of the valence.

The original embroidery on this valence suggests that it was probably made for the marriage bed as the initials of both Dorothy and William Davenport are worked into the design.

The embroidery consists primarily of patterns of flowers and leaves with a continuous text round the lower edge. This urges the reader to “Feare god & sleepe in peace” and proceeds to mention the ‘joy and happiness’ in heaven and ‘greefe and sorrowes’ of hell.

We explored the possibility of replicating the entire embroidery but the costs were prohibitive. Consequently, we selected a material which used various coloured worsted threads and had a dominant yellow background as in the original. The design of this material was taken from an English chair cover of c.1610-20.

Adding the finishing touches to the curtains

After studying paintings depicting 17th century bed chambers and taking advice from leading conservators who had worked on 17th century beds, we selected buckram to interline the valance and a natural linen lining. This lining was also used on the curtains. The counterpane was lined in specially woven fustian. All linings were hand stitched using waxed linen thread.

The iron curtain poles, rings and brackets were individually made by hand.

The pillows were filled with feathers and fine antique linen sheets were used for the bed and also made up into pillow beres. All visible stitching was by hand.

The re-draped bed can be seen at Bramall Hall, Stockport, Cheshire.