Thursday, 28 July 2011

A tale of two cisterns

My colleagues at Temple Newsam may be rejoicing at the successful purchase of a splendid silver wine cistern once used by Lord Raby. However, in my humble opinion, the cistern acquired yesterday into the Leeds history collections is just as important in its own way.

Evidence that Leeds really was a city of "a thousand trades" and home to many very specialised manufacturing companies, we have just collected a wooden toilet cistern made by the Valveless Syphon Company based in Kirkstall, Leeds. This was collected from a house in West Park that was built around 1911. The cistern uses the company's "Waterfall patent" system which was patented in 1905. A link to the original patent can be found here:

The company was still listed in Kelly's trade directory of 1947 as based at Wyther Lane.

Thanks to the Leeds Local History library and the Patents Information Service for help in researching this object.

Friday, 8 July 2011


The Queen Anne State bed, is, well, not quite nearly finished but the end is in sight. Essential to the whole process of restoration has been choosing the fabrics and trimmings for upholstering the bed. In 1710, the fabric you used said a lot about who you were. The bed was probably made at the very moment that he became first Lord of the Treasury, a most prestigious position in the Royal Court. The silk damask and velvet and gold lace (braid) were amongst the most costly fabrics available. To give some context, he probably spent the equivalent of 5 farm workers’ annual wages on velvet and 9 farm workers’ wages on gold. The 1st Earl Poulett wasn’t messing around. His extravagant fabric choice conveyed his high status and what must have been his immense wealth. Likewise, choosing suitable replacements must mimic as much as possible the opulence and splendour of the original but also match in with faded glamour of what remains. Difficult decisions were made and compromises were inevitable. However, Visiting the upholsterers and seeing the valences being remade, the curtains hung and the cornices recovered, I think that the project team has chosen rather well.  Ask me more about the bed using Twitter! 

We chose the colour by matching it to where another sample was glued!

New and Old together

We chose the velvet colour using tufts.

Colin covering a new cornice with velvet.

Kasia sewing on braid on a new valence

A glimpse of what the finished cornice will look like, covered in velvet and gold lace.