Wallpaper is peeling back the years at Woburn Abbey

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Come to Woburn Abbey to discover the story of the 4th Duke of Bedford’s private bedchamber – through its layers of wallpaper!

From the pinnacle of luxury in 1752, when one of the earliest Chinese wallpapers imported into Europe was hung here, to its subsequent decline in status, a new exhibition opens on Friday, April 11 and runs until September 28.

Discover how recent research revealed the existence of the Chinese wallpaper, and physical investigation of the walls uncovered a large piece hidden for over 200 years which retains its original brilliant colours. This important discovery is one of a singular group of the earliest Chinese wallpapers made for the export market.

A Woburn Abbey spokesman said: “We have recently discovered that these wallpapers share some identical design elements which were printed from the same woodblocks, indicating that they were made in the same workshop in Canton, which we are trying to trace.

“Original documents will be on view for the first time, bringing to life how the Chinese wallpaper was purchased and hung at Woburn Abbey in 1752. The dismantled room will be interpreted to show how to read the different layers of wallpaper, as well as ghost marks, to identify its function, status and history.”

A video will tell the story of the discovery and conservation of the wallpaper and how the design is currently being extended and handpainted in the traditional manner in China specifically for the exhibition.

Chinoiserie was the height of fashion in the mid-18th & early-19th centuries and the quantity and variety of the Chinese wallpapers, Oriental artworks and Chinoiserie features in the gardens at Woburn and other family properties show how important this style was to the collecting taste of the Dukes of Bedford.

These wallpapers represent many of the fashionable designs and show how the styles changed.

Comparisons will be made between the Woburn wallpapers and those at Felbrigg Hall, Ightham Mote, Uppark, Belton House, Penrhyn Castle and Saltram.