Calke Abbey captured the imagination of the country when its plight was revealed in the 1980s. An almost unknown house and large estate had fallen into such a state of decay that it called for a new, and sometimes controversial, approach to conservation, once the battle to save them for the nation had been won.
Calke is unlike any other great house in the way it has been conserved in a state of frozen decay. Its collections contain few outstanding pieces, apart from the extraordinary state bed, but it is the accumulation of books, silver, portraits, clothes, children's toys and the tidal waves of taxidermy that engulfed some rooms that make the house so remarkable.
Long managed as a wildlife sanctuary, Calke's venerable parkland and trees are of such importance for the shelter they give to rare insects and fungi that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve.
About the author: Andrew Barber is a curator working for the National Trust in the Midlands where, over a period of more than thirty years, he has overseen major works to the interiors of Kedleston Hall and Belton House and has been closely involved in the conservation and re-presentation of the internationally important textile collections at Hardwick Hall. He was involved as a very junior assistant with the National Trust's acquisition of Calke Abbey and helped with the major task of packing and arranging the conservation of the contents. He remains its curator today. He has written a number of guidebooks for the National Trust including those recently published on Packwood House and Gunby Hall.
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