If walls had ears - the story of a 270-year-old library in Leeds

2 November 2017......    Curator Rachel Conroy begins the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house.  Picture Tony Johnson.
2 November 2017...... Curator Rachel Conroy begins the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house. Picture Tony Johnson.
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Decorated with a curious mixture of Roman style pillars, a mysterious fake door and a fully working church organ, it’s a room with a very unusual tale to tell.

And this winter, experts at Temple Newsam will be working behind the scenes to open a new chapter in the 270 year-old story of the historic house’s beautiful Georgian library.

2 November 2017......   the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house.
The door to the right normally hidden from view for visitors.   Picture Tony Johnson.

2 November 2017...... the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house. The door to the right normally hidden from view for visitors. Picture Tony Johnson.

The library is among the elaborate rooms and antique objects which are being painstakingly cleaned and conserved during the house’s winter season, which begin at the end of October.

Normally access to the room is restricted, but following the winter conservation work, visitors will be able to take a few steps into the room to explore it much more closely than before.

Originally created in 1743, the library’s elegant features include a number of imposing Corinthian columns, plaster busts of classical authors and stunningly intricate plasterwork.

During the Victorian period, the library was also converted into a chapel, with a magnificent organ left behind as a memento when it was changed back into a library in the early 1970s.

2 November 2017......    Temple Newsam house.  Picture Tony Johnson.

2 November 2017...... Temple Newsam house. Picture Tony Johnson.

The room also features a false door, built to give the library a symmetrical appearance but which in fact leads nowhere.

Rachel Conroy, curator at Temple Newsam, said: “Winter is a really interesting and absorbing time at Temple Newsam, when we not only focus on protecting and preserving the house and its collections, but also look for new ways to open it up for the public to explore.

“The Georgian library and its unusual features paint particularly vivid picture of how the house has changed to reflect the different people who have lived here over the centuries. Each of those people have made their own impression on the house and some have left tangible, physical evidence of themselves and their personalities behind for us to see today.

“We’re really looking forward to visitors being able to fully explore the library and to learn more about what is a beautiful piece of Temple Newsam’s incredible story.”

2 November 2017......    Curator Rachel Conroy begins the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house.  Picture Tony Johnson.

2 November 2017...... Curator Rachel Conroy begins the winter cleaning and conservation program in the Library at Temple Newsam house. Picture Tony Johnson.

During the winter months, while Rachel and her team are at work, Temple Newsam House will be available to visit with a guide Tues to Friday and at weekends by joining the discovery tour at 11am, and a twilight tour at 3pm to see the servants’ quarters and cellars by torchlight.

Appointments to visit and tours can be booked by calling 0113 336 7461. There is also a series of bookable talks, tours and events from October 31 until Feb 10.

Behind the Ropes tours will also take place on November 15, December 20 and January 17, where visitors can step over the ropes for a close encounter with some of the house’s most important objects.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “It’s fascinating to learn about some of the hard work that goes into making Temple Newsam such a beautiful place for visitors to enjoy and explore.

“The house is home to so many stories and historic features and this work is vital in ensuring it remains a place where future generations can learn more about the people and events which have played such an important part in our local heritage for hundreds of years.”

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