Privy Purses return to Ickworth House after year of restoration

By Culture24 Staff | 17 March 2009
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a photo of hand using a conservation tool on a purse with a lion motif

Privy Purses at Ickworth House are made from silk, embroidered with gold and silver thread. © National Trust / Ickworth House

A key part of the collection at the National Trust's Ickworth House in Suffolk has returned after a year long programme of conservation work.

The Privy purses were the symbol of office for the Lord Privy Seal, one of the oldest offices in government, dating back to the beginning of the 14th century. Holders of this post were once responsible for the Monarch's personal (privy) seal, in other words the Monarch's personal money.

Two members of Ickworth's Hervey family have held the prestigious office of Lord Privy Seal, John Lord Hervey in 1740 and his son, the 2nd Earl of Bristol in 1768.

Beautiful objects, being made from silk, the Privy Purses are embroidered with gold and silver thread, and are an important part of Ickworth's collections as they represent the power and political achievements of the Hervey's, a family whose wealth and influence was largely built on political successes throughout their history.

"The purses have been missing from Ickworth's displays throughout the 2008 season after being sent to The National Trust's textile conservation studio in Blickling in the winter of 2007/08," said Ickworth's House Manager, Neil Robinson.

"Previously the purses have been hung vertically on the wall, and due to their weight on the pins that suspended them some damage had occurred."

After the long process of repairing and cleaning, the purses have now been returned and are now being displayed in a brand new display case - horizontally rather than vertically where visitors can more easily enjoy these unique objects.

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