Historic House Experiment

An entire room at a 16th Century stately home in Kent has been replaced by a panoramic photo as part of a pioneering conservation experiment by the National Trust.

The photo wraps around walls, doors, windows and fireplaces of the Reynolds Room at Knole House in Sevenoaks, and replaces a collection of historic paintings, textiles and furniture which have all been temporarily removed.

The 3D effect is so convincing, and details of the paintings are so clear, that visitors have had trouble believing that what they are seeing is a fake. Managers at Knole have had to produce leaflets telling them what is happening in the room.

While the photo is in place conditions in the room will be monitored, and the dust and moisture created by thousands of visitors who pass through will be recorded. This will allow officials to establish the most stable conditions for the paintings and other items. Work will then be carried out to ensure these conditions are met.

Once that is completed everything will be put back and the Reynolds Room will return to its former glory; better lit, with a controlled environment, serving as a model for work on the rest of Knole’s state apartments.

Knole is home to Robert Sackville-West, Lord Sackville. He said: “I was so pleased when I heard that the National Trust were planning to invest even more heavily in the conservation of the contents of the state rooms at Knole. But nothing could have prepared me for the way those rooms would look while the works were being carried out.

"With all the contents of the Reynolds Room decanted, and all the fabric of the room itself under wraps, the National Trust has covered the room in a photographic 'wallpaper' so true to life that it takes time to realise that you are not actually looking at the real thing: paintings, chairs, chimneypieces, and all.”

Click here to see the panorama of the room