Conservation at Historic Royal Palaces

Remarkable facts and figures about our work

Three conservators washing a tapestry at Hampton Court Palace (2013) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Who are we?

Our conservation, collection care and collections management team comprises thirty specialists, who are responsible for the conservation and management of the palaces and collections in Historic Royal Palaces' care.

Conservation work of the Little Banqueting House, Hampton Court Palace (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

We are the trusted guardians of magnificent historic interiors, royal treasures and precious works of art. Together, we ensure that our collections are accessible to inspire our audiences today, and safely preserved for future generations.

Detail of textile conservation of Royal Herald Tabard (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

We protect and conserve, research and manage the collections on display and in store across our six palaces. We help to deliver conservation-safe exhibitions and events, setting preservation standards and researching innovative conservation solutions.

Newly upgraded scientific laboratory at Hampton Court Palace (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Our team manages risks to the collections and interiors, using the latest technologies to analyse and monitor the materials in our care. We conserve and document our collections, sharing our discoveries and training the next generation of heritage guardians.

The Queen's Drawing Room doorway by Simon JarrattHistoric Royal Palaces

How many rooms do we care for across our six palaces?

Our Collection is housed in more than 1,000 rooms at the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. Priceless objects are displayed, often in their original positions in the palaces and gardens.

Installation of the Queen Anne Throne Canopy (2017)Historic Royal Palaces

How long does it take to prepare an object for display?

It depends on the object and its condition, but here are some of the larger, more complicated ones.

Five textile conservators and two furniture conservators spent two years conserving Queen Anne's Throne Canopy which is on display in Kensington Palace. Establishing the appropriate hanging and fixing mechanism and their installation required additional expertise.

Ten conservators worked at height on scaffolds for five days to fix the canopy's roof and frame and then install all the textile hangings.

Queen Anne Throne Canopy installation at Kensington Palace (2017)Historic Royal Palaces

Watch this video to see the throne canopy installed.

Tapestry conservation at Hampton Court Palace (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

The conservation of the Fireships in Action tapestry from the series depicting the Battle of Solebay in 1672 took a team of three textile conservators working for three years to complete. It then took seven conservators one day to install it for display.

Conservator washing a tapestry (2013) by Richard Lea- HairHistoric Royal Palaces

How much water is needed to clean a historic tapestry?

Nearly 8,000 litres of water are required to wet-clean a large historic tapestry in the custom-made tapestry wash table at Hampton Court Palace. 4,950 litres are required to create a full-size bath to immerse the tapestry with a further 3,000 litres to wash and rinse it

This is equivalent to having a 5-minute shower 150 times. But, the historic tapestries in our collection are rarely wet-cleaned and only when necessary, once every hundred years or so.

Bird's-eye view of a tapestry wash at Hampton Court Palace (2015)Historic Royal Palaces

Watch this video to see a tapestry being washed.

Mantua (1760-5)Historic Royal Palaces

We recently completed the conservation treatment and mounting preparation for displaying a Court mantua from 1760. The mantua was made of metallic silver and ivory silk brocade.

It took a total of 170 hours to conserve the bodice, train and petticoat and a total of 55 hours to prepare the garment for display including 30 hours for making petticoat support made of fosshape, buckram and underpinnings and 25 hours for acrylic mannequin mounting. 

How to Conserve a Historic Mantua Dress (2023)Historic Royal Palaces

Watch to find out more about the process we have taken to care and prepare this historic garment for display.

The Throne Room, Hillsborough Castle (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

How many objects are in our collections?

As of August 2022, we have 108,842 items in our collection. Our archaeology collection forms 77% of the total collection. And our collection continues to grow. From March 2022 to April 2023, we added 109 items to the collection and moved 2,320 objects.

Historic Royal Palaces collection store (2019)Historic Royal Palaces

In order to store all of these historic items, we have 93 storage locations in our six palaces.

Newly upgraded scientific laboratory at Hampton Court Palace (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

How many microscopes are currently in our lab?

We have a world-class conservation science lab at Hampton Court Palace. In the lab, we have handheld digital microscopes, optical light microscopes, stereomicroscopes with imaging systems and even a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope which is pictured here.

The lab was upgraded in July 2021 with funding from AHRC's Capability for Collections fund. This funding for new technology boosts our capability to continue our analytical investigations of the historic collections at the palaces.

Conservator in conservation lab at Hampton Court Palace (2022) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

What is the most unusual insect we've found at the palaces?

We occasionally find a large house spider Tegenaria parietina at Hampton Court Palace. It can grow up to 2cm in length, and gets its common name 'Cardinal Spider' from the story that the spiders living in Hampton Court used to terrify Henry VIII's adviser Cardinal Wolsey.

Fortunately the Cardinal Spider doesn’t like to eat our collections so we don’t consider it a pest! 

Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred. We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted. We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you don’t. We let people explore and we set minds racing. We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone. Find out more at

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