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Conservation through preservation in the castle

Early last month, there was surprise all round as a large cardboard box was received revealing, upon opening, many thistles carefully packed inside with an accompanying letter. The parcel was sent by, Sissi Muzzarelli, a sixteen year old Swiss student who holidayed in Cornwall over the summer with her parents.

She wrote in her letter:

‘The idea of placing thistles on your precious chairs appealed to me indeed. But I thought some brighter thistles might add even further to the distinctiveness of the castle. Therefore I collected and preserved some carline thistles and would like to present them to you as a small contribution from my side’.

We were delighted that someone had taken the time to pick and preserve the thistles (in later correspondence, Sissi, emphasized this had been done in line with the Swiss Nature Preserve guidelines). To explain; we leave thistles on the chairs and sofas to preserve them for future generations, many of these items are fragile but a rope stopping visitors from sitting can take away from the atmosphere of a room, therefore thistles are used as a decorative alternative.

The oldest chair in the castle dates back to the late Sixteenth Century and features an etching of Susanna and the elders – a biblical story where Susanna, was accused by two elderly members of her community of promiscuity to try and blackmail her. During her trial, Daniel, intervened and cross-examined the two elders proving Susanna’s innocence and ensuring that the two men were put to death. This chair can be seen in the Chevy Chase room.  Alongside this, there are a precious set of ten Chipendale chairs made in 1755 specifically for the Blue Drawing room. In this gothic styled room there is a further set of four Chipendale chairs made for the wedding of the fourth Sir John and Elisabeth Wingfield in 1756.

Sissi’s thistles can now be seen all through the Castle and we thank her for her generous contribution. 

By Hugh St Aubyn

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