Date

Sir Hugh Roberts, one of the trustees of the charity which owns Dumfries House, a former director of the Royal Collection and Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art and an internationally known expert in the furniture and interior decoration of the 18th and 19th Centuries:

"Mr Bly’s criticisms and concerns are completely unfounded and I strenuously refute them. The furniture and fabric at Dumfries House is being conserved with the greatest care and attention and to the highest possible standard.

"I am absolutely satisfied, with my experience of 40 years in this field, that the approach we have adopted is rigorous, appropriate and above all cautious. The firms we are using are the very best in their field: both Arlington Conservation (for the mahogany and veneered furniture) and Carvers and Gilders (for the giltwood pieces) have international reputations, and nothing that is being done in any way supports Mr Bly’s view that we are damaging the great collection in the house.

"Quite the contrary; we are protecting and conserving it for future generations to enjoy and if Mr Bly were to come and see the first pieces of furniture we have conserved, which I believe he hasn’t, I am confident he would be reassured that these Chippendale masterpieces are in safe hands.

"As for the ventilation and heating of the houses, it is being managed with the utmost care. Over and above the housekeeping practice of regular ventilation other protective measures such as UV filters, light-reducing films and a system of double blinds have been put in place to minimise any environmental risks to the collection. There is also an electronic environmental monitoring system which allows the curator to analyse any changes and respond accordingly.

"I should point out that the words “untouched” and “original” condition should be used with very great care. In any old collection such as that at Dumfries House, furniture was inevitably “touched” over time as fashions and usage changed. There is almost never, in my experience, such a thing as a completely “untouched” piece. To take one example at Dumfries House:  the famous Chippendale bed, with its blue-painted and partly gilded cornice and backboard.  Christies (and everyone else for that matter) thought that the blue and gold was original. It now turns out, after archival research undertaken by our excellent curator, that the cornice and backboard have been stripped of their original silk and re-painted twice in the 19th Century. There are, incidentally, plenty of pieces of plain mahogany furniture in the house that are relatively untouched - and will remain so because no work is needed.

"Another example is the Chippendale suite in the Blue Drawing Room, which has now been conserved. Research by our curator has established that the chair frames had been (quite wrongly) stripped and French polished in 1846 and re-polished in the 1950s, and the upholstery renewed in a completely inappropriate fashion. The French polish has now been carefully taken back to remove the excessive shine, the mahogany frames have been waxed and the covers replaced with a silk woven with an authentic 18th century pattern. There are, of course, a number of other important pieces of mahogany furniture by Chippendale which are in relatively “untouched” state such as the card tables in the Family Parlour and these will require little or no attention.

"Mr Bly talks of damage that has already been sustained to the furniture. There are indeed numerous areas where the furniture has suffered - but over many, many years, from neglect, from excessive humidity and from excessive daylight. The neglect is being carefully put right, the humidity and temperature issues are being monitored and gradually corrected, and the damaging effects of daylight tackled.

"To conclude, the Trust at Dumfries House has devised a sensitive and cautious conservation programme, conducted under strict supervision, which carefully judges the approach to every single piece in the collection.

"I would also like to point out that the Dumfries House curator is German not Australian, as Mr Bly says - and has an excellent professional track record working in key Scottish collections and Heritage sites. Charlotte had previously held positions as a curator and manager of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House owned by the National Trust of Scotland and Keeper of Art at the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries.

"Moreover, from the beginning the curator has worked with Scotland’s foremost conservation architects, Simpson & Brown, on preparing the conservation plan.  This document drew on the best possible available expertise from subject specialists such as Sophie Younger (textiles), Peter Homes and David Jones (furniture) and Wilma Bouwmeester (Collections Conservation Management Plan). Also, the curator has throughout maintained an extremely positive and close relationship with Lord Bute’s archivist and curator, Andrew McLean, whose in-depth knowledge of the house and the collection has been absolutely indispensible."