The Vyne in Hampshire has at its core the remains of the great Tudor house constructed by William, 1st Lord Sandys, Lord Chamberlain to Henry VIII. The King visited four times and the chapel and the long gallery are amongst the most important surviving examples of Tudor interiors. From the 1650s the house was owned by the Chute family and they left their mark by reducing, remodelling and maintaining the building over the following centuries before donating it, with its surrounding estate of over 400 hectares, to the National Trust in 1956.
By the 2010s severe problems with the roof made action to preserve this precious place imperative. Floods were becoming a regular occurrence, Tudor chimney stacks were liable to collapse and damage was occurring to internal decoration with a risk also to the contents. In some cases items had to be moved to safe storage to protect them and the presentation of historic room arrangements was compromised, such as with the dismantling of the hang of an important set of chinoiserie tapestries woven at the Soho Factory in London circa 1720. The National Trust made a commitment to undertake the works in 2015 and a major fundraising campaign was put in place.
Dr Lucy Kaufman, then of Oxford University, evoked the potency of Henry's visit with Anne Boleyn in 1535: the need to entrench Protestantism and secure the loyalty of key nobles, the vast numbers in the King's retinue, the pomp and pageantry, tented encampments, music, gossip, politics, religion and hunting. Working with exhibition designers, Skellon Studios, we evoked this through woodcut-like drawings bedecking the protective hoarding and interpretation boards, and we set up a dynamic display in the Stone Gallery on the ground floor. Tapestries of the period were used to create an animation illustrating court life on a progress, and were powerfully combined with changing symbols of the Kingrs"s power and a soundtrack of "Jouysson Vous Donneray" (Fulfilment I will give you) by Claudin de Sermisy (c.1490 - 1562) which was included in Anne Boleyn's own songbook. The King and Queen were reported to be "very merry in Hampshire" and this was, as Lucy pointed out, just about the last point in her tragic life that Anne was happy and secure: she was pregnant again, the King still adored her, Protestantism (to which she adhered) was in the ascendant and the rumours and plots against her had not yet started taking effect.
The dramatic finale of the visit to the interior was provided by the chapel, a space described by Professor Maurice Howard as being "of a magnificence not recorded outside the royal palaces of Tudor England". Working with academics, choral singers, sound engineers, textile and silver historians and our exhibition designers the space was set up to be as accurate as possible for 1535 and a Mass was recreated so that it could be experienced by visitors just as it would have been by the King. Choreographed by Professor John Harper of Bangor University, leading expert on liturgical music and sacred history, each part was recorded separately - the priest and deacons at the altar, the chants from the Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal in the stalls, three-part music sung by the Children of the Chapel Royal and the organ. The only manuscript in which relevant music survives belonged to Henry VIII and this was the first time it had ever been recorded. Once done, specialist sound designers ensured that each part emanated from the right part of the chapel so that when standing in the room it was as if the service was in progress. The result was electrifying - pretty much as close as possible to stepping back in time.
Crowning the whole experience was the rooftop walkway, right round the main block of the house, which allowed visitors to view the works as they progressed and also to look down on the landscape and see the original scale of the great Tudor palace. The impact of this is best expressed through a comment on Tripadvisor:The National Trust are spending 5 million Pounds repairing the roof of this beautiful house. They have installed a walkway above the work, accessible by lift. It is then possible to look down on all the different rooves and chimneys and watch the amazing craftsmen working. It is a once in a lifetime experience for when the job is finished in a few months time it will be several hundred years before it will need repairing again. I cannot tell you how FASCINATING this experience is! Go now...do not miss this chance and while you are at it buy a tile and customise it for posterity. (Tripadvisor, 8 October 2017).
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