The Conservation Management Plan for Knole was commissioned by National Trust, South East Region, from Oxford Archaeology in 2012 as a revised version of the previous plan produced in 2007, to provide a current framework of policy and guidance for the property and to inform both day-to-day management and future development proposals.
Existing information about the place was drawn together, along with the results of additional studies carried out alongside the Plan, in order to establish an understanding of its development through time. Sources for the property’s history were reviewed and a sequence of seven main phases proposed, from before the building of the house until the present day, was established. Means for evaluating the significance of the property and its elements were subsequently proposed.
Knole is identified as a historic property of quite outstanding significance and interest, with some aspects of its character and importance being rare or unique. In general terms it is seen to be of outstanding significance as a medieval palace and great Jacobean house in a historic setting, with remarkable collections and important historical associations. Particular aspects of significance which contribute to its outstanding overall heritage value were identified as:
- the interest and significance of its architectural development
- the splendid quality and character of its interior decoration
- the range and quality of its collections, especially the 17th century royal Stuart furniture and the royal and family portraits
- the outstanding literary and artistic connections of the house
- the long continuity of ownership by the Sackville family
- the historic significance of the property in the development of early country-house tourism
- the continuing role of the house in conservation and public enjoyment of the historic environment, as one of the outstanding properties of the National Trust
In terms of statutory designations the house is identified as a Grade I listed building of special architectural or historic interest within a Registered park and garden, the park also being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Plan summarised the vulnerability of the property and other issues which affect it, and proposed specific policies for dealing with risks or taking advantage of opportunities. Thirty-eight individual policies were established in ten separate areas of activity, including:
- Overall principles and purpose
- Understanding Knole – research and information
- Knole’s vulnerability to wear and tear
- Knole’s vulnerability to interventions and repair
- Care and conservation of the buildings
- Care and conservation of the interiors and collections
- Planned improvements
- Extending access
- The visitor experience
- Management issues
The policies were set out along with more detailed management points or recommendations by which they might be implemented. The Management Plan section of the report established time-tabled schedules of activities for implementation of policies and also set out planned programmes of repairs and maintenance activity by the National Trust at Knole, for conservation of the property during the current and succeeding period.
Appendices within the report covered the bibliography and sources for the study, the archaeological protocols developed for carrying out the associated and any future surveys and site investigations and the gazetteer or schedule of the individual components of the house, setting, and associated collections. A more detailed understanding of the property was put forward, setting out for each element its particular development, description and significance, its condition and the issues affecting it, and a set of policies or recommendations for its care or other treatment.
A separate Activity Plan set out in detail the means by which many of the aspirations set out in the Conservation Management Plan will be achieved. The two documents were thus complementary. Many of the activities described in the Activity Plan were based on the policies articulated in the Conservation Management Plan, and the opportunities that those policies created for putting conservation work at Knole in the forefront of activity at the property. For example, the work involved in conserving parts of the collection, in Knole Studios or off-site, gives rise to a range of possibilities for the public to learn about or be involved with this work. Similarly, the information on management and maintenance needs in the CMP informs the training plans in the Activity Plan.