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State bed

State bed

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1732 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kent, William (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Frame of oak and pine, upholstered in green silk velvet, with passementerie and applied embroidery in silver-gilt thread

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted in lieu of tax by HM Government and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On display at Houghton Hall, Norfolk

This bed is powerfully dramatic in its form. It was designed by William Kent, who was responsible for the complete decoration of the interior of Sir Robert Walpole's new house at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, between about 1725 and 1732. Sir Robert was the leader of the government from 1721 to 1742, and is known as Britain's first prime minister. The bed remains on loan at Houghton, where visitors may see it in the Green Velvet Bedchamber, for which it was designed. It was delivered in 1731–1732. Unfortunately, there is no archival evidence to show its maker, but it must have been exceptionally expensive. The bill for the trimmings, or passementerie, does survive and shows that the London partnership of Walter Turner, Richard Hill and Robert Pitter were paid over £1200 for the braids, rosettes and fringes of silver-gilt thread – an enormous amount of money in 1732.

On loan to Houghton Hall.

Physical description

Four-poster bed of architectural form, upholstered in green silk velvet trimmed with braid, fringe, and embroidery in gilt-metal thread, the headboard centred by an architectural plinth surmounted by a large shell. The bed is hung with six curtains of velvet and has a fitted counterpane in velvet, all similarly trimmed.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1732 (made)


Kent, William (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Frame of oak and pine, upholstered in green silk velvet, with passementerie and applied embroidery in silver-gilt thread


Height: 468.5 cm overall, Length: 258 cm of tester, Length: 233.5 cm of base, Width: 262 cm of cornice, Width: 213 cm of base

Object history note

Supplied to Sir Robert Walpole in 1731-2. Maker unknown but the bill for the passementerie (£1,219. 3s. 11d.) was from the partnership of Walter Turner, Richard Hill and Robert Pitter, who worked at the sign of the White Hart in the Strand.

On permanent loan to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for the state bedroom, for which it was designed and made.

The counterpane was conserved at the V&A in the winter of 2012-2013.

Descriptive line

State bed designed by William Kent for Sir Robert Walpole, with hangings of green silk velvet and silver-thread embroidery, Britain, ca.1732

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

ed. Susan Weber, William Kent. Designing Georgian Britain. New Haven and London, published for the Bard Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, New York, by Yale University Press, 2013, p. 463, fig. 17.26 and detail.


Oak; Pine; Silk velvet; Silk braid; Passementerie


Joinery; Embroidered; Carved

Subjects depicted





Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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