By Jemima Laing
A 200-year-old tea caddy which is being restored at a Devon National Trust property offers a glimpse into the world of the sisters for whom the unusual house was built.
A la Ronde near Exmouth was built for Jane and Mary Parminter in the late 18th century.
And they, like many Georgian women, purchased the wooden boxes in kit form and cleverly decorated them in their own style by quilling.
Quillwork involves rolling up tiny pieces of paper wound round a quill to create a basic coil shape.
These shaped coils are arranged to form flowers, leaves and other ornamental patterns similar to ironwork and then glued tightly on their edge.
The art even gets a mention in Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen was believed to be a fan.
A la Ronde was built in the late 18th century
Assistant property manager Salli Carr-Griffin said: "Last year money was raised to fund work on the quill-work tea caddy, which was in a very sorry state.
"This quillwork box may have inspired Jane and Mary to create their own quillwork designs on the grotto staircase that leads up to the shell gallery, but in a bigger, bolder way.
"A doll's house façade is one example of their work ."
Salli explained the paper is susceptible to damage by light, the environment and wear and tear.
"The box was falling apart - literally it was held together with a piece of cotton ribbon and couldn't be stood up unsupported," she said.
"All the surfaces were covered with thick, dark particles of dirt and black stains which obscured the pattern.
"Much of the paper quill-work was damaged at the edges, loose and so in danger of falling out, or missing altogether, leaving bare patches in the designs on the top and sides.
"The generosity of our visitors in supporting the property raffle has enabled us to commission a specialist conservator."
And visitors to the 16-sided house will be able to see the conservator at work on Monday 5 and Monday 12 July 2010 from 11-1pm and 2-4pm.