At Stourhead in Wiltshire, the Palladian mansion contains an extraordinary Roman cabinet glittering with gilt-bronze mounts, semi-precious stones and elaborate architectural ornament. Its facade conceals over 125 more-or-less secret drawers. The cabinet was brought to Stourhead in 1740 by Henry Hoare 'the Magnificent', of the Hoare banking dynasty; he had purchased it in Rome as made for Pope Sixtus V, the great rebuilder, whose papacy, from 1585 to 1590, coincided with the Spanish Armada. The superb quality of the 'Sixtus Cabinet' became apparent during restoration in 2006 - 07 and this prompted an investigation into its history.
Simon Swynfen Jervis was successively Curator of Furniture at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,and Historic Buildings Secretary of the National Trust. He has written widely on furniture, interior decoration, ornament and design. Dudley Dodd had a long career with the National Trust, where he was Secretary of the Arts Panel, and has published widely on Stourhead, whose first modern guidebook he wrote in 1981, as well as guidebooks to several other National Trust houses.