This week has been a very big week for us at Hardwick Hall, we have been re-hanging two of the largest Gideon tapestries in the Long Gallery, after their return from two years of conservation work. Monday and tuesday were full of preparation work, we had to re-route our visitors as we were going to be working directly over the door where people usually come into the Long Gallery. We used two scaffolding towers to hang the tapestries, so these needed to be built. I love working on the scaffolding, it usually means were doing something exciting and it allows for a really different perspective of the beautiful rooms I get to work in!
Then we had to staple the velcro strips onto the wooden batons on the walls where the tapestries will hang. originally the tapestries would have been nailed up, and later were attached with poppers, but now we use velcro. Many people find this surprising, but it gives a really firm hold and allows use to easily remove the tapestries, should we need to for any reason. Next the walls then had to be cleaned, we did this with a backpack hoover and a veeerryy looonngg pole.
The Textile conservators arrived on tuesday and set about doing the final prep on the tapestries (which had been delivered some weeks ago). The ladies who worked on the Gideons have been working with Hardwick for a long time, on many different projects, and have been responsible for the conservation work on all the Gideons so far. They are based at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Blickling, Norfolk.
Here is a link to the blog of the fabulous ladies at the Blickling conservation studio, I am so very jealous of their jobs and they do such amazing work. Seeing the before and after on the Gideons they made some areas that were really badly damaged barely noticeable! They have also been working on an embroidery from Hardwick, Penelope, so there are a lot of entries about that process, really interesting reading! Another project they are undertaking is the tapestry from the Ballroom at Powis Castle, that I helped to take down a couple of months ago.
After the velcro is sewn onto the top and side of the tapestries more velcro is pinned along another side. The tapestry then needs to be re-rolled so the end the will be hung first is on the outside. The side with velcro pinned on goes on the inside of the roll, as it is attached to the velcro on the plastic pipe the tapestry is being rolled onto. This prevents the tapestry from slipping when the roll is held vertical. I was lucky enough to get to help re-roll the second tapestry, and to pin some of the velcro on!
We started to re-hang the first at twelve and we had hung them both by three. It was a much easier and smoother process than I had been expecting. The team worked really well and by the time we were hanging the second tapestry we had quite a crowd of public watching. For a moment I did feel a little stage-fright then, but it was soon forgotten! As well as the crowd we had several cameras and there were a couple of newspaper reporters who came to join in the fun so here are a few videos of the event. The first at the beginning of putting up the first tapestry, and the second after it had been re-hung.
The rest of wednesday afternoon, and thursday we got to spend talking to the public about what we had been doing, and the Gideons project in general. I love talking to the public, and I am so glad we got to show them this fantastic event, it was so nice to hear people saying how much they enjoyed it. It is wonderful when someone responds well to me enthusing about work, and I am so lucky that I have always had opportunity to interact with the public and share with them what I do. As you can probably tell from the length of my blog posts, I am rarely short of things to say! Thursday evening I got another opportunity to talk about what I do by taking my second ever ‘Last One Out’ Tour with a lovely group of people from Australia.
Talking to the conservators the couple of days they were here was really interesting and enlightening. They had brough photos of the damage to the Gideons and then pointed out the conserved spots on the tapestries. The difference was amazing, from a distance you can hardly notice the damage. Cleaning the tapestries makes a huge difference in their appearance, taking off the dirt and dust. Before this point these tapestries had never been cleaned, and they have been hanging in Hardwick for 400 years! Then the conservators work to ensure and damaged areas are stabilised, so that they can hang for another 400 years without ending up in any worse a condition. Holes are backed with fabric in colours sympathetic to the original tapestry, meaning you can see what has been lost if you look for it. I think this is brilliant as it is not blurring the lines between what is original and what we have done to the tapestry.
After looking at the restored tapestries we looked closely at the three still in need of conservation. With the returned tapestries hanging one side of the door, and those awaiting conservation the other the difference is startling. The damage the conservators were pointing out was so awful, and the more they showed us I thought I was going to cry! What is really working is the fact that in many placed these tapestries are literally hanging on by a thread, and if it takes us too long to raise the rest of the money it is really scary to think how much more damage will have occurred. I know I have already asked once but after taking a closer look at the tapestries I feel no shame in posting the link to our Just Giving site again. These tapestries are in dire need of major conservation work and it would be wonderful to see them on their way before too long!
Thankfully I had Friday off because as fab as this week has been, I was knackered by thursday evening and really looking forward to a lazy day! This gave me a couple of days to prepare for working my first solo shift on sunday! Although I have been the only team member in the house before there has always been someone else in the office who was in charge overall, however usually procedure for weekends is to only have one house team member in and they be responsible for everything. Sunday was my first turn to be in charge, including being main point of contact within the Hall for the other departments on site, and delivering the morning brief to the volunteers. While I was a little nervous I wasn’t too worried as I knew as long as nothing terrible went wrong before 11, after that the Vols would be in, and our Vols are brilliant! Everyday there is a Voluntary Day Leader that organizes the team and they do such a good job. It frees up an awful lot of time for the House Team to be getting on with the morning routine and our other projects. Sunday went really well and I enjoyed having more responsibility for the day, looking forward to more work as a team this week though!