Reinforcements!

This week has been very busy! Even more that a usual week at Powis. On Sunday the other new Long Term Volunteer, Naomi, moved into the house, making three of us now with me and Ben. Then monday was are usual day to have all the House Team in, and on top of the we had a lad doing work experience at the castle for the week. On Tuesday and Wednesday we had two members of staff from Chirk Castle joining us for the day to see how we work at Powis. Tuesday also saw a new temporary house mate as a Horticulture student came over from France for two weeks to work in the gardens. It made the buzzing atmosphere even more hectic! It keeps you on your toes working in such a busy property but also ensures there is never a dull day, and all these extra hands meant we got along a lot quicker, which is good as there is always more to do!

Monday morning involved replacing some bulbs in the chandelier over the grand stair case. At Greyfriars changing a lightbulb anywhere was no more complicated than going up on a ladder, taking out the old bulb and popping in the new one. At Powis, changing the bulbs in the chandelier was a lot more complicated! To start two members of the team had to go on the roof to lower the light down to the rest of us waiting on the stairs. Then we had to take out the dead bulbs. We turned the lights on before it was lowered so that the working bulbs were warm and we could remove the cold ones. Then we placed the new bulbs in a had to winch the chandelier up to plug it back in, to check they were working. Then we had to lower it again as we had missed one, and winch it back up. Luckily second time round we had got all the bulbs and the chandelier look beautiful again! So much better than when almost half the bulbs were out.

The Grand Staircase

I really enjoyed Monday as I got to pass on what I have been learning to the new LTV. This is very useful for me to test and concrete what I have learnt, and I really enjoyed passing the information on and  making a new friend. Monday afternoon was store work again. I really do enjoy this work, discovering what is inside each box, and feeling very privileged to get to see these amazing objects. It was also good as talking to Naomi and made me realise how much I have absorbed about the place since being here, but also how much there is still to learn! I feel very pleased with my progress. Monday’s work in the stores showed the need for annual checks as we were getting to the end of the inventory list now and the objects are not listed in order, so it involves flicking through the lists to find the objects.

Tuesday is a deep dust day, so this involves picking items up to dust beneath them and dusting a lot of the items themselves with a duster or soft pony hair brush. I will do a post about all the different equipment we use soon, and a post with some more information about the castle itself. At lunch I went to see what the sewing volunteers had been working on. They come in every Tuesday and work in the kitchens where there is a long table with enough room for them to work. This also means they have access to the working Aga oven, so they cook lunch in there. I was lucky enough that they had cooked spare jacket potatoes and they offered me lunch, including a pudding of apple, rhubarb and pear crumble with custard!! They are such lovely ladies, like all the volunteers and staff in the castle! I feel so happy here and felt so welcome here from the moment I arrived.

The afternoon involved cleaning the dining room job, a winter clean and then mid-season job. First we had to take everything off the table. Once we had removed everything it was clear that the table needed cleaning, the plates and glasses had left clean circle amidst the dust. The dust was removed with a brush and back pack hoover, and once it was dusted it looked brilliant. I was in charge of cleaning the silverware. This was something I particularly wanted to do as I have no experience with metals and it was the one question I struggled most with in my interview for the Internship. The cutlery was cleaned with a blue duster, then wiped over with a ‘silver cloth’, a special cloth imbedded with the mixture needed to treat the silver, remove any corrosion and bring back its shine. Then they were wiped over with the blue duster again, to remove any excess chemical.

The knives were slightly more difficult, they had silver handles but steel blades, which had to be treated differently.

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Tents and Floors

Tuesday brought the return of the Sultan Tipu’s tent. Some of the panels are on permanent display in a room off the Ballroom at Powis Castle, but other panels had been on loan for a temporarty exhibition called Cotton – Global Threads in Manchester. Here is a link to the website: http://cottonglobalthreads.com/cotton/

Late Tuesday evening my Line Manager offered me the chance to go on a training course the next day. The course was on floor care at Tredegar House. I had been lucky enough to go on a trip to Tredegar my first week at Powis and the property is lovely! The ground floor was open to view independently but due to the property not having been long open the top floor was open only as part of a tour. The tour was fantastic! The characters of the family that used to live in the house, you could not make those stories up! There were tales of parties, pets and eccentricity, very interesting.  And the tour guide, Chris, was brilliant, so entertaining and he look very dashing in his tux, A huge thanks to him for making it a very enjoyable tour. I really recommend a visit to Tredegar if you are ever in the area, and so of course I jumped at the opportunity to go back and take part in my first Trust training course there.

Photo: House & Collections Manager, Emily and Visitor Experience Assistant, Chris are preparing for the Housewarming Party on the 24th.

The floor training was really interesting, I will never look at floors the same way! The training had been meant for Regional Conservators of the Trust so I was really lucky to be able to go along. It was a great opportunity to meet other Trust staff and learn valuable new information. The training was split into two parts. The first was a taught morning learning the basics about conserving and repairing stone and wooden flooring. They talked about the basics and then case studies given about specific problems and their solutions. The second part of the day was practical.

After lunch, which I spent talking to the different people on the course, we went on a tour of the house. Here we looked at the floors in Tredegar and their state of repair was assessed and advice given on treatments. I really enjoyed this part of the day as I got another look around the property, going into rooms that were not open on my previous visit. The knowledge gained from this part of the day illustrated what we had been taught in the morning, making it clearer and making the information more transferable. I find myself looking at the floor at Powis now and thinking about what we were taught at the training. Luckily it seems that Powis has no real problems when it comes to flooring, and what we are doing in order to keep it in a good state of repair is what was advised.

I have already put my floor training to good use as I was tasked with cleaning the Black and White marble floor in the Entrance Hall. I had done this once before, on my first day at Powis but today I was charged with leading the group of four of us. We had two members of staff from Chirk Castle with us and one lad on work experience so I taught them what I had been taught and we started polishing the floor. To protect the marble floor we clean it and put on a layer of Renaissance wax which will limit the wear and give it a beautiful shine. It is very rewarding as you can really see the difference once you have cleaned it. The shine the polishing gives the floor helps create a real ‘wow’ when people walk into the property, and creates a good first impression which is very important. I do find floor polishing very challenging and hard work! I am quite a perfectionist and buffing the polish off to a perfect shine is near impossible due to the wear on the tiles, especially as I do not have as much arm strength as would be helpful. I often feel like I could really do with a bit more muscle and to be a couple of inches taller for this job!

It was nice to work in this team as I was the one with the previous experience of this type of activity. I was flattered to be asked to show the others what to de here. One thing I really love about working at Powis is no one holds your hand, I have been shown how to do things correctly and then left to do it. This is flattering and keeps me working at the top of my game, and I really enjoyed passing on what I had learnt to others. I think I am still getting used to the fact that others are confident in my abilities to allow me to do this work with no worries. And my confidence is growing day by day, I am enjoying working hard, gaining new skill and knowledge and I feel very fulfilled when looking at the work I have been doing and seeing the difference it is making. I have had lots of very positive feedback and it is the best feeling to work hard and then have people appreciate it!