A Conservation Assistants work is never done!

Well today was shaping up to be a fairly relaxed day at work; the usual morning clean and then the afternoon spent discussing the House Team’s proposal for the winter offer. However the castle had some other ideas for me today.

I was just doing the morning vacuum, the same as every morning, when I went and switched on the lights in the Library and saw something I was not expecting to see. Precariously balanced on top of the fire basket and the fire guard was a huge pile a debris, made up of twigs and soil. It looked like the material of several birds nests had fallen down the chimney. There had been a chicken wire and fabric hammock wedged in the chimney shaft to stop detritus falling down into the fireplace in the room, however the nests had obviously gotten too much for it to hold and had given way.

I hurried down the stairs and called on the assistance of Carol, A Conservation Assistant that has worked at the Castle for years. I knew I was going to need some assistance clearing up the mess. We scooped up the twigs and some of the soil and put them into black bins bags, three bags full in all. Then I hoovered the rest of the soil up and me and Will put the chicken wire hammock back into the chimney. Hopefully it will hold this time!

Then I hoovered inside the fireplace thoroughly, moving out the fire guard and the metal plate on the floor. I had to move some of the chairs that sit in the middle of the library to clean the rug underneath them. I hoovered the rug and flipped it back to hoover the underside and the floor underneath it. Then I finished the morning clean and it was decided the rest of the mess would be cleaned up in the afternoon.

The Library, and the culprit fire-place.

From 12 until lunch at 1 we had a meeting about what we wanted to offer visitors during the winter. This is the first year Powis has been open 364 days of the year and the offer we present this year will define what happens in the years to come, so it has to be successful. We are all working together but we have also been assigned areas in pairs; me and Kate have been assigned the kitchens, and also the Medieval Tour. This is good for us as we are both medieval re-enactors and have some big plans for the tour! Will has assigned the areas in the castle according to our own areas of interest. Naomi is particularly interested in Indian furniture and artefacts so she has been given the Ballroom and Clive Museum.

For lunch, purely for research purposes, me and Kate went to the old kitchens where the sewing ladies were working and they fed us. They always cook themselves lunch in the working Aga we have in the kitchens. The ladies are lovely and very kind to feed me, especially as dessert today was sticky toffee pudding. These ladies also make up our costumed interpreters that did the cooking on the Stuart Day I posted about.

After my lovely lunch I was posted in the Library to room steward whilst I finished cleaning up for the morning’s adventure. This involved cleaning and polishing the fire irons. There are four steel implements set around the fire basket and these were covered in soil. I brushed and cleaned them with a blue duster, then put autosol onto them with cotton wool. I buffed it off and then re-cleaned the metal with a new blue cloth. Then I put Renaissance wax onto the implements and left it for 20 minutes, and buffed them off. Thankfully buffing these requires less upper body strength than buffing the marble floors after we wax them. This all took a lot longer than I expected, meaning I stayed in the castle after it was closed, but the fire-place looked as good as new once I was finished. I always say I could never be bored here, there is always something for me  to do, even before the Castle decides to throw a new task at us! On the plus side, I got some more experience handling metal which I wanted.

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